Professor Alicia Schmidt Camacho has been appointed as the new Head of Ezra Stiles College for a five-year term, replacing her partner professor Stephen Pitti who has served as Stiles Head for 12 years.
In an email to the Stiles College community on April 17, Yale President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Marvin Chun issued an announcement of Camacho’s appointment. She served as the Associate Head of College for 12 years alongside Pitti. She is also the chair and professor of Ethnicity, Race and Migration. Her work is affiliated with other programs such as American Studies, the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration, the Council of Latin American and Iberian Studies, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
“[The appointment] feels like an honor and a statement of trust in [Pitti and I],” Camacho told the News over the phone. “The residential community is a really important part of … higher education and this university. It is what connects us most directly to New Haven. In a moment of crisis … that connection is ultra important.”
Camacho described the current crisis surrounding COVID-19 as an “important moment to define who we are as a community,” with students losing the physical presence of their residential college communities for the remainder of the semester. Her priorities include “making sure we all come back from wherever we’ve been” and “figuring out how we take care of each other,” highlighting the students, colleagues and staff, who find themselves caring for sick relatives, coping with loss, dealing with job insecurity or facing other obstacles.
Camacho said that part of what she hopes to bring to her new role is her “longtime involvement in New Haven” since making the city her home in 1998.
“We are part of a city that is a place of tremendous vitality and strong communities that need to be seen and heard,” Camacho said.
During this unprecedented time and period of transition, she wants students and staff to feel heard and involved in the response. She said that “change is important in any kind of community,” and she is open to hearing about the Stiles’ community needs.
Collaborating with Camacho in the Stiles community is Murphy Temple ’12 who was recruited in March to serve as Stiles’s dean and has since been working remotely. Since her arrival, she has felt welcomed despite the distance which, Temple said, is a “testament to the warmth” Camacho can bring to a community.
“Even though I’m very new to this community, it’s clearly a space shaped by the values of Alicia…[which] speaks to the strength of her leadership, care for community, and desire to hear and see students as whole people,” Temple told the News.
When Yale reopens, Temple is looking forward to fostering spaces with Camacho “for deep and meaningful conversations that are grounded in the wellbeing of individual students and the community,” and she is grateful that the Pitti-Camacho family will bring a sense of “continuity” in the Stiles community.
Alongside Camacho will be current Head Pitti, who is a professor of History and American Studies and director of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration. He told the News that he is thrilled about continuing “to play a role in the life of students” and to watch them “grow and thrive in the coming semesters.”
In interviews with the News, students in Stiles expressed positive reactions to Camacho’s appointment.
“Especially in these uncertain times, it’s comforting to know that when we arrive back on campus, a familiar face we all respect and love will be there to welcome us,” said Joe Boland ’23 in an email.
Katherine Du ’22 told the News in an email that from “the first day” she arrived on campus, Camacho made her “feel at home” immediately. She cherishes her conversations with Camacho who, she wrote, cares “deeply” about her passions, family and ideas.
A Stiles student and ER&M major, Gabriella Blatt ’21 wrote in an email that Camacho’s “teaching and mentorship” was part of the reason why she declared ER&M as her major.
“She’s one of those professors where you go to their office hours just to talk to them because of how amazing she is as not only a professor but as a human overall,” Blatt wrote.
She said that students in Stiles were “devastated” that Head Pitti was leaving. Now, she wrote, students are thrilled about Camacho’s appointment, and many claim Stiles to be “the best residential college” because of it.
Maslen Ward ’20 wrote to the News in an email that she was “incredibly sad” to hear that Head Pitti would be leaving, but “could not be more ecstatic” about Camacho’s appointment.
“As chair of ER&M,” Ward wrote, “Professor Camacho has always put students first…[she] has made both Ezra Stiles and ER&M a home to so many—and I am so excited the University is recognizing her brilliant leadership in appointing her to this position. Stiles and ER&M are communities I am proud to be a part of, and eternally grateful to Professor Camacho’s care and devotion in cultivating them.”
Camacho’s appointment will be effective July 1.
Larissa Jimenez | firstname.lastname@example.org