I had scarcely ventured further than the Davenport dining hall before this interview, and was left locked out and wandering around the courtyard at the time we were slated to meet. Moments before my finger hit send on a cry for help, I spotted a briskly walking woman with a thermos in hand heading towards me. 

Once I was saved, my interviewee ushered me up the stairs and down a short hallway. Her office is wood-paneled and well-lit, cordoned into a workspace in one half and a seating area in the other. It’s well furnished — homey, even. In the corner, proudly displayed on shelves, are 17 decorative gnomes. I knew I was in the right place. 


Dr. Anjelica Gonzalez holds three official titles at Yale: Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty Director of Tsai City and Head of College for Davenport. To say she wears many hats would be a cliché, but the image of a HOC gnome switching between her many gnome caps is too convenient to resist. 

I asked her what started her on the path to have such a significant presence on campus. She tells me that she used to be unfamiliar with even the concept of graduate school, as the first in her family to go to college. During her undergraduate years at Utah State she had “no idea” what being a professor would be like. By chance, a flyer in the mail led her to apply and attend a summer medical and research training program with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. There, she was able to learn more about the process. Pursuing graduate studies in the sciences and engineering was a way for her to have a job and support her work — even though so many other aspects of academics and careers were foreign. 

Later, she pursued a Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine in Structural and Computational Biology. Today, Gonzalez runs a lab at Yale focused on inflammation. Dr. Gonzalez explained the process of trying to model the human lung, engineering the tissue and examining the blood vessels of it, as the lung progresses from an inflamed state then to a scarred fibrotic state. She wants to understand how the blood vessels contribute to the shift in progressive disease. “In doing that, what we can start to work with pharmaceutical companies to say, ‘Oh, if we can see disease starts to happen, can we identify points where we can interject?’”

Dr. Gonzalez is only two years into her tenure as Davenport Head of College. To see students in the classroom or in research labs is wholly different from living with them in the college and sharing the dining hall with them. She describes the role as being a “CEO” of the college: making sure that the budget is aligned, making sure that the college operations run, but also endeavoring to create a space — somewhere that encompasses the great number of passions and interests that its students hold.  

“I get to see students in the whole 360 — as whole human beings. I see what they eat. I see them when they wake up,” she said. “I see them at the height of their accomplishments. I see them at some of the lowest periods in their experience here. It’s different from my role in the classroom. Now, I have a better understanding of who they are and what they experience. I look for ways to support them.”

The way that the Davenport staff, students, and community have embraced her family is one of the highlights of her experience so far. HOC Gonzalez noted how having a dining hall and support system make it possible for her to be present for her boys as a single mother while continuing with her work elsewhere on campus. 

In Davenport, one project she has taken on is the Innovation Studio. This new space was designed in collaboration with the Center for Engineering and Innovative Design and brought resources like 3D printers, sewing machines, and hand power tools to the college. 

“Sometimes the term creative is associated with the humanities in the arts, but in actuality, it spans the STEM fields, the social sciences and so, so many of different areas,” Gonzalez said. 

The characteristic that surprised me the most about HOC Gonzalez was how she seemed reluctant to lay claim to all of the amazing work that she has done. I was sitting on her couch, listening to her speak about building models of human lung fibrosis, creating spaces for entrepreneurial creativity on campus, finding the best way to be there for the students in her college, and raising her sons on campus, whilst never seeing the thoughtfulness and care in her words waver. 

I think we’ve all met someone who makes you want to be a better person — to be a better student or friend or teacher — just by being in their presence. Anjelica Gonzalez is one of those people. It seems like the Davenport students think so, too. I mentioned to several of my friends that I was writing a piece on her, and every single response after the fact was a version of, “ HOC Gonzalez? She is amazing. I don’t know how she does it all.” 

I was sitting on her couch and wondering if this person was uncannily humble or just truly unaware of the respect she has earned on campus. 

What is on HOC Gonzalez’s mind right now? Baseball. Her twins are on a travel team, and HOC Gonzalez was their Little League coach until they aged out of parent coaches. She became interested in how Yale’s student athletes take on the challenge of committing to a team while also pursuing a university education, because — in her words — “a place like the residential colleges are built by so many members of the broader community and they all bring something to Davenport. But what that means for me is that I also have to figure out ways to be uniquely supportive to those communities.” 

What’s her favorite MLB Team, you may ask? HOC Gonzalez has an answer for that too: 

“​​My favorite player is Shohei Oheitani. He switched teams from the Angels, so wherever he is right now.”

I made myself comfortable on her couch. We talked baseball, true crime podcasts and the best spots on campus for when you want to hide away from everyone. The purpose of a head of college is to have a person who is considering the whole student. Their task is to create a place — physically, culturally and socially — that students can return home to during their four years at Yale.