College hires April Ruiz, Chris Sewell ’05 to fill recent dean’s office vacancies

This past week, the College announced its appointment of two new associate deans: April Ruiz and Chris Sewell ’05. Both will be joining the dean’s office later this year, filling the vacancies left by Rashanda Booker and Rosanna Reyes Ferro.

“After conducting a national search, which took to heart the many thoughts and concerns shared by students and other members of the Williams community, I’m delighted to announce that the college has hired two new associate deans,” Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom wrote in a press release on Jan. 16. “April and Chris will bring tremendous skills and experiences to our office and to their work with our students.”

Ruiz joins the College from Yale, where she was previously the dean of Grace Hopper College for four years. There she successfully mentored countless students and was a key player in fostering community relations, particularly when campus-wide debates arose surrounding the renaming of the controversial Calhoun College, now known as Grace Hopper College.

Ruiz was also a lecturer in the cognitive science and psychology departments and the dean of First-Year Scholars at Yale, a summer immersion program designed to enhance the transitions of incoming first generation and low-income students. The first in her family to attend college, Ruiz holds a bachelor of arts in cognitive science from Yale and a doctorate in psychology from St. Andrews. Her research focuses on social cognition in non-human primates. She has also written extensively on the Theory of Mind.

“I think Dean Ruiz is a good fit for the College because she’s incredibly passionate about the First Gen work,” Brian Benitez ’18, a member of the search committee that hired Ruiz, said. “She understands that First Gen work at Williams is unique. It’s largely student-led, and Dean Ruiz had expressed that she is excited to work alongside students rather than as their superior. Given her experience, approachability and motivation, I have no doubt that she will be an asset to the Williams community.”

At the College, Ruiz will oversee first generation initiatives and will act as an intermediary between the dean’s office and other College administrative offices, including Admissions and Financial Aid.

Sewell, on the other hand, received a bachelor of arts in American studies and history from the College. He then went on to receive a masters of education from the University of Pennsylvania, a masters in Afro-American studies from the University of California-Los Angeles, and a doctorate of education in educational leadership and policy from Vanderbilt.

Prior to his appointment at the College, Sewell was an independent researcher and senior instructional manager at General Assembly, a New York City-based company with 20 campuses dedicated to teaching people the most in-demand skills in web development, design, data and business. Sewell’s research explores the impact of gifted and talented education policies on the experiences of gifted students of color and LGBTQ+ students.

“I’m really excited about Chris Sewell as the incoming Assistant Dean,” Theophyl Kwapong ’20, a member of the search committee that hired Sewell, said. “During the application and interview process, he demonstrated a philosophical approach and a raw passion that perfectly matches the Williams framework. As a First Gen, black, gay man who attended Williams, he has talked the talk and walked the walk of those he is here to serve, and, ultimately, we selected him because he has what it takes to be a good partner, not only for the students, but also for the Dean’s Office and the Davis Center.”

Sewell will be working closely with the Davis Center and Integrative Wellbeing Services, focusing especially on how to help students succeed as they transition to the College. From eating in the dining halls to attending Minority Coalition group meetings, he plans to be very visible in the community as a way of showing support.

“April and Chris each bring to the College a deep understanding of the needs of today’s students,” Sandstrom wrote in the press release. “They look forward to collaborating with and learning from colleagues and students to continue and build on the positive work at the College that has centered on the values of inclusion and equity.”

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