One in Two Thousand: Ally Cruz ’22

Nigel Jaffe

(Nigel Jaffe/The Williams Record)

Each week, we randomly select a unix from a list of all current students at the College for our One in Two Thousand feature. As long as the owner of a selected unix is willing to be interviewed and is not a member of the Record board, that person becomes the subject of our interview. This week, the computer (using a script in R) chose Ally Cruz ’22, who talked about her family, Freud, and whether psychology belongs in Div. III. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nigel Jaffe (NJ): Let’s start with one thing I know we have in common: We’re both senior psychology majors. Are you taking any psych classes this semester?  

Ally Cruz (AC): Yes! I’m taking PSYC 357: “Depression” with Kate Stroud, which is what it sounds like — a seminar on depression. 

NJ: I’ve always thought classes like that are darkly funny in some ways. I’m imagining someone looking at your transcript, going, “I wonder what she was up to senior year… Ah, yes. Depression.”

AC: Right. We walked into class and she was like, “Welcome to depression. I hope this is the first time you’ve heard that today.” Then we’re reading a blog called Adventures in Depression, which contains a lot of similar humor. 

NJ: How charming. What else are you taking?

AC: My senior seminar is PSYC 408: “The Psychology of College” with Susan Engel. We were talking today about how extracurricular activities become commodities. They’re meant to enrich your life, but when you start picking activities based on what makes you look good on paper, you end up enjoying them less. 

NJ: Sure. That was definitely true in high school, when extracurriculars were a big part of our college apps. 

AC: Right. The other thing we were talking about was how you get to college, and people tell you that you can be anything you want to be. But then so many people end up following such narrow paths — becoming econ majors and going into finance or consulting, for instance.

NJ: So what do psych majors like us do? Become teachers, maybe?

AC: I know I’d like to do something creative. For example, my mom teaches in an elementary school, running their drama department and putting on shows with the kids. And she goes all out: doing blocking and choreography, and trying to expose the kids to theater in a way that makes it so they might think about choosing to do it in the future. 

NJ: Wow, that’s pretty cool. Do you think that her experience as a teacher influenced how she raised you? 

AC: I think I learned how to be a good student in terms of time management, and I was always very comfortable with speaking in front of the whole class. 

NJ: Speaking of speeches and your family, a little bird told me that Valerie DiFebo [’84], who received the Bicentennial Medal at Convocation last week, is your aunt!

AC: I was wondering if you’d bring that up. 

NJ: She seems like a cool person. Would you say that’s accurate?

AC: Yeah, she’s just as genuine and giving and loving as she comes across. A lot of people are so keen to leave the past in the past once they get where they want to go. They don’t really try to give back in any way. And she is not like that at all. But it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. She genuinely is my hero, and she’s the person I look up to the most in terms of her achievements and how her attitude has developed over the years. But when you have an aunt who gets the Bicentennial Award, that’s a lot to live up to.

NJ: Anyway, I wanted to ask, since your mom is a teacher: Were you ever that kid who’d accidentally call their teacher Mom? 

AC: Oh my God, no. I actually never did that, which is so surprising. But what’s weird is that my dad was my swim coach for six or seven years, in middle school and high school. He was my coach during the absolute peak of my adolescence, which I’m sure he did not enjoy.

NJ: So it would have been reasonable in that case to call your coach Dad, intentionally or otherwise. 

AC: Right, but the thing is, he tried to get me to avoid doing that. I wasn’t allowed to call him Dad at the pool. Instead, I had to call him by his first name, Omar. So then I’d end up accidentally doing the opposite, calling him Omar at my own house: “Omar, can you drive me there later?” And he’d be like, “You mean Dad. I’m your dad.”

NJ: That sounds awfully confusing. What was his reasoning?

AC: I think he didn’t want it to look like he had a favorite on the team. So it was more fair for me to call him what everyone else on the team did, which was Omar.

NJ: It’s a cut-throat world, middle—school swimming. Alternatively, he could have evened out the playing field by just making all the swimmers call him Dad. 

AC: That might just be more confusing.

NJ: This conversation makes me wonder: As a psych major, how do you feel about Freud?

AC: I like reading Freud because I think he’s so outlandish. I don’t know if he’s entirely credible, but I think he’s super interesting. 

NJ: I have a little Freud finger puppet set. He goes on one finger, and the couch goes on another.

AC: Last year, when I was living in Poker, my group of friends realized that we were all science majors, but different areas of science. So we had a science party, and my friend and I dressed up as Freud and a Freudian slip. I wore a black dress, and I wrote on it something like “When you say one thing, but mean your mother.” And then I had Freudian concepts on me: ego, superego, all that fun stuff. My friend came as Freud.

NJ: Nice of them to allow you to participate in the science party even though psych hadn’t yet moved to Division III. I know this is a tough question, but do you think Division III is the right place for psych?

AC: Absolutely, I do. Neuroscience is clearly a science — it has the word science in it. 

NJ: Careful there. So does political science. 

AC: OK, but if you were to define the components of a Div. III subject, they’re experimental fields. And psychologists use experiments all the time, often famously. 

NJ: I certainly agree. But recognizing that a lot of behavioral econ is actually psych, do you think econ should be a Division III? 

AC: Uh, sure. If I had to choose, I’d probably say yes.

NJ: OK, how about poli sci? They do experiments. 

AC: I guess so?

NJ: Or sociology? Environmental studies?

AC: Jeez. See, this is why I can’t win Bicentennial Awards. I don’t have the answers to these questions.

NJ: That’s OK — I don’t either.