According to an email sent by Dr. Petillo on Jan. 20, Dr. Maureen Ruby was announced as the Isabelle Farrington Endowed Chair of Social, Emotional, and Academic Leadership (SEL), the first ever endowed chair at Sacred Heart.
In the email, he says, “An endowed chair or professorship is one of the most prestigious academic positions and is completely funded in perpetuity. As endowed chair, Dr. Ruby will be helping to prepare educational leaders with expertise in social, emotional and academic leadership – something that is already a key component of the College of Education’s doctoral program.”
“It’s humbling,” said Ruby. “You work hard and when things like this come your way, you’re like ‘why me?’ You’re not in this work for yourself when you’re a teacher. When you have a student that goes off and gets a fabulous job and accomplishes so much to help other people, that is so gratifying and so I see this position as a gift.”
Before receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Conn., she began as a dentist and worked at underserved public health clinics.
“When you work in public health clinics, it’s very undeserved,” said Ruby. “Part of the problem is that they haven’t had access to care and that they haven’t really learned to take care of themselves so you’re constantly working with people to teach them, so I think the teaching piece was always there.”
According to Dr. Petillo’s email on Jan. 20, she also has many academic accolades such as the North Branford Public Schools 2000 Teacher of the Year semifinalist, a co-principal investigator for $3.9 million federal Early Reading First grant, and recently has completed a two-year Ashoka-Changemaker Fellowship at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence in May 2019.
“Dr. Ruby was chosen because she has the breadth and depth of academic and professional experiences required to step into the role and make an immediate impact,” said Dr. Michael Alfano, Vice Provost for Strategic Partnerships and Dean of the Isabelle Farrington College of Education.
“She is an outstanding teacher and has many professional relationships with many influential and important people who work in education, including U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona,” he said.
In her position, Ruby will work with doctoral students to complete their SEL-related dissertations, as well as connect students with school districts that would benefit from their research.
“This program is a one of a kind program, to the best of our knowledge right now, it’s the only doctoral program in social, emotional and academic leadership anywhere,” said Ruby. “The work that this program is designed to support is these graduate students really tackling problems of the practice insight to the context that they’re actually in, not some lab or perfect school, it’s the real deal.”
Many undergraduate students within the Isabelle Farrington College of Education also agree with Ruby about the importance of gaining hands-on experience in the classroom.
“I believe it is essential to get hands-on work in the classroom since we are taught the skills to teach and manage a classroom, but we learn the most by actually being in a classroom,” said senior Leanne Suozo. “If you are learning how to drive you study the manual, but it is when you actually get behind the wheel that you take what you know about driving and apply it. Same thing goes for teaching.”
Ruby is currently the assistant superintendent in Brookfield, Conn., a K-12 school district, but she will be joining Sacred Heart as an associate professor in Aug. 2022.
“To me as a professional, I feel so blessed because I am going to be able to hopefully support other people in ways that will have a ripple effect and just have far reaching benefits to improve the lives of so many people,” said Ruby.
“All of us can be enriched by being supported by our own social emotional learning so I’m very excited to see how this role can be of service not only outside of the community, but within the Sacred Heart community,” she said.