New College Dean Rosie Ceballo Discusses Community and Collaboration in Q&A
Rosie Ceballo, Ph.D., is now a Hoya. An interdisciplinary scholar, Ceballo comes to Georgetown after serving as a professor of psychology and women’s and gender studies and associate dean for the social sciences at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts.
What drew you to the Georgetown community?
I have been an administrator at the University of Michigan for a good number of years now and received lots of inquiries about positions at other schools. Because of the tremendous opportunities I had at the University of Michigan, I knew I would not leave Michigan unless the perfect opportunity came along.
When I first looked at the Georgetown College Dean position, I was immediately interested. What drew me in was the strong sense of Jesuit values and principles. As I read more, I thought ‘This is me, I deeply believe in all of these values.’ The more I met people and got to know Georgetown, the more I realized that those words weren’t just nice words for a flashy brochure — people really believe them and it is a part of the community, the ethos and spirit of Georgetown.
How do you balance all of your different roles as an academic, a professor and a dean?
I love the different roles that academics get to pursue: teaching, research and service to their departments, university and research fields. Personally, I think that if I was doing one thing all of the time, I would get bored. I get energized from doing lots of different types of activities.
My primary focus when I start at Georgetown will be the administrative aspects of leading the College. I do not see that as something I do alone, but something that I do in collaboration with our communities of students, faculty and staff. I am also eager to teach at Georgetown because I love teaching and it is a great way to get to know students. I ultimately look forward to continuing my research as well.
How do you see your role as coming in and contributing to the healing of a community?
We are living through an incredible historic moment. The pandemic has caused an enormous amount of disruption and loss in many people’s lives and has revealed major systemic inequities that persist in our society. We cannot pretend that we are going back to “normal.” Instead, we must find ways to learn from this.
I think the pandemic has fractured our sense of community in some ways, and it is important to enter into a stage of healing. We need to come together to find new ways of supporting each other and working together to create a new “normal” despite the challenges brought on by new variants.
My leadership style is based on listening and collaboration. My goal is to work together with faculty, staff and students to find solutions that help everyone to excel and to be successful at Georgetown. You can only do that by reaching out, listening and learning about what people need.
What are your research areas of interest?
I have two lines of research — one focuses on infertility and reproductive difficulties among women of color and the other examines how adolescents cope with community violence in poor and dangerous neighborhoods. In both of these areas of work, I rely on a resilience framework, as I’m interested in identifying the strengths that help people cope with difficult life circumstances.
As far as I know, I conducted the first study to focus exclusively on African American women’s experiences with infertility in the U.S. In this qualitative work, I interviewed 50 African American women with a range of socioeconomic backgrounds about their difficulties conceiving. For many reasons, this was one of the most rewarding research projects that I have done.
In my work with adolescents, we know that adolescents who are exposed to neighborhood violence are at higher risk for increased symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD. As an example of our work, we found that engagement in certain types of after-school activities can help protect adolescents from exposure to community violence and help ameliorate the negative effects of violence on well-being
Can you speak to the importance of interdisciplinarity and intersectionality in your work?
I believe in the importance of thinking about people’s lives from an intersectional perspective. For example, how people experience difficulty getting pregnant and difficulty having a child is greatly based on the intersection of their social identities.
Social identities, like gender, race, socioeconomic class and sexual orientation profoundly influence how people experience the same phenomena. It is difficult to statistically account for how our social identities affect our experiences. Nevertheless, it is so crucial to understand people’s experiences from a more complex, intersectional starting point.
What are three fun facts about yourself?
First, I was lucky enough to go to a summer camp in Maine. There, I got to know and perform in plays with Yeardley Smith, now the voice of Lisa Simpson on “The Simpsons.”
Second, I grew up in Washington Heights in New York City in a poor, immigrant Dominican family. When I was a little girl, I loved ice skating. We couldn’t afford ice skating lessons so I used to go to a public ice skating rink to try to teach myself how to figure skate.
When I had my own children and lived in Michigan, I enrolled both my daughter and my son in ice skating lessons, but realized it was unfair of me to live vicariously through them. So I signed up for figure skating lessons as an adult!
The last one is just a proud accomplishment of mine. At Michigan, our students really pushed the Women’s and Gender Studies Department to make our minor in “Gender and Health” into a major. During my time as chair of the department, I was able to make that happen. It is so meaningful to me that this new major was motivated and initiated by student interests. The new major in “Gender and Health” quickly became an important major for many of our students while not detracting from the already-established WGST major in the department.
– interview by Shelby Roller (G’19)