Wanda L. Ruffin

What brought you to Hood College?

In 1987, while completing my post-doctoral clinical internship at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Biloxi, Miss., our family relocated to Maryland when my husband accepted a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. When I moved to Maryland later that year, my husband insisted that I had to visit Hood, “a beautiful college in Frederick.” I did visit, introduced myself to the chair of the psychology department, expressed an interest in teaching, was hired as a contract faculty member in 1988, came onboard full time in 1990 and the rest, as they say, is history. By the way, I still cannot get over the beauty of Hood College.

What do you value most about your relationship with students?

Hood students are determined and serious about their academic experience. I value the open relationship with students. They respect your expertise, seek you out for advice about their professional goals and aspirations, accept constructive criticism, feel comfortable discussing their classroom experiences and are eager to participate in independent studies, honors and additional research. Students know that we are accessible and I value the fact that I may run into them out and about on campus.

Why is teaching your dream job?

Teaching affords me the freedom of continued growth academically, professionally and personally. It compliments my values about the importance of education and service. In addition, what other job would allow me the continued excitement of each new and stimulating academic semester working with students from varied backgrounds, ideologies and experiences who have a common desire to reach the laudable goal of obtaining a higher degree? Finally, working with like-minded colleagues is similarly satisfying.

If you were to consider another career, what would you consider and why?

I would consider a career as a French horn player in a symphony orchestra or as a music teacher and perform in a community orchestra. I’ve played the French horn since middle school, attended college on a music scholarship, and originally planned to major in music. After changing my major three times, I moved away from music to “the helping professions.” Even today, when enjoying concerts or classical music, I find myself listening for the French horn parts.

Describe your approach to teaching?

My teaching approach involves empowering students to take responsibility for their educational experience via collaborative and experiential learning. Most lectures begin with a small group activity. For example, students in my human development class observe preschoolers at the Onica Prall Child Development Laboratory School on campus and video clips bring “real life” issues to the classroom.

What is/are your most memorable moment/s at Hood?

Memorable moments at Hood include:
1. In the early 90s I experienced Hood students from every background actively come together to voice their strong support (including a “sit-in” in front of Alumnae Hall) for an African American studies program on campus and saw that program come to fruition.
2. I will never forget the honor of being selected by the Class of 2011 as their baccalaureate speaker.

Describe your academic interests and research?

I am very interested in death and dying rituals in the African American community. Realizing that to be black in America is to be part of a history told in terms of contact with death and coping with death, the question becomes, how do African Americans cope with sudden and unanticipated death? Currently, my research focuses on the New Orleans jazz funeral after Hurricane Katrina and the survival of this cultural ritual.

When you aren’t working, what are you doing in your spare time?

If I am not working, or volunteering with organizations or religious groups, I seem to always have a creative “project” underway. From wedding and party planning and celebrations, to cake decorating, sewing, floral arrangements and interior home designs, I enjoy creating “little masterpieces from the heart.”

Name three books that you would recommend everyone read:

“Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
“The Best Advise I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives” by Katie Couric
“The African American Book of Values” edited by Steven Barboza

If you would like to contact Professor Ruffin, you can e-mail her at wruffin@hood.edu.