MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury President Laurie Patton has announced that Smita Ruzicka has been named the next vice president for student affairs at Middlebury, starting on August 2.
A collaborative leader with in-depth experience in many aspects of student life, Ruzicka was selected after a competitive national search led by a committee including faculty, staff, and students. Patton said Ruzicka’s wide-ranging experience in mental health counseling, career development, and student crisis management; her passion for collaboration; and her commitment to equity and inclusion distinguished her as the top candidate. She succeeds Baishakhi Taylor, who served as vice president for student affairs and dean of students until 2020.
“We are delighted to welcome Smita to the Middlebury community and look forward to her leadership as we continue to reimagine and build on the vibrant student life experience at the College,” said Patton. “From her first interview with the search committee, she struck us as well-informed, wise, and very much in tune with Middlebury’s values. Her work at institutions of consequence throughout the nation and her record of working across divisions—first and foremost to serve students—will further our mission and benefit our entire community.”
Ruzicka will report to Patton as a member of the College’s Senior Leadership Group and oversee residential life, judicial affairs, health and wellness education, student activities, and orientation at Middlebury College and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Ruzicka currently serves as dean of student life for the Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus, a position she’s held for three years. Previously, she was assistant vice president for campus life at Tulane University, and held a series of progressively responsible positions at The University of Texas at Austin, where she worked for 12 years in career services, sorority and fraternity life, and student affairs.
“I am extremely excited to join the Middlebury community and have felt a strong connection with its values and priorities,” said Ruzicka. “I look forward to partnering with a very talented and dedicated student affairs team and helping them advance their goals in serving our students.”
Patton noted that over the course of her career, Ruzicka has formed partnerships across divisions with a student-centered philosophy rooted in equity and inclusion.
“She has engaged with students, faculty, staff, families, alumni, and community members on a variety of issues to make a positive institutional impact at three nationally recognized research universities,” said Patton. “She is community focused and has consistently worked to build anti-racist structures, integrating practices of restorative justice in the work of student affairs and championing social justice education and inclusive practices.”
Patton says her work to integrate academic and co-curricular aspects of student life has contributed to students developing their leadership potential, and that her early professional experiences as a mental health therapist and career counselor give her an understanding of health and well-being issues critical to student success.
Ruzicka has strongly advocated for her institutions to be anti-racist, working toward inclusion of Asian American students in mental health services, chairing a committee for Black and Latinx students, advocating for LGBTQ+ students as a member of a gender and sexuality advisory group, and supporting undocumented students. She also has helped student leaders provide support to others healing from sexual violence.
In her current role at Johns Hopkins, Ruzicka provides leadership and vision for an expansive portfolio including the centers for diversity and inclusion, residential life, student engagement, case management and crisis response, and student conduct. She helped establish a residential curriculum for first- and second-year students focused on community building and affinity as well as academic engagement pathways. And she led efforts to create a quarantine and isolation support plan for residential and off-campus students with campus partners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ruzicka holds a PhD in higher education administration from The University of Texas at Austin, a master’s in professional counseling from Texas State University, San Marcos, and a bachelor’s in psychology and English from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.