Lewis Hall’s rector shares passion for higher education

Disney fanatic, roller coaster junkie, and higher education activist Clarice Ramirez is Lewis Hall’s newest rector. With her sweet demeanor and bubbly personality, one might be surprised to hear that Clarice would characterize herself as an introvert. However, don’t be fooled – when it comes to anything related to Harry Potter or residential life, Clarice gets quite enthusiastic, quite fast. 

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Clarice is used to sunny skies, outdoor picnics, and rooftop cinemas – a few things that she has missed since coming to South Bend. Clarice told the Rover that despite growing up as an only child, her tight-knit family kept her company. She said, “I have four cousins who are really close in age with me who were basically like siblings. We were very close and that helped me as an only child because I had them to hang out with.” In addition to her cousins, Clarice said her “dancer community and close friends who are dancers became like sisters, too.” 

Clarice blossomed in her tight community of family and friends. Her mother, who was a strong proponent of a high–quality Catholic education, placed her in St. John of God Catholic School, where she grew in her faith and cultivated her passions for dance and community. Reflecting on her mom’s sacrifices in her childhood, Clarice said, “This is how amazing she was: she would drive 45 minutes to drop me off at school, in morning traffic, then would do a U-turn, pass our house, go to work in downtown LA, and then come back to pick me up again. The woman is a saint.” Clarice credits her mom with instilling in her the importance of education, gratefully claiming that they are “best friends for life.” 

When discerning her college options, Clarice called to mind her mom’s advice: “It’s not a matter of if you’re going to college, it’s a matter of where.” During a college fair she attended her junior year of high school, Clarice was immediately attracted to an all-women liberal arts college founded by the sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Being a “first generation Latina,” she was captivated by Mount St. Mary’s University’s mission of “helping women be successful in life, holistically–in their faith lives, finding a job, and just being independent incredible women.” Clarice said that she found the same senses of female empowerment and holistic education at The Mount that she was raised with. 

Clarice said, with tremendous gratitude, that Mount St. Mary’s was one of the best decisions she made in life. “Without them [the administration and community at Mount St. Mary’s], I wouldn’t be where I am now. At the Mount, you’re not a number, you’re known by name. They just showed us how to thrive and how to have a voice, especially as a woman.” As an undergraduate student, she worked in the admissions office, was an RA, and initiated a program for helping high school students fill out their college applications. Smiling ear to ear when detailing this application program, Clarice said that this was really the catalyst for following her vocation: “This program just reignited my fire and passion about higher-education.” 

Clarice discovered that she wanted to use the ideals of women’s empowerment and independence in her career, but wasn’t exactly sure how to pursue it. “This little voice inside me, which I now know was the Holy Spirit, said no, don’t go to grad school right away if you’re not passionate about it. So I waited three years before I went to grad school.” She earned her Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration at Loyola Marymount University after receiving her Bachelors of Science in Sociology with an emphasis in medical sociology at Mount St. Mary’s. At LMU, she took classes on Policy in Higher Education Administration and Student Development Theory and Organizational Models, which she finds applicable to her new role.

So how did this California native learn about a role as rector at the University of Notre Dame? While attending grad school at LMU, Clarice met one of her best friends, fellow Notre Dame staff member named Grace. An alum of Notre Dame, Grace always told Clarice stories of her beloved rector in Lyons Hall. Clarice felt that the role of rector incorporated everything she wanted in a career: community, education, and a chance to instill a sense of empowerment in a young generation. Grace now works at the Center for Social Concerns in Geddes Hall, not too far from Clarice.

As rector of Lewis, Clarice makes it her mission to “view students holistically.” “I don’t see somebody as ‘the person who broke parietals,” she continued. “Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and everybody is human. I love the way in which residential life here [at Notre Dame] is about forming students in the sense of we’re not all perfect, but it is what we learn from our mistakes and how they keep us accountable in a loving, caring way. This role here serves more to my personality of caring for my students very deeply and being able to help them be their best selves at all times, and not just worry about conduct and duty.” 

One manifestation of Clarice’s care for her residents is her popular Monday Bagels, where she invites Lewis residents to share in community while gathering for breakfast catered by Einstein Bros. Bagels. “I do this because I want to, not because I’m asked to––like it’s not free! I love it because I love connecting with residents and making sure people are fed before their 8:20s.” Even when Clarice is not “on duty,” she still “feels a pull to be in the building [Lewis]” and establish her policy of inclusivity.

Clarice’s biggest goal in service to Notre Dame and Lewis Hall is making everyone feel at home. “What I’ve noticed from being at Notre Dame, in my short time here, is that a lot of students don’t feel like they belong here. Even though they might not feel at home within the Notre Dame bubble, I want to help students feel at home right where they are and not feel marginalized or excluded from certain events or from participating in the full campus community.” In instilling a deeper sense of inclusivity, Clarice believes that Notre Dame can be an even more welcoming place for its residents. 

She reflected on serving in the role of rector: “I’m excited to share this new chapter of my life walking with the women of my hall and assisting them holistically with both their development and spiritual growth. The Notre Dame residential experience is very unique in the way they serve their students and I am thrilled to be part of the community, connecting with my women and helping them feel at home.” 

Sydney is a sophomore majoring in Management Consulting and Spanish. She is a proud resident of Lewis Hall, and is Lewis’ Monday Bagels’ biggest fan. Sydney can be reached at smissigm@nd.edu.