The current Baker College masters Ivo-Jan and Rose van der Werff will be leaving at the end of the academic year, which marks their seventh year as masters.
Many Baker students said the van der Werffs made an effort to get to know the students on a personal level: The masters can often be seen interacting with Baker students during dinner, at cabinet meetings and during the yearly events they host in their house.
Both of the van der Werffs, who have two adult daughters, work at the Shepherd School of Music. Ivo-Jan is a violist and professor of viola who has performed more than 2,000 concerts around the world as part of the Medici String Quartet and contributed soundtracks and recordings for movies. Rose is a violinist who coordinates the Chamber Music and Outreach program for the prep school at Shepherd. In addition to their daughters, the couple has two dogs, one of whom is named Baker.
“The energy and vibrancy of Baker has kept us wanting to be involved in the best possible way,” Ivo-Jan van der Werff said. “We can both feel ridiculously proud of any of our students’ achievements, be they academic, in sports or music or within the Baker community. This way of life has felt so natural to us that it is hard to comprehend what life will actually be like when we leave.”
Baker Chief Justice Jahid Adam said the van der Werffs have helped to support student leadership at Baker while allowing student decision-making.
“[The van der Werffs have] played a large role in defining Baker as a supportive and inclusive community while I’ve been here,” Adam, a junior, said. “As Chief Justice, I’ve relied on the masters multiple times for support and guidance, and they have consistently been incredible resources.”
Baker juniors Natalie Swanson and Patrick Garr lead a college committee to search for new masters.
“The advent of new masters brings with it new ideas and a new perspective that can help further facilitate our culture while adding something new to us moving forward,” Garr said.
Ivo-Jan van der Werff expressed strong support for the residential college system.
“We hope Rice will continue far into the future with the residential college system,” Ivo-Jan van der Werff said. “It’s so great for alums to have not just the sense of being Rice [graduates] but to proudly declare which college they were at.”
While the van der Werffs will be leaving their official posts as masters by the end of this year, they will still be teaching as professors at Shepherd with the knowledge that their legacy will remain among Bakerites for years to come.
Michel and Melanie Achard will leave their positions as Jones College masters at the end of this academic year. Michel Achard, an associate professor of linguistics, and Melanie Achard, who works for a security software company, began their tenure as masters in 2010.
“We simply wanted to have the privilege to share the students’ lives for a while,” Michel Achard said.“We were certainly not disappointed.”
The Achards said they were sad to leave the Jones community. After they move off campus, Michel will continue teaching, and they will come back to Jones as associates.
While Michel and Melanie Achard have made countless contributions to Jones, their dedication and trust in the students and the student government allowed the Jones Executive Cabinet to make changes and improvements at the college, according to Jones External Vice President Edward Gao.
“Their guidance, encouragement and unwavering support gives our student government the confidence and ability to constantly strive to improve every aspect of Jones,” Gao, a junior, said.
Jones resident associate Allison Leedie compared the masters’ role at Jones to that of a driver’s ed teacher: someone who sits beside you to guide you, but does not have total control
“They will say, ‘It’s the students’ college, so how do the students want to handle this? What do the students think is best?’” Leedie said. “That’s what I love most about working with them.”
The transition will be bittersweet and difficult to imagine, the Achards said. Not only did they have an incredible impact on empowering the college’s government, but they also can be credited for individual student growth, Bethany Fowler, a Jones senior who is part of the search committee for new masters, said.
“It is impossible for me to imagine my Rice experience without the support of Michel and Melanie,” Fowler said. “Over the past three years, it’s fair to say that their guidance has actually shaped the person I’ve become, and the same is true for Jones as a whole. Melanie and Michel have brought out the best in Jones, and that influence will long outlast their time as masters.”
The college is currently in the process of selecting the new masters. The selection committee, made up of 11 Jones students, is headed by Gao and Jones president Chris Sabbagh, a senior. The committee is in the process of the first round of candidate interviews.
“Our ideal masters are those who are always by our side guiding us in the right direction, occasionally taking control to keep us in line,” Gao said.