Dunia Ruff ’84 is changing seminary education in St. Paul

learning to learn

Dunia Ruff '84 at the St. Paul Seminary with seminarian Cullen Gallagher of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. Photo by David Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit.

Alumna Dunia Ruff ’84 is working to change how St. Paul approaches education, as profiled in a recent feature by The Catholic Spirit. Utilizing innovative teaching methods, Ruff tutors priests-in-training who face challenges such as ADHD and dyslexia rethink their approach to tasks, and helps Spanish speaking communities connect with their children’s schools. 

After taking it upon herself to help teach her peers at an informal night school in Guatemala, Ruff came to Minnesota at the age of 26, where she met her husband, Paul Ruff. A local Catholic family offered to house Ruff, as well as offer her a scholarship to St. Kate’s. Earning her bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Spanish from St. Kate’s, Ruff took a break from her pursuit of her career after graduation to focus on raising her children, as well as serving as an elementary education lecturer at St. Kate’s through 2001. However, after joining the St. Paul public school system at 41, Ruff found that her time away had not prepared her for what she found: children, despite access to educational resources Ruff lacked in Guatemala, weren’t learning. Seeking a solution, Ruff found the Feuerstein method, pioneered by Reuven Feuerstein. 

After retiring from the education system, Ruff certainly did not retire from teaching. She now offers her services as a tutor at St. John Vianney College Seminary and she St. Paul Seminary. Outside the walls of the seminary, Ruff works to make navigating the education system easier for Hispanic students and their families. Ruff primarily works with Risen Christ Catholic School in Minneapolis, the only dual immersion Catholic school in Minnesota. In 2021, Ruff worked with tutors on teaching over Zoom. She’s now delivering a four-part series in Spanish for student parents in hopes to increase engagement with their children's education, and has already had great impact on families, according to Regina Mancilla, director of community engagement at Risen Christ.

“She helps the Spanish community to … understand the great mission that they have as the first educators of their kids, and then how to be better parents through the lens of faith," says Mancilla.

Read The Catholic Spirit profile