Light & Verity

New dean for Yale College

Marvin Chun is “one of the most popular undergraduate mentors.”

Michael Marsland

Michael Marsland

Psychology professor and former Berkeley College master Marvin Chun is the new dean of Yale College. View full image

At Yale, being the head of a residential college gives a professor a unique perspective on the undergraduate student body. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that the new dean of Yale College—like his two most recent predecessors—served as a college master. Marvin Chun, the Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology and Professor of Neuroscience and master of Berkeley College from 2007 to 2016, became dean of Yale College on July 1. He succeeds historian Jonathan Holloway ’95PhD, who left Yale this summer after three years as dean to become provost of Northwestern University.

Chun, the first Asian American to serve as dean of the college, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, and his PhD from MIT. He taught at Yale from 1996 to 1999, then returned in 2003 after a stint at Vanderbilt University.

At Yale, he has a reputation as a popular teacher, well known among students for his Introduction to Psychology course. He has won the Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences. His research employs functional magnetic resonance imaging to study visual attention, memory, decision-making, perception, and performance. He led the recent effort to create an undergraduate major in neuroscience, which will be launched this fall.

Chun’s new job is different from what it once was. Yale College and the Graduate School have always shared a faculty and academic departments, which until recently were jointly overseen by the provost and the deans of the college and the graduate school. In 2014, though, the university underwent an administrative restructuring, creating the position of dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). At the same time Holloway and Graduate School dean Lynn Cooley were appointed, Yale tapped philosophy professor Tamar Szabó Gendler ’87 as its first FAS dean, overseeing faculty and budget matters for the academic departments and programs that make up FAS.

Chun is happy to assume the dean’s reordered job. “I favor the current team model,” he says. “Now that the position of dean of the FAS has been created, I am now able to devote my full attention to the undergraduate curriculum, the residential college experience, and extracurricular activities.”

Gendler believes the arrangement has worked out well. “Undergraduate education at Yale is such a central and vital part of our mission that having a distinguished teacher-scholar in his field—like [former dean Mary] Miller or Holloway or Chun—is absolutely essential,” she says.

Holloway and Gendler think Chun is an excellent choice for dean. In his psychology lab, “he’s one of the most popular undergraduate mentors,” Gendler says. And given his experience as a college master, “he gets so much of the job,” Holloway says. “Students love him.” (He earned fans in his first year at Berkeley by dressing as Bishop George Berkeley for Halloween.)

Chun’s goal for his new job? “We want a Yale education to be challenging and life-changing.” In his first year, he plans “to spend plenty of time meeting people, to learn what’s going well and to identify areas that deserve improvement or rethinking.”

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