Meet the First Asian American to Become the Dean of Yale University

Psychology and neuroscience professor Marvin Chun will take on the role as the next dean of Yale College, according to an email announcement by University President Peter Salovey on Thursday.

Chun, who is set to become the first Asian-American dean at the college, will begin his five-year term on July 1, according to the announcement.

Before succeeding current Dean Jonathan Holloway, Chun served as the head of Berkeley College from 2007 to 2016. Chun’s numerous contributions to science through research, dedication to teaching and his service as Berkeley’s head of college for nine years were praised by Salovey.

“He combines his research and teaching expertise to create opportunities for students,” Salovey stated in his email to the Yale community. “Investigators at all stages of their careers have flourished under his leadership. In his lab, undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have successfully completed projects and published their work in neuroscience and psychology journals.”

Salovey then announced Chun’s appointment to University administrators and various faculty members.

“While I feel humbled by the weight and legacy of this appointment, I am also confident in how vigorously I can pursue President Salovey’s number one goal ‘to be the research university most committed to teaching and learning,’” Chun said in a speech during the faculty announcement.

“The students here are so brilliant, curious, energetic and intrinsically motivated, that if you do not feel uplifted after an hour with them in the classroom, then you cannot teach anywhere.”

According to Chun his work as dean will be shaped by several key principles. He noted that while residential colleges are a place where students should feel at home after a long day of classes, they are also real-world communities where students encounter new perspectives. He also expressed that diversity is not a trade-off with quality, but a feature of excellence, which he attributes to scientific evolution.

“Towards sustainable and resilient life habits, we must nurture our physical, psychological, spiritual and social well-being together,” Chun stated, emphasizing the importance of balancing academic pursuits with physical well-being. “Towards a model society, Yale should be a place in which everyone feels valued, for which everyone feels grateful, and from which we make the world better for others.”

After receiving his doctorate from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994, Chun served as an assistant professor in Yale’s Department of Psychology and Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program throughout the late 1990s.

He would later teach at Vanderbilt University before returning to Yale in 2003. During his stint, Chun won the Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences and the Phi Beta Kappa William DeClyde DeVane Award in recognition of his “character, teaching, and scholarship.”

Chun is renowned for his innovation in the uses of brain imaging and behavioral methods to study attention, perception, memory and learning. He has published over 100 articles regarding his work.

Among his many achievements in research, Chun received the Troland Research Award from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology.

Observers believe Chun’s deanship marks a historical and cultural significance for many people of color in academia. Asian-American students at the University have commended the appointment, seeing it as a positive move towards greater representation of Asians and other minorities in the school administration, reports Yale Daily News.

“I’m really excited about seeing Asian-American representation in leadership,” said 20-year old student Liana Wang. “[Chun] has such a warm, open personality. I think he’ll be great for representing student interests, and I personally love that he dispels so many of the stereotypes often applied to Asian-Americans.”

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