A new class of bright-eyed freshmen will step onto Yale’s campus for the first time next fall. But this class will be the last that Jeffrey Brenzel, dean of undergraduate admissions for the last seven years, will ever help select.
In a Wednesday afternoon email, Brenzel announced that he will step down as dean of undergraduate admissions at the end of the 2012-’13 academic year. He will continue to serve as Timothy Dwight College Master — a position he has held for the past two years — and will return to teaching philosophy courses in the Yale College Directed Studies program, as he did before joining the admissions office. Brenzel said he has decided to leave his post because he wants to focus on his role as a master and a professor.
“I think it’s good to take on a responsibility like this, give it a good number of years … and it’s good to have some change from time to time,” Brenzel said in an interview with the News. “I’ve been thinking of some other things I want to focus on.”
Brenzel arrived at Yale in 1971 as a freshman from Louisville, Ky., and he held several positions in academia, the business world and college admissions after graduating. Brenzel’s legacy as dean of admissions since 2005 boasts many accomplishments, including a push for more effective international recruitment and an increase in outreach to applicants interested in science and engineering, University President Richard Levin said.
Brenzel said he made the decision to leave after speaking with Levin during the summer, though he added that he was not aware at the time of Levin’s plan to step down. He said that returning to the classroom is “something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” but he said he is still interested in the field of admissions.
“I’d like to write something about the admissions landscape in higher education these days, relative to what it’s been in the past,” Brenzel said. “That’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t do while actually acting as the dean. I’m interested in thinking about admissions and about liberal arts educations in general.”
Mark Dunn ’07, director of outreach and recruitment for the Admissions Office, said in an email that Brenzel will leave behind some “extraordinary” accomplishments, including the overhaul of all admissions publications, a revamped website and a more engaging format for Bulldog Days. He added that Brenzel has worked to make Yale “more accessible to students of all backgrounds” by engaging in outreach and publicizing Yale’s financial aid policies to low-income communities.
University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 will chair a committee to lead a nationwide search for a new dean of admissions. Dunn said he is “confident that the University will appoint an equally strong and visionary person as the new dean.”
Brenzel said the new dean will have to face the challenge of having to turn away extraordinary candidates.
“It’s certainly the most challenging job I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s compelling and interesting, but the stakes are high — it’s people’s lives.”
Students praised Brenzel for simultaneously holding two full-time positions over the past several years.
“I was surprised [by the announcement], but honestly, it wasn’t all that unexpected,” said Siddhartha Banerjee ’13, a member of TD. “I think he’d been juggling a lot last year, being both master and dean. It was noticeable that he had a lot on his plate — but I think he handled it very well.”
Cory Combs ’14 said he has been impressed and inspired by Brenzel’s level of commitment in his two roles, adding that he “seems so well put-together.”
Sonya Levitova ’15, a student in TD, said she is “super excited” for the change. “I’m actually really glad,” she said because she “thought he was stretched a little thin, doing a lot.”
TD Operations Manager Bob Kennedy said Brenzel has led an “extremely busy lifestyle” in both roles, sometimes working 80 hours a week. But he added that Brenzel has an “amazing ability to be present in the moment” and always contributes “100 percent” to his duties in both TD and the Admissions Office.
Brenzel will officially step down from the Admissions Office on June 30, 2013.