Not many people grow up to be Yale history professors. Even fewer people are professional ballet dancers before they become Yale history professors. Starting this fall, Alejandra Bronfman will be a member of that elite group.

Bronfman, who received a Ph.D. from Princeton only two years ago, is an assistant professor of history at the University of Florida and will begin teaching courses on the Caribbean for the Yale history department in the 2002-2003 school year. She will teach a general Caribbean history course for undergraduates in the fall, although her special interests are Cuba and Afro-Caribbean issues.

History Department chair Jon Butler said Bronfman adds significantly to the history department’s course offerings.

“It brings to the department for the first time a specialist in the history of the Caribbean,” Butler said. “She is very dynamic and articulate with extraordinary promise for her scholarly future.”

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead also said that Bronfman will fill a gap in the department.

“[We’re] missing one of the pieces of the puzzle,” Brodhead said. “Caribbean history turns out to be an essential link among so many areas of history. In the study of relations between Africa and America, much of that [study] is mediated through the Caribbean.”

Butler added that scholarship in the Caribbean has been an area of great growth in the study of Latin American history.

The search process for a new history professor involved advertising nationwide and then interviewing some of the 35 interested candidates at the American Historical Association meetings in San Francisco. The top three candidates were then invited to Yale to give lectures and meet both faculty and students.

After much consideration, the search committee, chaired by Latin American history professor Stuart Schwartz, recommended Bronfman to the history department, whose members voted to accept the recommendation.

“We felt it was a very successful search because it produced so many good candidates. The fact that she came out on top says a lot,” Schwartz said. “She has an outstanding grad school background, she writes very well, she has a number of articles published already, and she has a manuscript in press.”

Members of the department are looking forward to Bronfman’s arrival.

“We think this is just exceptionally promising. She’s a wonderful person and she’ll be a wonderful professor,” Butler said.

Bronfman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.