Psychology chairman Peter Salovey, a former Yale graduate student and a prize-winning teacher, will take over as Graduate School Dean, Yale President Richard Levin announced Tuesday.

Salovey replaces outgoing dean Susan Hockfield, who left the position in December to become provost, the University’s chief academic and financial officer. The administrative reshuffling began last month when former Provost Alison Richard announced she was leaving her post Jan. 1 to become vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

“Yale University should be the pre-eminent graduate school training program in the country,” Salovey said. “My own experience at Yale has taught me how important it is to think of this place as a University — how do we create a place that is bigger than the sum of its parts?”

Salovey, the Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, served as chair of psychology for two and a half years. He said he planned to draw on his experiences as a former Yale graduate student and professor in leading the Graduate School.

It is Salovey’s experience as a prize-winning teacher, an effective department chair and former Yale graduate student that make him a good choice, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said.

“He is a very smart guy and he knows how to get things done,” Brodhead said. “He cares a great deal about education — he has a broad understanding of the University.”

Recent Graduate School deans have faced challenges from the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, or GESO, which has sought to unionize teaching and research assistants for over a decade.

Salovey said he shares similar goals with GESO, including making sure being a graduate student at Yale is as intellectually stimulating as possible, offering a social community and making sure stipends and financial support are competitive with other top universities.

“My own view is those kinds of goals are best accomplished by faculty and students and administrators working directly together,” Salovey said. “My view is not a political one, it’s a pragmatic one — I think there are other and much better ways [than unionization].”

GESO representatives could not be reached for comment.

Hockfield said the past few years have been a period of rapid transition at the graduate school, particularly with the enlargement of the McDougal Graduate Student Center.

“Peter will bring his enormous personal warmth and his knowledge of the graduate school to the position,” Hockfield said.

Salovey chaired the planning committee for the McDougal Center five years ago. He said when he was a graduate student it was easy to feel isolated within your own department.

“We have made great strides in the past couple of years in making the graduate school home to all the graduate students,” Salovey said. “In the last five years Yale has become a leader in creating a hub for intellectual and social life.”

Salovey received his doctorate from Yale in 1986 and joined the faculty that year. Known for his popular introductory psychology course, he won the William Clyde DeVane Medal for Distinguished Scholarship and Teaching at Yale in 2000 and the Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching in the Social Sciences in 2002.

Salovey currently serves on the academic review committee, heading a subcommittee on biomedical education. He also holds an appointment in the School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.

Now that Salovey has moved to the graduate school, the Psychology department will miss his leadership, Psychology professor Paul Bloom said.

“Our loss is Yale’s gain,” Bloom said. “He’s very, very committed to Yale. He has a great intellectual vision, but also he’s a great person to talk to.”

Psychology professor Marcia Johnson will serve as acting chairwoman of Psychology for the spring semester.

Astronomy chairman Charles Bailyn said Salovey has a broad understanding of medical fields from his work on the biomedical education subcommittee for the Yale College academic review. Ê

“He’s someone who straddles the line between science and non-science in a really great way,” Bailyn said. “He covers a great deal of ground. He’s just a very well-rounded person.”

History Chairman Jon Butler said in an e-mail that Salovey had the perfect temperament for the position of graduate school dean.

“His superb chairmanship of the Psychology Department plus his exceptional standing as a scholar will give Yale a Dean whose discernment, compassion, and energy will reassure and benefit Yale students and faculty alike,” Butler said.