Psychology professor Peter Salovey, known for his prize-winning teaching ability, will take over as dean of the Graduate School this semester, bringing his experiences as a former graduate student and department chair to the post.

Levin announced Jan. 7 that Salovey would replace outgoing Graduate School 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.

“We’re very excited that [Salovey] will be joining our — team,” Levin said. “He’s an extraordinary teacher and a great leader — I think he’ll do great things for our graduate students and the quality of our graduate programs.”

Salovey served as chair of the Psychology Department for the last 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.

“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?”

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 deans of the graduate school have faced challenges from the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which has sought to unionize teaching and research assistants for over a decade.

Salovey said he shares similar goals with GESO, including making the graduate student experience at Yale 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 co-chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said graduate student unionization is the most pressing issue in the graduate school right now.

“The campus is at a crisis point, and anyone becoming the dean right now has an amazing opportunity to turn that around,” Seth said.

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. Salovey chaired the planning committee for the McDougal Center five years ago.

“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 has won numerous teaching prizes. He currently serves on the Committee on Yale College Education, heading a working group 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.