Two psychology professors who left Yale for tenured positions at Vanderbilt University will rejoin the Yale department as senior professors this fall. The department will also add a new junior professor from Cornell University, making it the department’s second junior hire this semester.
Married couple Woo-kyoung Ahn and Marvin Chun will return to Yale after spending four years at Vanderbilt. In addition, Richard Eibach will join the Psychology Department as a junior professor after he finishes his doctorate at Cornell this spring. The department also appointed junior professor Valerie Purdie in early March. Graduate school dean and former psychology chairman Peter Salovey said the department has two senior offers and one junior offer still pending, meaning the department could hire a total of seven professors this semester.
“Like many psychology departments, many of our faculty came during the Great Society years,” Salovey said. “That cohort of people is now beginning to retire — we also had a few departures in the junior ranks.”
Chun, who studies human vision, said he will teach a section of introductory psychology next fall. Ahn is an expert in causal reasoning, applying it to the way psychotherapists make diagnoses. Salovey said Ahn has agreed to become the department’s director of undergraduate studies.
“From minute one, they have shown a commitment to undergraduate education,” Salovey said.
Chun said going to Vanderbilt was the prudent choice for him and Ahn at the time because Vanderbilt was offering the couple immediate tenure. But he said he is looking forward to returning to his colleagues in Yale’s department as well as the talented undergraduate and graduate students.
“It feels like going home,” Chun said. “It’s even more exciting to be going back because we didn’t think we would be going back.”
Ahn said she and Chun had been fortunate to get several dual offers, first at Yale as assistant professors and then as tenured professors at Vanderbilt.
“We missed the Yale students a lot but we really enjoyed being in [Vanderbilt’s] department,” Ahn said. “We didn’t leave with any bitter feelings.”
Ahn said Yale’s psychology department was more balanced than Vanderbilt’s, where she said she felt isolated because there were not many social psychologists.
Salovey said he was distressed when Ahn and Chun left because the were integral to the department but is now pleased with their return.
“I predict that by Christmas of next year it will be like they never left,” Salovey said. “I view this as their triumphant return to Yale.”
Eibach is also familiar with the Yale department. He said as an undergraduate, he took a seminar with Yale psychology professor Frank Keil at Cornell when Keil was a professor there. Eibach examines people’s judgements of social change and their tendency to attribute changes in themselves to changes in the environment.
Eibach said he would be interested in teaching a seminar on social movements and moral panics to analyze what makes people mobilize for or against change. In addition, he said he would like to teach an introductory course on social psychology.
Eibach said he liked Yale’s department because its members are interested in each other’s research across the different disciplines of psychology.
“I’m really excited about how collegial the atmosphere is,” Eibach said.