The start of the school year last week was marked not only by the fresh faces in the Class of 2007, but also by the arrival of two young residential college deans — Lisa Collins of Saybrook College and Thomas McDow ’93 of Branford College.

Collins, a Philadelphia native, accepted her position in Saybrook after earning a doctorate in anthropology from Harvard University. Collins spent 10 years in Cambridge, Mass., where she served as a freshman proctor for three years and tutored students. McDow, who graduated Yale with a degree in history and African and Afro-American studies, will pursue a doctorate in history while he serves as the Branford dean.

Collins said she thinks her time at Harvard will be beneficial as she begins her job in Saybrook.

“I really think my experience with undergraduates has prepared me for my job here at Yale, and I’ve always loved speaking and talking to students, so this is the perfect job for me, in the perfect place,” Collins said.

She praised Yale’s unique support system and the overall warmth of the Yale community.

“I love my colleagues,” Collins said. “They’re always there to help me, as well as the students. There’s so much support here that it’s very difficult to fall through the cracks.”

In response to the bitter labor conflict that has altered undergraduate dining temporarily, Collins said she has made an effort to provide additional support to her freshmen.

“I’ve made a point of eating at Commons as much as I can to sit with the freshmen and talk to them about their classes and schedules, and to get to know them,” she said.

Collins added that she would also like to become more involved with the city.

“I’d also like to get to know the New Haven community a lot better, and to do some community service or a community-oriented art project,” Collins said.

Unlike Collins, McDow is no stranger to New Haven. After completing his studies at Yale, McDow traveled to Tanzania on a Parker Huang Travel Fellowship to continue his studies in African languages and literature.

Lori Flores ’05 was a member of the committee that helped select the new dean. She said his experience as a teaching assistant in African history classes and his former position as head freshman counselor in Saybrook made him the perfect candidate for the position.

“We were also looking for someone sympathetic, personable and supportive,” Flores said. “Dean McDow really embodies all these characteristics — he’s one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.”

Kristine DiColandrea ’07 praised McDow for taking on such a difficult job despite his wife’s pregnancy.

“His second child was due this week but he never let that interfere with his duties,” DiColandrea said. “He’s attended nearly every event and he’s been very accessible to the students.”

McDow’s wife went into labor Tuesday.

Branford Master Steven Smith said McDow’s experience at Yale has helped the beginning of his tenure.

“Dean McDow really seems to understand Yale students and to be able to work well with them,” Smith said. “He’s gotten off to a terrific start, and I look forward to seeing what he’ll bring to Branford in the coming weeks and months.”