Although Astronomy Department Chairman Charles Bailyn ’81 spends much of his time with his head towards the stars, he is equally committed to issues here on Earth, and especially at Yale.
As former chairman of the Teaching and Learning Committee and a member of the Committee on Yale College Education, Bailyn has influenced the lives of faculty and students alike in both the sciences and other departments. He is responsible for developing the $40,000 astronomy facility above the Pierson-Sage Garage and supported the on-line course evaluation system that allows students to view their peers’ comments about specific classes.
Former Astronomy Department chairman Sabatino Sofia said he thinks Bailyn’s outstanding work on these academic committees has shown the current chairman’s ability to consider intellectual issues outside of his own field of interest as well as a high degree of commitment to students’ issues.
“I believe Bailyn is up to the task [of being dean],” Sofia said. “He is a solid scholar, an excellent teacher and has the ability to deal fairly and logically with competing needs.”
Bailyn declined to comment on his potential candidacy.
Bailyn came to Yale as an assistant professor in 1990, was tenured in 1998 and has been department chair since 1999. He has taught a range of classes, from introductory astronomy courses to graduate-level labs.
Peter Hamilton ’07 said he has enjoyed taking “Current Topics in Science,” a class Bailyn teaches and designed with Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology professor Douglas Kankel for non-science majors.
“Professor Bailyn is really personable, and it seems really important to him that we are both learning and having fun,” Hamilton said. “He appreciates our feedback and actually takes it to heart.”
Bailyn’s colleagues agree that he has the good of his students, the department, and the school foremost in mind. Astronomy professor Pieter Dokkum said Bailyn is a “fantastic” and devoted chairman.
“In meetings he combines an in-depth knowledge of the subject with the ability to listen,” Dokkum said. “As a result, everyone feels that their views are acknowledged and taken into account.”
Bailyn has a reputation among students for being supportive and open-minded to projects and ideas, and as a result many astronomy majors choose him as their senior project advisor. Meredith Hughes ’05 said Bailyn was both helpful and enthusiastic when she worked with him to attempt to resurrect STARRY, a student astronomy club.
“If he sees that something is worthwhile, he finds a way to make it happen,” Hughes said. “He’s just a great combination of idealism and practicality.”
Astronomy major Kate Rubin ’04, who sought advice from Bailyn when she needed funding for a summer project, said she appreciated his friendly, encouraging attitude.
“I think it would be great to have Bailyn as a dean,” Rubin said. “But it would be sad for the Astronomy Department to lose him.”
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