New Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and Graduate School Dean Jon Butler officially kicked off their terms last week by welcoming students to campus after smoothly transitioning to their new posts this summer.
Salovey is finalizing a plan to implement the recommendations of the 2003 comprehensive undergraduate curricular review and is working with foreign universities to revamp undergraduate study abroad programs, he said. Butler, a historian, said he spent the summer touring all of the University’s science departments for the first time and is looking at new ways to engage students and faculty in the Graduate School.
Yale President Richard Levin said he is impressed with the deans’ smooth transition. Levin appointed Butler and Salovey, the former Graduate School dean, to their new positions last February after former Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead announced he would become president of Duke University.
“I think everyone’s doing well,” Levin said. “They actually started the transition in the spring and everything’s going very smoothly.”
The two deans share the oversight of Yale’s academic departments and faculty. Salovey will continue working with the science departments and half of the social science departments while Butler will take over the departments Brodhead oversaw — the humanities and the other half of the social sciences.
Just after Salovey moved into the Yale College Dean’s Office, the longtime assistant to the dean, Lorie Fontana, passed away. Salovey said her death made the transition challenging at first since Fontana had worked very closely with Brodhead coordinating faculty appointments.
“For about three decades, there have only been two people sitting in that office,” Salovey said, referring to Fontana’s office. “That’s a lot of knowledge in her head.”
Many freshmen praised Salovey’s welcome address last Saturday at Woolsey Hall. His speech was bookish, they said, but laced with light-hearted humor.
“It was more Ivy-elegant than pumped-up rowdy,” Sean Mehra ’08 said, adding that he enjoyed Salovey’s varying tone.
In a speech titled “Creative Places,” Salovey welcomed freshmen by focusing his words on the community that now surrounds them, a campus he called “a creative milieu on a grand scale.”
“We owe our past and future successes not merely to intellectual prowess and hard work, important as they are, but also to good fortune,” Salovey said, according to his prepared text. “The good fortune to be at a place, like Yale, whose existence inspires creativity and greatness.”
He ended his speech with a reference to Brodhead: “I welcome you to Yale College and know that you will embrace, in my predecessor’s words, ‘the good of this place.'”
Many freshmen said they found Salovey personable. Charles Katz ’08 said Salovey was approachable during orientation.
“He was at Commons sitting with various groups of students while they were eating,” Katz said. “You hear the cliche that at a place like Yale with somewhat of a snob reputation — you don’t expect to see the dean of such an impressive academic college try to relate to students and bridge the gap.”
Alexandra Pulst-Korenberg ’08 noted that Salovey seemed to make a conscious effort to appeal to all students and described him as “a politician, but not as slimy as the rest.”
Salovey was also seen over the weekend escorting freshmen around Old Campus and made an appearance at a freshman workshop titled “Sex Signals.”
“I think he’ll be a great dean,” Joshua Krug ’08 said. “At the sex talk we had, he was there shaking hands and smiling.”