Amy Hungerford will step down as master of Morse College at the end of this academic year.
Hungerford, an English professor who assumed the mastership of Morse in 2012, announced her decision in a Wednesday email to members of the Morse community. She is departing the post to take on a new position as divisional director for the humanities, where she will be tasked with ensuring that the University’s administrative and hiring decisions align with departmental priorities in the humanities. Morse students interviewed said they were surprised by the announcement because Hungerford is just two years into her five-year term as Master, adding that they are sad to see her leave the college.
“To remain the master of Morse while taking on this role [as divisional director] would be unfair to both communities, as each job requires that I be truly present to the specific community I serve,” Hungerford said in the email.
Hungerford also took the opportunity to express her gratitude to the Morse community. She said that some of her best experiences at Yale have been shared with her Morse students.
Some of these memories include being taught to dance “the Wobble” during Hurricane Sandy in the Morse dining hall and working with Morse Dean Joel Silverman to help students face some of the deepest challenges of their lives.
Hungerford said her new role will enable her to “draw on [her] core identity as a professor and a scholar” to articulate and support the intellectual priorities of Yale’s 23 humanities departments and programs.
“Given who I am and what I do best, this is a great opportunity to integrate the heart of undergraduate experience with the University’s broadest intellectual and teaching mission,” she said in the email.
Another reason for her decision is that taking on both roles would render a focus on scholarship and teaching unfeasible in the long term.
Hungerford, who started her teaching career at Yale in 1999, teaches a popular lecture course, “The American Novel Since 1945.” She has also authored several books, including “The Holocaust of Texts: Genocide, Literature, and Personification” and “Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion Since 1960.”
Her latest book, “Making Literature Now,” is a monograph that focuses on the social networks of contemporary literature and was completed in June 2014. As a specialist in 20th and 21st century American literature, Hungerford teaches regular seminars in the graduate program and founded Post45, a professional association for scholars working in post-1945 literary and cultural studies.
Morse students interviewed praised Hungerford for her approachability and dedication to building a strong community within Morse College.
“Master Hungerford’s resignation comes as a surprise to us all, probably because of how incredibly dedicated to and immersed in Morse College culture she has always been,” said Eve Roth ’16, chief master’s aide of Morse and Morse College Council secretary. “She is and always has been incredibly passionate about everything we do in Morse, successfully fostering the growth of our uniquely tight-knit residential college community.”
Other students echoed Roth.
Chareeni Kurukulasuriya ’16 said her role as a Master’s Aide allowed her to see firsthand how much Hungerford cares about Morse students and the events that she hosts for them and their families.
Adam Pissaris ’16 said his favorite memory of Hungerford took place during the Morse Beach Day last year when all the college’s students assembled to take a group photo and a few students duped an enormous bucket of water on her as the photo was being taken.
“She was a good sport about it,” he said. “It’s on film and we tease her about how we got her that one time.”
Emphasizing Hungerford’s charismatic personality, Andrew Edwards ’17 said he is grateful for all of the contributions she made to both his academic and social experience at Yale.
Josh Rosenfeld ’16 said Hungerford has made Morse such a special place since day one of his freshman year. He added that Hungerford has always filled Morse with joy and a strong sense of community.
“Most of all, I’ll never forget the warmth and love that have filled her home — nowhere else have I ever smashed a chocolate rabbit with a hammer or sung along to ‘Let it go’ at a piano recital,” Rosenfeld said. “We’ve been so lucky to have her as our master, and though I know she’ll thrive in her new role, we’ll miss seeing her in our home.”
Matthew Beattie ’16 described the casual conversations he and Hungerford would have occasionally and said that they would talk about things that were not related to school. These personal interactions meant a lot coming from an experienced faculty member and made Hungerford one of his favorite teachers to talk to, he said.
Pissaris said that while the Morse community is sad Hungerford will leave the Mastership, they are excited about her new leadership position.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled for her,” Roth said. “She has given selflessly, spending so much time and effort in the community she loves. At the end of this year, she will finally be able to focus on herself and her academic passions and share her leadership skills not just with Morse but with the entire Yale community.”
Hungerford will assume her new position as divisional director of the humanities during this academic year.