Three weeks after sociology professor Nicholas Christakis said he would resign as head of Silliman College, University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway have announced his replacement: psychology professor Laurie Santos.
Santos will officially assume the position on July 1, Holloway wrote in a Thursday email to the Silliman community.
She will succeed Christakis, who served an almost unprecedentedly short, tumultuous one-year tenure at the helm of the college. His resignation, announced May 25, came months after a Halloween weekend email from his wife, Erika Christakis, set off conversations about discrimination and inclusivity on campus.
Santos, who has taught at Yale for 13 years, is a well-known community member — Time Magazine dubbed her a “leading campus celebrity” in 2013. A record 584 students enrolled in her lecture — “Sex, Evolution and Human Nature” — in spring 2015. She also directs the Comparative Cognition Lab, which explores the evolutionary origins of the human mind by comparing the cognitive abilities of human and non-human primates.
In an email to the Silliman College shortly after the announcement, Santos spoke about how she first learned about the college and her excitement to join the community. Santos said she first heard about the college years ago from her graduate school roommate, a Silliman alum, who made the college “feel like the kind of place anyone would love to call home.”
“I now find myself given an opportunity I couldn’t have imagined when I had those late night conversations years ago— a chance to be part of this community that I’ve heard so much about,” Santos wrote in her email. “A chance to not only share in Silliman’s beloved traditions and culture, but also to help shape them. I’m thrilled not just to be a Head of a College at Yale, but to be Head of Silliman College specifically.”
As a researcher, Santos’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The New Yorker.
“An acclaimed teacher and mentor, Professor Santos served as director of undergraduate studies in Psychology from 2010 to 2015,” Salovey and Holloway wrote in the announcement email to the Silliman community. “Professor Santos also works closely with undergraduate students as a research mentor. She has supervised undergraduate projects both in her lab on campus and at field sites, and has published papers with thirty different Yale undergraduate co-authors.”
Santos will be joined by her husband, Mark Maxwell GRD ’17, currently a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy.
Santos comes to Silliman at a particularly challenging time for the college: after a difficult year, some Silliman students refused to accept their diplomas from Christakis at the college commencement in May. And students have also raised concerns in recent months about the composition of the incoming group of freshman counselors, which is majority white.