Almost five months after Saveena Dhall stepped down from her position as director of the Asian American Cultural Center at Yale, the College is close to selecting her successor.
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway told the News that a search committee charged with recommending the next AACC director has narrowed down the pool of applicants to a list of four finalists who are currently visiting campus for in-person interviews.
According to Holloway, the search committee, which is chaired by Head of Timothy Dwight College Mary Lui, includes one graduate students and three undergraduates — Hiral Doshi ’17, Rohan Naik ’18 and Hannah Thai ’17.
In addition to meeting with Holloway, members of the search committee and students at the center, each finalist will meet with another eight to nine members of the College, Holloway said. After the interviews are complete, individuals involved in the search will “send their thoughts” — likely by the middle of February — to Burgwell Howard, the associate vice president of student life, who will make the final decision on the appointment.
The directors of Yale’s four cultural centers report directly to Howard. Because his position did not exist two years ago, this is the first time Howard has overseen a search for new director, according to Holloway.
“I hope the next director of the AACC is involved with the community at all levels,” said Mimi Pham ’17, a head peer liaison for the AACC. “I think that it is crucial that the next director be highly accessible to students, that they be open to and excited about new ideas, and that they are ready to tackle the upcoming expansion of Yale College in a way to engage even more of the Asian and Asian-American communities.”
Pham, who does not sit on the search committee, added that the director should be able to talk about issues of diversity and inclusion that may impact the Asian and Asian-American communities in a disproportionate way.
Dhall stepped down in September 2016 to assume the role of associate dean at the Yale School of Nursing.
“I believe that part of why Dean Dhall was so great was because she [was] committed to immersing herself in all parts of student life at the AACC, whether that be by brainstorming events with students or mentoring them one on one,” Pham said. “Beyond that, she also fought alongside students to improve the AACC and Yale’s cultural centers as a whole.”
Pham said she has not been involved in the search for Dhall’s successor. However, she noted that the AACC has hosted multiple dinners where both graduate and undergraduate students as well as Yale faculty members have come together to talk with candidates.
The incoming director will be stepping into an AACC that has seen tremendous growth in the last 20 years. In 2000, the AACC sponsored around 12 affiliated student groups for 800 undergraduate students. In 2016, this number has increased to over 60 groups and more than 1,600 Asian and Asian-American students. In an August 2016 email sent out to members of the Yale community, Dhall highlighted various milestones in the AACC’s recent history, including acquiring a newly renovated space, recruiting more professional staff such as the inaugural assistant director and obtaining a more robust budget from the University.
Dhall also underscored her confidence in the AACC’s ability to move forward under new leadership.
“As I seek new adventures, I take comfort in the fact that I am making this transition when we are far stronger, more established, better networked and working in solidarity with so many campus partners, offices, centers, faculty, staff and alumni,” Dhall wrote in the email.
The AACC was established in 1981.