Between meetings with fellow administrators and Yale College Council leaders and spending quality time with his Havanese dog Pablo, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun will now be taking on a new — though admittedly familiar — responsibility: teaching his beloved Introduction to Psychology course.
To balance his roles as dean and professor, Chun has made some changes to the course after 15 years of teaching. He has invited many professors to serve as guest lecturers, including professor of psychology Laurie Santos — who will teach the class in Battell Chapel on Thursday — and University President Peter Salovey — who will teach a class on love. He will be running the course with the help of a course coordinator, lecturer in the Department of Psychology Natalia Córdova, who will assist him in logistical duties such as scheduling makeup exams.
“I’m super excited to get back to the classroom,” Chun told the News. “After I was kind of winding up my first year as dean, I felt I really enjoyed it but what was missing was interacting with students in the classroom, and so when there was an opportunity to teach intro psych that’s why I jumped into it.”
He told the News that he still wants to be “Professor Chun” to his psychology students — not Dean Chun — but that will require thoughtfulness when he teaches. He noted that he spent much of winter break updating the curriculum and will devote his weekends to preparing for lecture because he needs a lot of time to plan out each course meeting.
Chun admitted that he felt nervous about teaching after several years, but noted that it was the kind of nervousness you feel “before a big game.”
Chun first joined Yale’s Department of Psychology and Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program as an assistant professor in the late 1990s. He then taught at Vanderbilt University before returning to Yale in 2003. Chun is best known for his innovative uses of brain imaging and behavioral methods to study attention, memory, learning and perception, and has received several accolades for his research. At Yale, Chun spearheaded the effort to create the neuroscience major, which was announced in April 2017. Chun became dean of Yale College in July 2017.
He said he has a particular affinity for the introductory course because psychology is a valuable part of a liberal arts education. In past addresses to students, Chun has often cited psychological research to encourage students to get enough sleep and prioritize their health.
While Chun has not scheduled regular office hours for the course, he said he will linger after each class for 30 minutes to answer students’ questions. Chun said he plans to cap the class around 500 students. As of Monday evening, 543 students were shopping the course, according to Yale Course Demand Statistics.
Several students interviewed by the News — all of whom are shopping the course — expressed enthusiasm about learning from Chun due to his expertise in the field.
“I’m looking forward to finding out what makes Chun such a magnetic presence on campus,” said Rachel Calcott ’22. “Chun is clearly brilliant at what he does, and I’m excited to approach psych by learning from someone who’s at the cutting edge of cognitive research.”
Calcott added that she is curious to see how deeply Chun engages with his students and the investment he’s able to make in their careers considering his status as a “celeb professor.”
Ben Ihenacho ’22 told the News that Chun is a renowned researcher in his field and an inspiring professor. Ihenacho said it is “wonderful” that Chun finds the time to connect to the students by teaching classes.
Though Michael Zhou ’22 said he is more excited about the class for the content and not necessarily because Chun is teaching it, he added that he is excited to see Chun teach the class because he has “heard great things about him.”
Past Yale College deans have also stepped back into the classroom during their deanships. In 2015, Jonathan Holloway, Chun’s predecessor, taught a course on African-American history from emancipation to the present.
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