Yale College Dean Marvin Chun to step down in June
Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun will return to teaching at the end of the spring 2022 semester.
Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun announced on Thursday that he would step down as dean after five years in the position.
In an email to the Yale College community, Chun stated his intention to leave the position following the end of the spring 2022 semester. A professor of psychology, neuroscience and cognitive science, Chun served as head of Berkeley College from 2007-16 and was the University’s first Asian American dean. Chun’s term will officially end on June 30, after which he will return to full-time teaching and research.
“The institution has given me so much, and maybe as dean, I was able to give back a little, but I think I still got more from Yale than I’m able to give back,” Chun told the News. “I just love this institution so much. I love all the people here, and that’s why I’m not thinking of leaving the place. I look forward to engaging with students and my colleagues in different ways, especially back in the classroom.”
In his email, Chun noted that he had informed University President Peter Salovey of his decision in November, but waited until now to alert the rest of the community due to deteriorating public health conditions. Although five years is the standard term length for Yale’s deans, Chun cited several factors that influenced his decision not to seek reappointment.
For one, Chun said he was proud of what he had accomplished during his term alongside students and faculty, in particular expansions to financial aid including the creation of the Summer Experience Award and Yale Safety Net and the expansion of the First-Year Scholars and STARS programs. Chun also emphasized the success of Yale’s certificate programs, adding that he looked forward to faculty introducing new certificates in years to come.
In April 2020, Chun oversaw the adoption of a universal pass/fail grading policy for the spring 2020 semester after weeks of student advocacy following an abrupt switch to remote instruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chun also introduced Yale College Community Care in April 2021, an expansion to University mental health services that offers short-term treatment with licensed mental health clinicians as well as wellness specialists. The change came after student pressure to expand Yale’s mental health offerings, which have struggled to keep up with student demand.
“I feel really good about what my team — my colleagues, the faculty, the students — what we’ve all accomplished across the duration of my term,” Chun said. “President Salovey will generously describe a lot of them and I feel very good about what has been achieved over the past through years, including getting through this pandemic.”
In addition, Chun emphasized the responsibility he felt to return to his cognitive neuroscience laboratory, explaining that while Yale College could be run in his absence, his lab required his personal attention.
Finally, Chun told the News that he was hopeful that public health conditions would allow for a return to in-person classes and campus life this semester, which returned in full force in the fall 2021 semester before an international surge in cases of the Omicron variant led to a check on in-person gatherings.
“I know things are difficult right now with Omicron, but I actually feel pretty confident that we’re going to get through this within this semester,” Chun said. “Knowing that there’s an end to this difficult period also makes it easier for me to think about stepping down.”
Nevertheless, Chun told the News that leaving the post had been a “difficult decision.”
Chun emphasized the sense of “purpose and reward” he felt working alongside administrators, faculty and students as dean.
“Everyone is so dedicated to our mission, everyone is really good at their jobs and all my colleagues are so good natured,” Chun said. “I actually love the day-to-day being in meetings with them. I always learn from my colleagues and running the college together with so many smart people has been a really rewarding part of the job. The faculty are extraordinary, and they’re creative and they care so much about students that I just am inspired by working with them. And, of course, I love working with students.”
Salovey also wrote to students on Thursday, emphasizing his appreciation for Chun’s commitment to the University in his time as dean.
In particular, Salovey emphasized Chun’s development of support systems for students through the expansion of peer mentoring programs and leadership throughout the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am grateful for Dean Chun’s steadfast championing of Yale’s educational mission and his commitment to the success of our students,” Salovey wrote. “Although this is bittersweet news, I am excited for the many students who will benefit from his award-winning teaching. I am also happy for all the cognitive neuroscientists who will begin their careers in his internationally renowned laboratory, which has advanced the use of brain imaging to study the mind and behavior.”
Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd described Chun’s enthusiasm as the “hallmark of many of his signature projects,” specifically pointing to events like the Bulldog Bash and the Sophomore Brunch.
Initiatives like financial aid expansion and the addition of YC3, Boyd said, were evidence of Chun’s broader investment in student well-being.
“Working for Dean Chun has been wonderful — I’m sorry that won’t continue past this year, but I’m so grateful to have already benefited from years of his mentorship and leadership,” Boyd wrote in an email to the News. “Even in these difficult pandemic times, Dean Chun brings an optimistic energy to every conversation. He has been determined to create the best conditions possible for undergraduates to thrive, and to have fun along the way.”
Students echoed Salovey and Boyd’s sentiments, and pointed towards qualities they hoped to see in the next dean.
Mahesh Agarwal ’24 told the News that he thought Chun would be “remembered positively” as a dean who took a meaningful interest in student perspectives, pointing to his enthusiasm for Credit/D/Fail grading policies.
“I definitely see him as someone who cared a lot about students, and at least wanted to try to listen to students as much as possible,” Agarwal said.
Rhayna Poulin ’25 also emphasized Chun’s support for Credit/D/Fail grading policies, adding that “he seemed to really listen to what the student body was asking for.”
As the University begins the process of appointing Chun’s successor, Poulin suggested that the University prioritize finding a dean who is accessible to students, and who has experience in the classroom.
“I think, ideally, the dean should strive to make academic life more accessible and accommodating for students and a huge part of that is actually listening to us when we express our needs,” Poulin said.
According to Salovey’s email, the process of selecting a new dean of Yale College has already begun, and students should expect updates about the appointment of an advisory committee.
Although Chun told the News that he was not involved with the search for a new dean and did not know when someone would be selected, he noted that he had been named as dean in April 2017.
In the remainder of his term as dean, Chun reiterated his commitment to resuming normal life on campus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel confident that we are going to get back to normal, but that’s my top priority, over break and now,” Chun said. “This announcement, of course, is about my stepping down in the summer, so it’s not like I’m stepping down and leaving next week or anything. I’m fully energized to bring things back to our normal, glorious state as soon as possible.”
Chun was preceded as dean of Yale College by professor of history and African American studies Jonathan Holloway.
Update, Jan. 28: This story has been updated with additional sourcing from students and faculty.