Yale News

In Mid-January, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun announced that he would step down after serving as dean for five years. 

Chun — a professor of psychology, neuroscience and cognitive science — is the first Asian American Dean of Yale College. He joined Yale as a faculty member in 2003, and from 2007-2016, he served as the head of Berkeley College. His term as Yale College Dean will officially end on June 30, and he plans to return to a full-time teaching and research position.

“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. “I feel very good about what has been achieved … including getting through this pandemic.”

When University President Peter Salovey announced Chun’s appointment in April of 2017, Chun noted that he felt “confident” in his goal of making Yale the “research university most committed to teaching and learning.” He outlined several key principles, which included reinforcing residential colleges as places where “students should feel at home” and also learn new perspectives. Chun emphasized that “diversity is not a trade-off with quality.”

One of Chun’s accomplishments is expansions to financial aid. He oversaw initiatives to increase financial aid packages, eliminate parental tuition for families that make less than $75,000 per year and create better aid and benefits for Eli Whitney students. In collaboration with students and faculty, Chun worked on the creation of the Summer Experience Award and Yale Safety Net, along with the the expansion of the Science, Technology and Research Scholars  and First-Year Scholars programs. 

In addition, Chun highlighted Yale’s certificate programs and said he is excited for the University to create more of those certificates in the future.

Another academic policy Chun particularly wanted to reform was the Credit/D/Fail, or CDF, option. Over the years of his term as dean, the CDF option guidelines underwent many major changes, such as extending the CDF deadline to later in the term instead of having students decide whether to take a class CDF or for a letter grade before finalizing their schedule. Currently, students have until the final day of classes to change a class to CDF, a decision which is not reversible. However, as of Dec. 2021, Chun still wanted to push the CDF deadline later. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in classes shifting to remote learning, Chun administered the adoption of a universal pass/fail grading policy for the spring 2020 semester. In order to facilitate a “thorough and inclusive discussion” before revealing this decision, Chun announced the decision a couple of days later than he intended to. 

“It’s incredibly encouraging that both the student body and Yale faculty ultimately came together in order to make an equitable decision that prioritizes tangible wellness and safety over arbitrary grades,” Sarah Pitafi ’22 wrote in an email to the News.

Chun also introduced Yale College Community Cares, or YC3, in April 2021. The Program expanded the mental health services offered at the University by providing short-term term treatment with psychologists, licensed social workers and community wellness specialists.

In addition to his policy work, Chun created memorable and fun events for students, such as the Bulldog Bash and the Sophomore Brunch.

“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,” Mahesh Agarwal ’24 said.

Chun’s leadership as an Asian American has also impacted many. For some like Joliana Yee, an assistant dean of Yale College and the director of the Asian American Cultural Center, Chun’s appointment and role reminds people that Asian Americans are effective leaders at institutions like Yale.

“It is important to have expansive representation in positions of leadership at Yale so that the heterogeneity of perspectives, lived experiences, history and cultures within the Asian diaspora can permeate and shape the institution,” Yee said. 

Furthermore, Chun’s personality and work ethic left a strong impression on his colleagues. According to Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Communications Paul McKinley, Chun was a “great dean,” and people will feel “very sentimental and really regret seeing him go.”

Yee mentioned that Chun had an open-door policy, which demonstrated his support for the students and his colleagues. According to her, he responded to invitations, new ideas and questions with enthusiasm and always brought lots of energy to the room.

“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 said. “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.”

Chun has published over a hundred articles about his research.

Sophie Wang is the Publisher of the Yale Daily News. She previously served as a Science and Technology editor and was one of the inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion co-chairs. In her first year, she covered the Yale New Haven Health System and COVID-19. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sophie is a junior in Berkeley College double majoring in computer science and English.