Arielle Baskin-Sommers announced as head of Silliman
The psychology professor will begin her five-year term as the head of Silliman College this July after serving as the interim head since July 2022.
Courtesy of Yale School of Medicine
Arielle Baskin-Sommers tearfully accepted her role as the head of Silliman College alongside
University President Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis and the Silliman Sillimander on Tuesday night.
Since July, the associate professor of psychology has served as the interim head of Silliman while professor of psychology and former head of Silliman Laurie Santos took a leave of absence. But Santos officially stepped down in January, leaving the head of college position vacant. Now, Lewis has announced that Baskin-Sommers will serve as head of Silliman for the next five years.
“I could have never imagined being in this role,” Baskin-Sommers said. “It’s not something I thought of when I arrived at Yale. I didn’t even know what a college was.”
An award-winning clinical psychologist and researcher, Baskin-Sommers currently teaches “The Criminal Mind” — the second most popular course offered this semester — serves as the director of the Mechanisms of Disinhibition Lab and leads the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study at Yale.
Baskin-Sommers began her speech in the Silliman dining hall by thanking Santos for her friendship and leadership as Head of College, describing her predecessor as a role model and someone who has changed her life.
“We go on hikes together, we lay on the floor together in the HoC house, thinking about all the things we can do together,” Baskin-Sommers said. “We get pedicures together. She even continues to go hiking with me when I am ranting up the hill.”
Baskin-Sommers then thanked both Salovey, Lewis and members of the search committee for their dedication and leadership. She said she often encountered Salovey walking down Hillhouse Avenue and added that she hoped to emulate his warmth during her tenure.
She also thanked the staff and students of Silliman, noting how welcoming they have been since she arrived at Yale and how honored she feels to be part of the Silliman community.
“They literally hugged me and opened their home and hearts as I came in every day to learn all the things we do here at Silliman,” Baskin-Sommers said. “It is the most fun group and dedicated group that I have worked with, and I want to make sure every person on the staff knows how loved they are and how much they are appreciated.”
In Lewis’ Tuesday email to the Silliman community, he wrote that Baskin-Sommers, best known for her work on psychopathy, has spoken at The Royal Society of London with members of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and Her Late Majesty’s High Court of Justice in attendance, as well as on Bill Nye’s podcast “Science Rules!”
“Professor Baskin-Sommers is proud of her commitment to working toward more humane and scientific approaches to mental health and crime,” Lewis told the News.
Lewis also noted how Baskin-Sommers has created a specialized mental health clinic for those released from incarceration and serves on the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Task Force on Adolescent Death Penalty.
Baskin-Sommers told the News that her background has been helpful so far in helping students navigate mental health options in New Haven and at Yale. She is clear with students that she cannot provide them with treatment herself, but she said she helps students work through conversations such as how to talk to their therapist about certain issues or how to find a therapist.
Taking on this role in July, Baskin-Sommers said one of her goals was to foster community, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, she said, they send out emails for Silliman students who have birthdays, inviting them into the Head of College’s office for a birthday treat. She also said they offer other opportunities for students to connect such as college teas and study breaks hosted by the Silliman graduate affiliates.
Baskin-Sommers said her team has also fostered larger events such as a fall harvest celebration and continuing to host the winter wonderland event created by Santos. Silliman even kicked off the fall semester with a beer pong tournament for seniors, where Baskin-Sommers defended her “championship status” from college.
This sense of community, Baskin-Sommers said, also centers around an “open door policy” in the office of the head and dean where there are couches, music playing and even dog breaks with her dog Brooklyn and Handsome Dan, who lives in Silliman.
As Baskin-Sommers spoke, Silliman students filled the dining hall, cheering loudly at her introduction.
“I was very happy with the announcement,” Emma Madsen ’25 told the News. “I have a feeling our sillicrops be sillibountiful this silliyear thanks to our sillinew silliHoC SilliBaskin-SilliSommers. She’s a silligreat fit amongst us Sillimanders!”
Silliman College is named after Benjamin Silliman, Yale’s first science professor.