Highlighting the recent changes in Yale College

September 14, 2017

Dear colleagues,

With the course selection period drawing to a close and the semester settling into its rhythms, I am writing with a note of greeting and to highlight some of the changes in Yale College.

I have been spending the past few months getting settled into my new role as dean, and the transition is going smoothly, thanks to the support from the president and the provost; mentoring by my predecessors in the Yale College Dean’s Office; and collaboration with the deans of the graduate school and the faculty of arts and sciences, colleagues in the Center for Teaching and Learning, and numerous other offices around campus. I have also benefited from the support of an excellent team of senior associate deans and their staffs. Just as important, I am deeply grateful for the invaluable and generous service that many of you provide in leadership roles, as faculty members on committees, and as advisers to our students.

Advising is one area that has seen significant changes. The new system begun this semester is meant to expand the scope of advising so that students as well as advisers can focus on long-term goals, broaden their discussions to include co- and extra-curricular opportunities, and potentially lengthen the period of advising to two years. The changes were recommended by the faculty Committee on Advising, Placement, and Enrollment, which produced two reports that I urge you to read. (You can find them here and here.) Many of you serve as advisers now, and I appreciate your service. I also appreciate the constructive suggestions you have shared during this year of transition. I know that the committee is eager to continue hearing from you throughout the year, so if you have additional responses or ideas please send them to Dean Risa Sodi, who is collecting them on behalf of the committee. I am also happy to receive your input on the new advising system or on any matter.

You will see some new nomenclature, both in advising and more broadly. Advising in the colleges, previously known as freshman and sophomore advising, now goes simply by college advising. The change is meant to emphasize the nature of the pre-major advising relationship, the potential change in its length, and advisers’ continued ties to the residential colleges. Another noteworthy change: the terms “first-year” and “upper-level students” now appear in place of “freshman” and “upperclassmen” in many Yale College publications. When I arrived in the YCDO this summer, these terms were in wide and seemingly expanding usage. They now appear in the Undergraduate Regulations and the First-Year Handbook, and I wrote last weekto the YCDO staff to say that my hope is that by the start of the 2018-2019 academic year they will appear in all of Yale College’s publications and communications. At the same time, I recognize that the terms “freshman” and “upperclassmen” are deeply ingrained in our everyday language and in Yale’s history, and I expect that all of us – students, staff, and faculty alike – will continue to use these terms as we see fit, without feeling that anyone is out of compliance with an official policy. The change is simply to show how Yale College now refers to its students, without presuming to dictate to the community.

The most visible changes have of course come with the opening of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges, which are spectacular and worth visiting if you haven’t seen them yet in person. They will be dedicated formally in October. The new colleges welcomed Yale’s largest first-year class, and as part of the expansion the ladder faculty grew as well, increasing our overall size by 17. Two new majors have also been added, one in statistics and data science, and another in neuroscience. Careful planning for the increased enrollment seems to be mostly on target, with any adjustments falling within the common range of annual fluctuation. As we settle into the term, I will be reviewing course registrations carefully together with the graduate school, the FAS dean’s office, and directors of undergraduate studies.

Other changes and expansions, some visible and others not, have already occurred or soon will. Grace Hopper College was dedicated last week, the Adams Center for Musical Arts and the Center for Teaching and Learning opened last semester, and the Greenberg Engineering Teaching Concourse officially opened just today. In October, the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media, formerly the Digital Media Center for the Arts, will be opening as well. I am very excited by these expansions.

I wish everyone a productive and rewarding year, and I look forward to seeing you at Yale College faculty meetings, committee meetings, FAS Senate meetings, and campus events. Most of all, I am excited to work with you in fulfilling President Salovey’s mission to make Yale the research institution most committed to teaching and learning.

Sincerely yours,

Marvin M. Chun
Dean of Yale College
Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology; Neuroscience; Cognitive Science