Baskin-Sommers named next Head of Silliman College
Arielle Baskin-Sommers, an associate professor of psychology at Yale, has been appointed the next Head of Silliman College, Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis announced at an event in the college last night.
Silliman’s Acting Head of College since July 2022, Baskin-Sommers succeeds Laurie Santos, a professor in the Department of Psychology and the interdisciplinary Cognitive Science Program, who has been as Silliman’s head since 2016.
College heads serve as the chief administrative officer and presiding faculty member within the residential colleges, and help nurture the social, cultural, and educational life there, a role that has become a cherished Yale tradition.
A licensed clinical psychologist, Baskin-Sommers’ scholarly work focuses on identifying and specifying the cognitive, emotional, and environmental mechanisms that contribute to risky, impulsive, and destructive behavior.
She will begin a five-year term at Silliman on July 1, following formal approval by Yale’s board of trustees.
“I am truly honored to serve in this role,” Baskin-Sommers said. “It is with great Silli-pride that I carry on the important traditions of Silliman and look for new ways to build our community.”
Baskin-Sommers joined Yale in 2014 as a member of the Department of Psychology in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She has secondary appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center at Yale School of Medicine. She also is affiliated with The Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School and the Wu Tsai Institute.
Drawing on psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, she develops novel experimental tasks, assessments, and intervention strategies that consider similarities and differences across individuals engaging in these behaviors, Lewis said in a written announcement shared at the time of the Silliman event.
Best known for her work on psychopathy, Baskin-Sommers has regularly been invited to speak on the causes and treatment of this misunderstood and misrepresented disorder. She has spoken at the Royal Society, London, where, Lewis noted, members of Her Late Majesty’s High Court of Justice and Supreme Court of the United Kingdom attended, as did other jurists, scholars, and politicians. She has spoken with Bill Nye on his 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 said. “In addition to her research, she created a specialized mental health clinic that serves the needs of individuals released from incarceration.”
Baskin-Sommers also teaches several popular courses, including “The Criminal Mind” (PSYC 141) and a seminar in law and psychology. She also is the director of the Mechanisms of Disinhibition Lab and the lead principal investigator on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study at Yale. In 2019, her contributions to interdisciplinary instruction were recognized by Yale through the Poorvu Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Baskin-Sommers received her Sc.B. from Brown University and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In announcing Baskin-Sommers’ Silliman appointment, Dean Lewis thanked Professor Laurie Santos “for her leadership, her tremendous service to the Silliman community, and her extraordinary commitment to its students.”
Lewis also thanked the members of the search advisory committee: Anna Zayaruznaya, associate professor in the Department of Music, and chair of the committee; Silliman Fellows Yarrow Dunham, associate professor of psychology and cognitive sciences; Kassandra Haro, a program administrator and Handsome Dan XIX handler at the Yale Visitor Center; Tracey Meares, the Walton Hale Professor of Law and founding director of The Justice Collaboratory; Maytal Saltiel, the associate university chaplain; and Silliman students Neal Ma ’23; Jonathan Oates ’23; Audrey Leak ’24; Ryan Cote ’25; and Anisia Hassan Ferreira Evangelista ’26.