Note from President Peter Salovey and Dean Jonathan Holloway

June 16, 2016
To the Silliman College Community,

It gives us great pleasure to announce the appointment of Laurie R. Santos as Silliman’s next head of college in a five-year term, effective July 1, 2016.

A member of the faculty in the Department of Psychology and in the interdisciplinary Cognitive Science Program, Professor Santos studies what makes the human mind unique by exploring how animals think about the world. She examines the origins of human cognition by focusing on two different groups of animals: non-human primates (our closest living evolutionary relatives) and the domesticated dog (the species that lives most closely with humans). She is director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory (“CapLab”) and the Canine Cognition Center at Yale—and is known in the latter capacity, to two- and four-footed community members alike, for the steady stream of dogs and their companions who visit her lab.

Professor Santos studies the evolutionary roots of both our smarter human capacities—such as our ability to think about what other people think and our capacity to learn from others’ teaching—and our not-so-smart capacities—such as our irrational economic biases and errors. Her “monkeynomics” studies on the latter topic were featured in a 2010 TED talk which has been seen by over one million viewers. Professor Santos has been recognized widely for her excellence in research. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The New Yorker. She is the recipient of the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for outstanding contributions to interdisciplinary research. She was voted as one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” young minds and was profiled in Time Magazine as a “Leading Campus Celebrity.”

An acclaimed teacher and mentor, Professor Santos served as director of undergraduate studies in Psychology from 2010 to 2015. She is known for her popular class, PSYC 171, “Sex, Evolution, and Human Nature,” an introductory psychology course exploring how human behavior is shaped by sex and evolution. Professor Santos also works closely with undergraduate students as a research mentor. She has supervised undergraduate projects both in her lab on campus and at field sites, and has published papers with thirty different Yale undergraduate co-authors. In 2012, she was awarded the Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences.

Born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Professor Santos received her A.B. in psychology and biology (1997) and Ph.D. in psychology (2003) from Harvard University. She joined Yale’s faculty in 2003 and was promoted to tenure in 2010.

Professor Santos will be joined at Silliman by her husband, Mark Maxwell. An Iowa native, Mr. Maxwell moved to the East Coast to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a B.S. in physics. After several years as a computer programmer, and then as a professional poker player, Mr. Maxwell joined Professor Santos in New Haven and returned to an academic life and the study of nature. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Yale’s Department of Philosophy, writing his dissertation on laws of nature. He has served as a teaching fellow in a number of philosophy courses. A ranked player of Go (an abstract strategy game), he loves board games and sci-fi novels and is a fixture both in New Haven coffee shops and at the Payne Whitney squash courts.

Professor Santos and Mr. Maxwell met while in Cambridge, Massachusetts, brought together in part by their shared love of learning and a mutual fascination with the natural world and its inhabitants. That preoccupation continues today with an interest in nature travel (the pair have led several Yale Educational Travel trips to Tanzania, the Galapagos, and the Sea of Cortez, for which Professor Santos was awarded the Howard R. Lamar Award for Service to Alumni), hiking in local Connecticut state parks, and some “very amateur” New Haven bird watching. The couple enjoys a variety of kitschy pastimes from skee-ball to mini-golf to karaoke sing-a-longs.

Please join us in welcoming Professor Laurie Santos to the Silliman community!


Peter Salovey
President and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

Jonathan Holloway
Dean of Yale College; Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies