Chan comes to Hamilton from Fulbright University of Vietnam, where he spent the last four years as a founding faculty member of the first nonprofit liberal arts university in the country. A strong advocate for the liberal arts, he has a demonstrated track record for facilitating change through collaborative partnerships.
“I think of engaged learning as learning that is cultivated through a collaborative environment, where traditional roles of students and teachers are transformed into co-learning partnerships,” he said.
Chan discussed how his experience at Fulbright will translate to his new role. “I have some relevant experience leading inclusion and equity efforts, building bridges between academic and career advising, and forging partnerships across different constitutes,” he said. “However, those experiences from different contexts may not be applicable here at Hamilton. The most important lesson I have learned from founding a brand-new university is that context is key. We need to invite various constituents to share their insights and then listen carefully and respond promptly.”
“Hamilton College’s commitment to asking how the institution can become better at providing an engaged education caught my attention. The people I got to interact with during the interview process really helped me see ways I could contribute and make a difference in this role.”
In discussing what attracted him to the position at Hamilton, Chan said, “To be honest, I was and continue to be hesitant about becoming a dean and moving away from directly collaborating with and mentoring students. At a time when higher ed is encountering challenges from multiple fronts, many colleges and universities have drifted into survival mode and lost sight of their core mission.
“I believe college education is about more than credentialing or vocational training,” Chan said. “Hamilton College’s commitment to asking how the institution can become better at providing an engaged education caught my attention. The people I got to interact with during the interview process really helped me see ways I could contribute and make a difference in this role.”
Chan’s work at Fulbright resulted in research publications on the benefits of collaborative course design in fostering students’ development, resilience, and sense of ownership over their education. While there, he chaired the Assessment Committee and the Faculty Governance Committee, the latter producing the first draft of the faculty handbook for the university.
Prior to joining Fulbright, Chan served as professor of biological psychology at Hartwick College from 2002 to 2018, where he collaborated with learning centers to develop a first-year seminar grounded in the science of intellectual, emotional, and social development of young adults. He also worked with the dean of first-year experience and the director of career services to develop a bridge program for first-generation students and a capstone experience for seniors that emphasized reflection on academic and internship work.
Chan was asked how he’ll define success in his new position. “While there are some assessment tools that will help us gauge student engagement, I suspect there is much more to this position than just improving scores on some scales,” he said. “My hope is to engage the entire campus community to collectively consider what engaged education means in our specific context and how staff, faculty, and students can work together to achieve those goals.”