A distinguished literary scholar and a dedicated guardian of academic reflection, innovation and research, she has championed the life of the mind.
She has been president since 2003 of the American Council of Learned Societies, which supports research in the humanities and social sciences through individual fellowships, conference grants and international scholarly exchange.
Yu served as dean of humanities in the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and as professor of East Asian languages and cultures from 1994 to 2003. Founding chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Irvine (1989-1994), she also served on the faculty of Columbia University (1985-89) and the University of Minnesota (1976-85).
Yu received a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in history and literature from Harvard University and a master’s and Ph.D. in comparative literature from Stanford University.
She is the author or editor of five books and dozens of articles on classical Chinese poetry, comparative literature and issues in the humanities, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the ACLS and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Yu received the 2007 William Riley Parker Prize for best article to appear in PMLA, the Modern Language Association’s journal of literary scholarship.
A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, she is an elected member of the Committee of 100, composed of prominent Chinese Americans.
She serves on the board of overseers of Harvard University, the board of trustees of the National Humanities Center, the board of directors of the Teagle Foundation, the Scholars’ Council of the Library of Congress and the board of trustees of the Asian Cultural Council.
A member of the Senate of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the board of governors of the Hong Kong-America Center, Yu is an adjunct senior research scholar and visiting professor in East Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University.