“As a global research university, Yale nurtures ideas that change the world,” Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. told alumni when he presented his academic strategy for the university at the 2018 Association of Yale Alumni Assembly & Yale Alumni Fund Convocation. He said he was delighted that the theme for this year’s meeting is “Science at Yale: Shaping the Future,” because the university’s boldest investment is in the sciences.
“Our faculty members, students, staff, and alumni seek answers to complex questions, pursuing knowledge that can improve lives,” he said. “Supporting that enterprise through research and education is our mission and responsibility.” He presented a vision of Yale’s future that prioritized bringing together faculty and students from different departments and building new facilities that would allow Yale to take an even greater leadership role in solving scientific and societal challenges.
He mentioned many facility advancements around campus, including the renovated, state-of-the-art Sterling Chemistry Lab; the Greenberg Engineering Teaching Concourse, which includes six new undergraduate teaching labs; and the 240,000-square-foot Yale Science Building on Whitney Avenue, which is nearing completion. “We’re trying to build communities that break down barriers,” Salovey said.
Salovey also emphasized the importance of the arts and humanities in a Yale education, noting that the university is steadily working to “bring the arts … to the rest of campus” to help us “better understand one another, inspire us, and ignite our own creativity.” A major renovation of the former Hall of Graduate Studies at 320 York Street will provide a central home for the humanities, including classrooms and a shared screening room. But Salovey underscored that the university is not waiting for the building’s completion to encourage greater collaboration. Through 320 York Street Humanities Grants, faculty members receive support for cross-boundary projects such as “The Black Sound and The Archive,” which engages scholars, artists, and students in the study of how black music is recovered from various archives and supports related live music events and conversations.
Salovey addressed the significant role that data will play in Yale’s research and education. As society is increasingly polarized around social issues such as poverty, healthcare, and extremism, he asked “How do we turn this polarization into productive discourse?” Yale faculty, staff, and students, he noted, aim “to contribute to this challenge with data-driven, policy-relevant research.” He mentioned several initiatives the university has launched to advance this goal, including the new Tobin Center for Economic Policy, which opened this past summer; the addition of a data science undergraduate major; and the hiring of renowned faculty such as John D. Lafferty, the John C. Malone Professor of Statistics and Data Science.
“We need to expose our students to the idea that data can challenge presumptions, provide answers, and make for a better society,” Salovey said.
Yale is, Salovey emphasized, taking steps to build on its status as a leading global research university. He told alumni: “I don’t believe we’ve lived in a time when the possibility for discovery has been greater.” When he walks around campus, Salovey said, he’s filled with hope for Yale’s future. “We are a place of optimism, of ingenuity,” he said, “where students and staff are creating new knowledge every day.”