Shared mission: President’s Fall 2020 academic strategy update

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Dear Members of the Yale Community,

We began this academic year with unique awareness of the ways we are interdependent and of how our studies and work have impact well beyond our campus community. In these extraordinary times, we understand, perhaps better than ever before, that we have an obligation to create knowledge, discover new ways of understanding, and demonstrate the importance of taking action rooted in research and scholarship, indeed, in light and truth. Although we all have been focused on doing our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, activity has continued across campus to realize the university’s top priorities and sustain our mission.

Today, I write to provide an update on our academic strategy, the investments we are making to strengthen our university and, more importantly, to address pressing challenges and prepare the next generation to serve and lead in a world of growing complexity. These investments, which were first delineated in my memo of November 2016, include sciences and engineering; empirical, policy-relevant social science research; arts and humanities; and support for faculty and students.

SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING

Science and Engineering photo collage

Across our campus, we are emphasizing Yale’s commitment to sciences and engineering to spark discoveries that can improve lives. Our strategy is targeted and reflects some of Yale’s particular research strengths from Science Hill to the School of Medicine, from central campus to the West Campus. As you recall, we especially are focused on five multidisciplinary areas (as well as a number of other cross-cutting initiatives) where Yale can build on excellence, enhance our global reputation, and have outsized impact: data science and computer science; neuroscience; inflammation science; planetary solutions; and quantum science, engineering, and materials.

Data science and computer science: The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the importance of big data, computational tools, and other mathematical and technological developments in monitoring the spread and effects of disease. Of course, this priority area extends well beyond medicine and public health. It touches nearly every discipline and can benefit research throughout our campus. We are expanding data science and computer science in their applications, and we are advancing fundamental research underlying these areas too. This year, we are moving forward with the Kline Tower project, which had been put on hold in the spring due to the pandemic. We will create a state-of-the-art building that will transform the pursuit of data science, statistics, mathematics, and astronomy at Yale. We will begin interior demolition this month and complete the project by 2023.

Neuroscience: Yale has extraordinary strengths in neuroscience across many departments, programs, and schools. We are leveraging our faculty’s diverse expertise and research foci to expand the frontiers of knowledge, from molecular and cellular neuroscience to organismal cognition and behavior. We are advancing our understanding of the human mind, including how it functions and how it can be repaired. This academic year, we will finalize plans for a neuroscience institute at 100 College Street. Many faculty members who work in neuroscience and related fields from various disciplines will move into this new space in summer 2022.

Inflammation science: Inflammation science is vital to understanding our immune system as well as the cause and role of inflammation in many illnesses, including COVID-19, arthritis, cancer, depression, and multiple sclerosis. Yale has preeminent investigators working across the basic, translational, and clinical sciences to study inflammation and apply these discoveries to preventing, treating, and curing diseases. This year, Provost Scott Strobel and School of Medicine Dean Nancy Brown will work with colleagues across campus to develop ways to bring together multidisciplinary teams of faculty members to accelerate work that offers insights into the underlying causes of inflammation and its role in a wide range of conditions.

Planetary solutions: People around the globe are experiencing the clearly evident effects of climate change: forest fires across the western United States, a heat wave in Siberia, record high temperatures in the Arctic, and increasingly stronger hurricanes forming over the Atlantic Ocean. Climate change is a longstanding threat to humanity, and we must remain focused on creating solutions for this crisis. Yale’s Planetary Solutions Project addresses climate change and the evolutionary response to it. This is an area of focus throughout the university—from the School of Architecture to the School of the Environment, from economics to sociology and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Later this semester, Provost Strobel will convene faculty members—in the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, and engineering—who work on projects related to Planetary Solutions, at various levels of analysis, from basic science to public policy. He will work with colleagues to implement a strategy to draw on research and scholarship across our campus to address the threats to our local and global environment.

Quantum science, engineering, and materials: Investments in this exciting area augment Yale’s indisputable leadership in quantum research, which could revolutionize technological developments across every sector. The Department of Energy recently selected Yale faculty members to lead the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage, and Yale is one of the few universities that has a faculty member on the National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee. These tremendous honors recognize our university’s preeminence in quantum science and computing. We are committed to building on this strength for Yale and the country. We are currently planning a physical sciences and engineering building to house quantum science, engineering, and materials research groups and many others in related fields on Science Hill.

Since my last update, more investigators and students have moved into the Yale Science Building, a major milestone in the university’s historic push in research, on Science Hill. Already, this facility houses thirty research groups conducting studies and forming new collaborations to answer questions about viruses, neural networks, genetic coding, insect behavior, environmental and climate stresses on plants, among many areas of investigation. Their work, which intersects with several priority areas, provides vital information about biological processes and the environment.

EMPIRICAL, POLICY-RELEVANT SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH

The Kerry InitiativeThe COVID-19 pandemic reveals the wide-ranging consequences of a truly global disruption. It has demonstrated that we must collaborate across fields and disciplines and engage with the world through empirical research to inform policy that makes a positive difference in our communities.

The Yale Jackson InstituteOur strategy in this priority area is to emphasize multidisciplinary social science research that addresses the great issues of the day, such as health care delivery, inequality, migration, and polarization. The soon-to-be-established Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs, for example, will bring together scholars, policymakers, and practitioners working on critical issues that affect people and governments around the world. The Yale Jackson School will open once we have completed raising the endowment for it. We are over three-quarters of the way there now and expect to reach this milestone in the fall of 2022. It will be the first school created at Yale since the School of Management in 1976.

We also are emphasizing the importance of social science research that addresses domestic public policy. This focus allows Yale to offer data-informed solutions, rather than partisanship or anecdotal evidence, to advance society. The new Tobin Center for Economic Policy is part of Yale’s commitment to conducting evidence-based research to solve critical challenges. In recent months, faculty members of the Tobin Center have been studying and discussing with policymakers the economic factors involved in reopening commercial activities responsibly. Research and analysis are also underway on policy and economic barriers to the production of COVID-19 tests and on stresses facing labor markets, small businesses, and the hourly workforce in the face of the pandemic.

During this academic year, Provost Strobel and I will be looking for opportunities to support faculty research and curricular and programmatic enhancements that provide students with more opportunities to develop fundamental knowledge and skills in the data-intensive social sciences and in policy-relevant social science more generally. We are also planning infrastructure projects—such as the creation of a secure data handling site—that can support such research. Of course, there are obvious benefits to building faculty connections between the social sciences and data science and computer science, so we will be encouraging such collaborations. 

ARTS AND HUMANITIES

In recent months, we have grappled not only with the pandemic but also the salience and consequences of inequality, racism, and violence. These challenges create an especially compelling context for the kind of critical analysis encouraged by humanities scholarship and teaching as well as the reflection, inspiration, and hope the arts stimulate in each of us. We have never needed the arts and humanities more to ask questions about our world and our place in it. Like Yale scholars from previous generations, current faculty and students motivate us to engage with deep-rooted difficulties in society and help us make sense of both everyday events and momentous disruptions.

Rendering of 320 York StreetToday, we are deepening Yale’s historic preeminence in the humanities. The renovation and expansion of 320 York Street—the Humanities Quadrangle—is nearly complete. It will bring together many humanities departments, along with signature programs like Directed Studies and the Whitney Humanities Center. By encouraging scholarship across disciplines, we will accelerate our ability to ask and answer key questions about ourselves and the world. The Humanities Quadrangle will open in December of this year. This spectacular building at the heart of campus represents the centrality of the humanities to Yale. It will be a home worthy of our preeminent scholars.

Yale University Art GalleryWe also will develop new areas in teaching and scholarship, such as through our museums and other collections, among the finest in the world. In addition, I am focused on creating new professorships that bridge the arts to other parts of the university, so Yale can continue to set the standard in these areas.

SUPPORT FOR FACULTY AND STUDENTS

Kroon Hall outdoor classroomAll the academic investments support the work of our faculty members, who define Yale and are the university’s greatest strength. In recent years, we have recruited and retained exceptional educators and scholars across each of our academic priority areas and beyond. In fact, despite challenges brought on by the public health crisis, the past academic year was one of the most successful for faculty recruitment related to the academic strategy. In the coming year, we will continue to support targeted hiring of field-changing faculty.

YSM students at White Coat ceremony.We also have focused on maintaining the excellence of our student body and on fostering a diverse and exceptional educational community. Today, our students hail from over 120 countries and from every conceivable walk of life. They bring their unique experiences and dreams to our campus. They transform Yale and are transformed by it. That is why we remain committed to financial aid across the university and are making a significant investment in talented students. Between 2013 and 2019, we nearly doubled the number of entering first-year undergraduates who are eligible for Pell Grants, and increased significantly those who are first in their families to attend college.

Tsai Center for Innovative ThinkingIn addition, we have been cultivating innovative, multidisciplinary thinking among all our students. The Yale innovation corridor—including the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY), the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), and the Greenberg Engineering Teaching Concourse—brings students throughout the university together to create new ventures and address challenges across sectors. The building for Tsai CITY is complete and will open once the pandemic is over; however, we have already launched its programs. Tsai CITY is now working with students to catalyze over 100 projects per year.

Rendering of the Schwarzman CenterConstruction of the Schwarzman Center will be completed in December 2020, and when the building opens in 2021, it will play a vital role, ultimately, in helping us reengage with the activities that are not possible during this public health crisis. Once it is safe to gather again, our entire community will be enriched by in-person artistic performances, guest lectures, and many other events. The Schwarzman Center will strengthen connections among undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students; faculty members; alumni; and our neighbors in New Haven. Prior to its physical opening, the center is offering unique digital programming that showcases the work of students, as well as collaborative arts experiences with organizations and artists in the wider community.

I will soon announce, separately, new initiatives to foster and sustain a campus culture that attracts, inspires, and supports the finest and most committed faculty members and students from every background, every neighborhood in this country, and every part of the world. A diverse faculty and student body—who are fully included in the Yale community—form the foundation for everything we do at Yale. We will work across many fronts to achieve a university environment where everyone belongs and can thrive, so that we can continue to teach and conduct research and scholarship of the highest caliber.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of how quickly unexpected trials may alter our lives. We must do our part in building a more resilient society by empowering groundbreaking scientific discoveries, remaining a radiant center of humanistic scholarship and artistic expression, and maintaining a vibrant home for the kind of multidisciplinary collaboration that addresses national and global problems. We also must open our doors wider as we prepare leaders who will serve all sectors of society throughout the world.

We have a lot to do, and together, we will lay the foundation for an even stronger future. I look forward to the work ahead and to the next opportunity to update you on our progress.

With best wishes for your continued health and safety,

Peter Salovey
President
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

Author: Admin