At its bicentennial, Yale’s administrators made predictions on how the University would evolve in the 20th century. They got it all wrong — failing to envision the changing demographics of the student body, the inclusion of women and the rise of biological sciences.
But one century later, at Yale’s tercentennial, administrators are taking a firmer grasp of Yale’s future. They say the top priority is internationalization — of curriculum, student diversity, prestige and influence.
As Yale enters its fourth century, administrators are taking steps to ensure the University will be a global leader. Officials have committed major funding to a new center to study globalization; a distance learning alliance with Oxford, Stanford and Princeton universities; and need-blind admissions for international students.
While these announcements are certain to increase Yale’s international presence, administrators said they are unsure how successful each of these initiatives will be when Yale turns 400 and beyond. And before Yale can emerge as a world leader in higher education, it will have to play catch-up with some of its peers.
To help accomplish this changing mission, this month the Development Office sent 3,000 alumni a glossy, 20-page book and a letter soliciting major gifts for a fund-raising drive titled the “Fourth Century Initiative.” In the letter, University officials ask for donations to support the University’s goals for the next century, and expanding international eminence tops the lists of priorities.
Administrators cite the demographic and educational evolution of Yale as a mandate to go global in the 21st century.
At its founding in 1701, Yale was primarily a school to train ministers and drew most of its students from Connecticut and Massachusetts. In the 1800s, Yale broadened its curriculum and class diversity. Students hailed from all over the East Coast and studied primarily languages and literature. In the 1900s, Yale became a truly national university and students embraced the social sciences.
And at the 21st century, administrators say they hope Yale will fulfill its manifest destiny to become a truly international institution.
New center, new studies
While still retaining its core academic values, Yale is also taking steps to offer students an international education.
In November 2000, the University announced a major international initiative — the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization — and recruited Washington insider and former deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott ’68 to head up the center.
Yale will not formally launch the globalization center until a May Tercentennial celebration in Hong Kong, but Talbott said he has given a lot of thought to the future of this initiative.
“The center will serve as a catalyst for collaborative research, scholarship and teaching in the public debate over globalization,” Talbott said.
The center will be housed in Davies Mansion on Hillhouse Avenue between the School of Forestry and the Divinity School. Talbott described his new neighbors as “good company,” citing both the environment and religion as driving forces of globalization.
Talbott said he hopes the center will not only be a resource for students and faculty, but will improve Yale’s reputation among world scholars.
“I’ve been frustrated as an alumnus not to hear Yale mentioned more often at international conferences, like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Columbia [universities],” Talbott said. “I do think Yale has some catching up to do.”
Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer, disagrees that Yale is far behind other top colleges.
“I think the whole notion of catching up is overdone,” Richard said. “[Yale's] been way up there in the last decade.”
Gustav Ranis, director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, said Yale does not get credit for its international programs of study because it does not have a special school for international education like other institutions do.
Princeton and Harvard, for instance, have the Woodrow Wilson School and the Kennedy School of Government, respectively, as their graduate schools for the study of international affairs
Attracting young scholars
On the same day Yale announced Talbott’s center, the University revealed another global initiative.
The World Fellows Program — a small-scale reverse Rhodes Scholarship of sorts — will bring young scholars from around the globe to New Haven for an intense semester of study focusing on global problems.
Brooke Shearer, the former director of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships program, will head Yale’s program, which administrators say will be operative in the fall of 2002 with between eight and 10 fellows. Ultimately, Yale would like to bring in 15 to 20 “world fellows” per semester.
In attracting these fellows to New Haven, administrators are attempting to ensure that many of the world’s future leaders will have ties to Yale.
“We’d like to keep them involved with Yale after their time here, and hopefully have a large number of people with influence around the world connected to Yale,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “We can have reunions of world leaders.”
The program will include seminars, conferences and individualized research programs tailored by top Yale faculty members. Core topics of study will include international security, the environment and ethnic fragmentation, Levin said.
Administrators expect to engage in extensive recruiting to find top students for the program but believe that over the course of time such efforts will no longer be necessary. Shearer said she will seek scholars primarily from Asia, Europe and newly independent states.
International aid goes need blind
Yale’s major international initiatives launched in the tercentennial year were not just limited to academic programs.
Also in November, Yale announced that it will admit international students need blind, a move that Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made many years ago.
Until now, the Yale’s admissions officers were forced to evaluate international students in part on their ability to pay tuition, and qualified international applicants could be rejected because Yale did not have enough financial aid money to go around. Need-blind admissions guarantees that qualified students from around the globe can come to Yale regardless of their finances.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said the new policy will have a significant effect on both life at Yale and admissions.
“We are committed to attracting the international perspective because it enriches the overall experience of all students,” Shaw said. “That being said, our ability to attract extremely bright students regardless of need will undoubtedly make competition more intense.”
This expansion of need-blind aid will not just increase numbers of international students, but also their diversity: students from underdeveloped countries now will have an easier time coming to Yale.
Levin said with every century Yale has been enriched by new student perspectives.
“When you look at the composition of the Yale class over the centuries, in the first century everyone was from Connecticut, in the second everyone was from the East Coast, in the third Yale went national,” Levin said. “It’s only natural that in the fourth century Yale will be international.”
Yale is America’s third oldest college, and administrators admit it will be a struggle to preserve the school’s truly American character while simultaneously increasing its international student population. University Secretary Linda Lorimer said the Yale Corporation discussed this tension at a meeting three years ago.
“We want to remain an institution with an American foundation,” Lorimer said. “We’re not trying to be like the United Nations.”
But Richard said she hopes Yale’s efforts to educate students from other parts of the world will not be taken the wrong way.
Richard said “the anthropologist in me” worries that Yale’s aim to educate more international students may seem like the “hubris of English-speaking countries.”
As Yale increases its international presence, the undergraduate class size as a whole is likely to grow as well. To accommodate this growth, administrators predict the University will build two new additional residential colleges by the end of its fourth century.
“Because we’re a great university, some alum will want to do this,” Richard said.
The recent financial aid adjustment and plan to expand the class size indicates that administrators are not content to lose top students to its peer institutions.
“We’d be more competitive if we were bigger,” Levin said, adding that he hopes the Yale class size increase to the size of Harvard and Stanford universities, both of which have about 1,600 students per class.
Staying home versus studying abroad
For a university striving to internationalize its offerings, it is perhaps surprising that so few Yale students study abroad.
This year, only 110 currently enrolled students are studying abroad — a number far lower than many other peer institutions.
And to date, there is only one Yale campus outside of the United States, located in London. Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said there is no current plan to increase that number.
“An alumni suggested to me a while back that we create a Yale on every continent,” Brodhead said. “At first that sounds really cool and then you realize how dumb it is.”
He said establishing “portable Americas” is not the way to create a global education.
But Yale is taking some steps to ease the process for students who want to go abroad.
“It used to be that people went abroad despite Yale,” Richard said. She said she hopes the University will create new programs to allow for students to have a “deeper immersion” in foreign cultures.
Last year, the University removed study abroad and fellowships duties from the auspices of Undergraduate Career Services and created a new office, the International Education and Fellowships Program, to facilitate global opportunities.
Administrators said current plans also include creating partnerships with other universities through which Yale students may travel abroad.
Despite these efforts, top officials said there is much value to benefiting from Yale’s resources on campus all four years.
“If a student is serious about study abroad they can go over a summer,” Richard said.
Distance learning, a risky trial
Yale also plans to use the Internet to reach a global audience.
In September 2000, Yale, Stanford, Princeton and Oxford universities announced that they will invest $3 million each in an alliance to offer on-line courses to alumni, students and faculty. Wall Street veteran Herbert Allison ’65 is the chief executive officer of this venture, called the University Alliance for Life-Long Learning.
Lorimer said distance learning is likely to have a “multiplier effect” around the world on Yale’s resources.
“Now high schools in South Africa can have access to our incredible collections of paintings and books,” Lorimer said.
The alliance is still in a nascent stage and officials said they are unsure when it will officially launch. In giving $3 million to this venture, Yale has shown it is willing to experiment with a new type of learning.
But this commitment pales in comparison to MIT’s recent announcement to spend $100 million to post nearly all course material on the Internet available free to the public.
“I’m impressed by MIT’s humanitarianism,” Brodhead said. “But if Yale had the resources to do it, I don’t think we would put our money towards that.”
While hundreds of universities across the nation are embracing distance learning, Yale is moving at a slower pace, waiting to see how Internet-based education evolves. Allison said the alliance is purposely proceeding cautiously to ensure that the online courses will be on par with the level of education at each of the four universities.
“Only after we figure out how to teach effectively will we be in a position to create a longer term plan,” Allison said.
Brodhead said he has concerns about the future of distance education, namely that universities will attempt to replicate the classroom experience online. Brodhead said Yale is committed to preserving face-to-face interaction.
Others said they are concerned that distance education could take away professors’ research time.
But art history professor Diana Kleiner, who created a pilot course about women in Roman art for the alliance, said she believes the time she devoted to the project will benefit her classroom students.
“When I think about my standard undergraduate lecture courses on Roman art and architecture, I recognize that 95 percent of class time is spent on stand-up 75-minute lectures,” Kleiner said. “If I could deliver some of that material on-line, time would be freed up for more face-to-face discussions.”
Yale has long been competing with other schools for students and prestige. On Yale’s 300th birthday, administrators are naming globalization as the University’s top priority for the future. But the same is true at other top colleges, and there is no guarantee Yale will come out on top.
At Harvard, for instance, incoming President Lawrence Summers said in a written statement this March that his biggest priority for Harvard is to maintain its standard of excellence in a “rapidly changing world.”
And while Yale made its bold need-blind financial aid announcement, other top colleges have one-upped the Bulldogs with even more ambitious reforms. Princeton not only adopted a need-blind international policy but announced plans to replace all student loans with university grants. And Harvard followed suit with a similarly ambitious plan, giving each aid student an extra $2,000 to lessen either work contributions or loans.
But Yale has not responded yet, and instead officers are saying they will research possibilities and likely reform Yale’s aid next year.
Modest plans to experiment with distance learning and expand study abroad opportunities reflect that Yale is committed to both progressive reform and an adherence to traditional goals.
Despite some of the initiatives undertaken by its peers, as Yale hits 300, the University seems committed to increasing its global outlook while keeping close to its small-school roots.
“You want to be big enough to be important, but small enough to be one community,” Richard said.