Shapiro plans a global Yale

Ian Shapiro envisions cultivating Yale’s presence around the globe and cultivating global mindedness on campus, but his agenda today is listening and learning as he prepares to steer the University’s flagship global center.

Shapiro, now the chairman of the Political Science Department, will take over the helm of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies this summer, as the University continues to prioritize international scholarship. One month has passed since his appointment and Shapiro has laid out his goals for internationalizing Yale: ramp up study abroad programs, develop new interdisciplinary and interregional programs, and boost the YCIAS endowment.

“Part of what’s unique about YCIAS is that it’s not an inward-looking center or institute,” Shapiro said Wednesday. “It’s a large operation that does many things around the University.”

Shapiro said he is excited to work with the “large-spirited and constructive people” who head the more than two dozen YCIAS programs, councils and activities. Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and the person behind many of the University’s international initiatives, said he is looking forward to collaborating with Shapiro.

“In a way, Ian has also been my professor,” Zedillo told the News last month. “If he brings the same kind of energy here, we can look forward to great successes.”

Yale President Richard Levin said Shapiro has been an instrumental force on campus for years and will transition smoothly into his role at YCIAS.

“Ian is an outstanding program builder,” Levin said. “I have great confidence he will have the skills to take us to new heights in the international studies area.”

Shapiro said many of his goals for internationalizing the University stem from the undergraduate academic review completed in 2003. As chairman of the Committee on Yale College Education’s international studies working group, Shapiro played a major role in authoring the report.

He said he plans to make study abroad programs more “user-friendly” for undergraduates, a move he hopes will entice more students to go abroad.

“Study abroad is not all about sitting at cafes in Paris,” Shapiro said. “What it’s really about is what was said in the [academic review] report about international education.”

The faculty in the nine regional area councils are a good resource for building and nurturing professor-to-professor and school-to-school contacts abroad, he said. A native of South Africa, Shapiro taught for several years at the University of Cape Town and his Rolodex is filled with contacts at the school. He said he uses his network to help link Yale students with Cape Town professors.

“[We] can play a role beyond who is going to buy a plane ticket and more about the educational experience of the student,” Shapiro said. “You need the personal investment of faculty members making links with faculty members in other institutions.”

Since the center’s area councils are organized geographically and the University’s academic departments are organized by discipline, Shapiro said he wants to build additional programs at YCIAS to bridge geographic regions and academic subjects.

“The good thing about area councils is that they compensate for the parochialism of disciplines,” Shapiro said. “But you don’t want to replace discipline parochialism with geographic parochialism. You want the two to be complementary.”

Shapiro proposed programs to evaluate the modern wave of third-world democratizations, to develop cross-regional comparative data, and to research global environmental and public health issues.

“I’m very interested in trying to find projects that will not be restricted to the humanities or social sciences, but will draw the humanists and the social scientists together where they can study similar issues,” Shapiro said. “YCIAS is in part an instrument to get many departments at Yale to be internationally focused.”

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