With the 1960′s mantra of “Think globally, act locally” becoming ever more relevant in today’s interconnected world, Dean Gustave Speth ’64 LAW ’69 has committed himself to drawing the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies into the global village.
Speth, who was first appointed dean of the Environment School in 1999, has worked to increase the school’s international scope and said he has no plans to stop anytime soon.
“We want to continue our progress toward being a global schoolÊ– building more linkages, bringing more faculty from around the world, bringing more students from around the world,” Speth said in October when he was appointed to his second term as dean of the school. “We’re not fully there yet.”
With most scientists acknowledging that environmental problems cross national boundaries and span continents, Speth’s ambition to make his institution the premier global school of the environment could not be timelier. One of the ways Speth hopes to achieve this is by bringing faculty from around the world to the school.
“We’ve continued the program of having professors come to the school from abroad, so every semester now there is someone here from abroad to teach and interact with students,” Speth said.
This semester’s visiting professor, Lye Lin-Heng, teaches comparative environmental law at the National University of Singapore and taught a similar course at the Environment School this semester. Environment School Professor Marian Chertow, who has worked with Lye in the past, said Lye’s involvement in Asian environmental law will bring a new flavor to the Environment School’s discussion of this issue.
Lye’s work is just one example of the benefits Speth sees coming from an internationally based faculty. Next year the Environment School will have visiting professors from Sri Lanka and Brazil, Speth said.
“We’ve strengthened our program on global issues such as climate change, and we have regular international faculty who teach here on energy and climate, for example,” Speth said.
Faculty members from other parts of the world often maintain connections with researchers and environmentalists in their native countries, Speth said. These networks help to facilitate interaction between people and institutions, ultimately making both more accessible to Environment School students, Speth added.
The presence of students from outside the United States has also helped to make the Environment School more global. Speth has made increasing the money available for student scholarships a priority. As Environment School Associate Dean for Student and Alumni Affairs Gordon Geballe explained, this scholarship money can often help international students who may not receive the federal loans that most American students enjoy.
Lye said the students from abroad at the Environment School add a diversity to the classroom that helps to stimulate learning.
“I think it’s very important to have international students in the program because we learn from each other,” Lye said. “Now the students in the U.S. have the advantage of working with students from developing countries.”
Under Speth’s leadership, the school has increased its involvement in exchange programs, which help widen its international scope. Chertow has taught at the National University of Singapore, and Speth said a new program will bring 25 members of China’s environment agency to the Environment School this summer.
The connections that are created when the Environment School brings together faculty and students from around the globe are often solidified through Memorandums of Understanding between the school and other educational institutions and environmental organizations. A Memorandum of Understanding outlines a partnership between the two signatories, pledging greater cooperation in future endeavors.
Speth signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National University of Singapore when Lye arrived in January. This is one of the two memorandums of understanding that the Environment School entered into this semester, and Speth said the school has a total of 40 to 50 of these agreements, most of which are with organizations outside of the United States.
Speth’s work to globalize the Yale Environment School has not gone unnoticed. Environment School Professor Dan Esty said Speth has contributed significantly to making the school more international, noting the number of students it has drawn from abroad.
While the school has increased its international connections in the past few years, Speth noted that an environment school addressing issues from a transnational perspective has become more necessary now than ever before.
“The most serious threats that we face are threats that one can think of as global scale threats,” Speth said. “Pollutants don’t stop at national borders, most of the major river basins are shared by more than one country, and the largest losses of forest and biodiversity are in the tropics.”