A new professor emeritus mentor program at the Henry Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty will bridge the age gap between junior professors and their retired colleagues at Yale, professor Michael Auslin said.
The brainchild of Auslin, the program connects professors emeriti with junior professors by facilitating contact and organizing socials. Auslin said he hopes the program will create opportunities for collaborative research among junior and emeritus professors and provide a support network for junior professors.
“This program is a great way for the junior faculty to foster a greater connection with Yale, its history and traditions,” Auslin said. “We are all a community of scholars here.”
Working in conjunction with the Koerner Center, the program aims to continue the center’s goal of maintaining ties to Yale faculty after they retire, Auslin said. The center — which has office space available for emeriti interested in teaching there, conducting research and writing papers — had not integrated itself into the Yale community until the beginning of the mentoring program last week, he said.
“I came up with the idea because I hadn’t met many emeriti during my time at Yale,” Auslin said. “Our emeriti are some of the biggest names in their fields and are all extraordinary scholars, but there was no mechanism for interaction.”
A major goal of the mentorship program is potential collaboration, Fred Robinson, a professor emeritus of English, said. Emeriti have less influence on the current workings of the University and are removed from the hiring or promoting of faculty, members involved said. Therefore, junior professors are more willing to seek advice from professors emeriti on matters ranging from book publication to research topics without fear.
“The junior professors welcomed the opportunity to talk to experts in their field, knowing they’ll never judge them,” Robinson said.
As a result of contacts he made through the program, Robinson arranged a meeting with one junior faculty member to examine a rare book collection of shared interest.
Another participant, political science professor emeritus Robert Dahl, said junior professors will benefit from their relationships with older faculty. Yale’s professors emeriti represent a formidable intellectual resource, Auslin said.
“It’s helpful to younger people to tap the experience of their elders,” Dahl said.
The group has already hosted a reception at Yale President Richard Levin’s house last week where junior professors had a chance to meet and forge relationships with their professor emeritus mentors, Auslin said. The reception was well attended by about 75 junior professors and professors emeriti, he said.
Robinson, who was at the reception, said he was encouraged by the turnout.
“I was surprised how well the reception was attended by emeriti and junior faculty,” Robinson said. “People really did want to talk across the age divide.”
Auslin said in the future he envisions including as part of the program a series of ongoing emeritus lectures at the Koerner Center on topics such as their current research, their careers and professional stories.