Newly appointed Provost Andrew Hamilton has dealt with many new challenges since assuming the position two weeks ago, but he says there was one part of the job he was unprepared for — the diet.
“I hadn’t expected the number of meals it involves,” the new provost said in his rich British accent, noting that his schedule is brimming with dinner dates. “I’m coming to realize that the freshman 15 doesn’t only apply but freshman students, but to freshman provosts as well.”
In a wide-ranging interview in his new office, Hamilton, who now is Yale’s chief academic and financial officer and its second-highest-ranking administrator, said he will focus primarily on construction and renovation projects designed to enhance the sciences at Yale. The University has been forced to redouble its efforts to build or refurbish academic buildings in the last few years after a long period of relative inactivity, Hamilton said.
“We’re paying the price for decades where insufficient attention was paid to building infrastructure,” said Hamilton, formerly the deputy provost for science and technology. “We’ve been in the process of correcting that for some time — I facilitated some of the new projects as deputy provost — and now I’m very excited as provost to have the opportunity to make it happen as quickly as possible.”
Hamilton said he has inherited several construction projects from predecessor Susan Hockfield’s administration, including new Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering buildings that will be completed within the next 12 to 18 months. But, he said, there are a number of new projects in the works as well, including a new Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology building adjacent to Gibbs Lab on Whitney Avenue and a new, energy-efficient Forestry and Environmental Studies building next to Sage Bowers Hall on Prospect Street.
“The exact designs of these buildings are still very much in discussion, particularly for the forestry building,” Hamilton said. “We are committed to the building showing the important benefits that sustainable design can bring to a contemporary academic building.”
Four weeks after tapping Hamilton to replace Hockfield, now the president-designate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale President Richard Levin said he is confident that Hamilton will be able to meet his goals.
“I think that Andy Hamilton has the personal skills to be very successful as a provost,” Levin said. “He has a very thorough grasp of the major academic issues in the University. He’s very approachable, gets along well with people of widely varying perspectives and I think he’ll be regarded as fair-minded and open-minded.”
Before becoming full provost Oct. 18, Hamilton served as deputy provost since 2003 and before that as chairman of the Chemistry Department since 1999. Despite his new responsibilities, Hamilton said he feels he is as prepared as possible for his new job as provost.
“I’m not sure one can ever be completely prepared for a job on this scale,” he said. “Having said that, I spent four years as chair of the Chemistry Department and then a little over a year as deputy provost. I feel that I’m as prepared as anyone can be given that I’ve been exposed to the program of the provost’s office.”
Hamilton said his construction goals must be staggered in light of concerns for space and the University environment, but he said he intends to continue the other projects currently underway, and is open to the possibility of additional construction initiatives.
“Obviously, you need to limit the amount of construction you want on campus at any given time,” Hamilton said. “But we will continue the yearly renovation of a residential college, and there has been considerable focus on the arts area of campus, the area that centers around the galleries. There’s a plan for that area as well, but that entails finding the right funding and the right timing.”
Having served on the Committee on Yale College Education, which released a comprehensive undergraduate curricular review in 2003, Hamilton said he wants to strengthen the connection between Science Hill facilities and the University’s main campus by increasing the number and frequency of shuttles between High Street and Science Hill.
Hamilton said the University is also considering the construction of a science teaching center closer to Old Campus. The proposed science center would not contain lab facilities but would alleviate the time and distance concerns that keep many non-science majors from taking science classes, said Charles Schmuttenmaer, the Chemistry Department’s director of graduate studies.
“I know I would be perfectly happy to walk halfway down campus to some science teaching center if it’ll encourage more students to take more science courses,” Schmuttenmaer said. “Right now, I think there is a physical barrier to entry. It’s called Science Hill.”
Schmuttenmaer said Hamilton’s background in and appreciation for the sciences makes him an ideal provost, as does his inherent approachability.
“What I like about him is his very broad view of science,” Schmuttenmaer said. “He understands that it’s all important. Even in his extremely busy day, he can find time if I needed to talk to him or ask him something.”
Despite his busy schedule, Hamilton said he is looking forward to attending more student concerts and activities, furthering his biochemical research and continuing his duties in another field — as a forward for his soccer team.
“I still play on a geriatric soccer team in an over-40 league in Guilford where I live,” he said. “We have mixed results, but we are happy to survive 90 minutes of frenetic soccer with no injuries and the ability to play another day.”