Shapiro seeks YCIAS growth

It has been seven months since political science professor Ian Shapiro took the helm of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, and his main challenge and focus remains sustaining his predecessor’s legacy of growth within the center.

The former chair of the Political Science Department formally stepped into the role in July after being named in March by Yale President Richard Levin to succeed former YCIAS director Gustav Ranis. During Ranis’ eight-year tenure, the University prioritized international scholarship and YCIAS’ operating budget jumped from $3 million to $15 million. The center also grew in size and scope — YCIAS now oversees more than two dozen programs, councils and activities. As director, Shapiro has been active in the push to expand the number of faculty slots in undergraduate departments whose research coincides with his vision for YCIAS.

“When I came in, I had two challenges: to sustain the strong programs and to improve the not-so-strong ones,” Shapiro said.

Among his goals for YCIAS, Shapiro said he aims to bolster the center’s research in three domains: democracy and its past, present and future in the world; identity, security and conflict; and justice and its distribution in different regions. He said he will increase the center’s attention to these areas of study through faculty hires and conferences and by providing financial support for research.

“Professor Shapiro has a broad view of international studies,” Levin wrote in an e-mail from California. “He is trying to focus some of YCIAS’ research effort on a small group of core topics that are central to the achievement of global peace and prosperity. I’m confident that his work will make a major difference.”

YCIAS also has offered undergraduate departments incentives to fill faculty slots with professors whose research addresses some of the subject areas “most in need of help” in the University, Shapiro said. While YCIAS has built strong East Asian and Southeast Asian studies programs, the center has lagged behind in its coverage of the modern Middle East, Africa and South Asia, he said.

“We try to hire people whose research would be of interest to students,” Shapiro said. “We’re hoping to work with departments and the administration to get some slots.”

YCIAS has already filled one of its slots in the Political Science Department with a junior hire specializing in the Middle East, Shapiro said, and currently is working with the History Department to hire a modern Middle East specialist. The Political Science Department was unable to find a specialist in either African or South Asian studies to fill a YCIAS slot in the department, he said.

Shapiro’s successful negotiations to secure more YCIAS positions bodes well for his ability to sustain the center’s growth, Ranis said.

“Six months is a very short time, but I have the impression that he is very vigorous,” Ranis said. “I think he’s very bright, vigorous and he knows how to bargain effectively with the administration … so I see good years ahead for YCIAS.”

Anthropology professor and Latin American Studies Director of Undergraduate Studies Enrique Mayer, who chairs YCIAS’ Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies, said Shapiro has been “reactive and responsive” to his council’s needs, adding that he and Shapiro are currently discussing the possibility of hiring more professors in Latin American Studies.

“On the whole, it’s all very positive,” Mayer said. “There are always gaps and difficulties and complications. We would like to continue expanding. I don’t think there’s been any significant change other than for the positive.”

While it is too early to tell whether Shapiro will be able to continue the expansion of YCIAS, anthropology and East Asian languages and literatures professor Joseph Errington, who chairs the Council for Southeast Asia Studies, said he thinks the growth Shapiro oversaw in the Political Science Department foreshadows similar expansion for YCIAS.

“There’s optimism that he’ll be able to continue the trajectory of development that Gus Ranis started,” Errington said. “I’m optimistic that Ian is well-placed to do that.”

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