Ian Shapiro GRD ’83 LAW ’87, political science professor and the director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, was named Sterling Professor of Political Science last spring, one of the highest honors given to members of the University faculty.
As chair of the Political Science Department, Shapiro is regarded as a standout administrator who helped modernize and expand the department, former YCIAS director Gustav Ranis said. Considered by many to have been a strong candidate to replace Richard Brodhead as Yale College dean, he did not receive the post but was shortly thereafter named the director of YCIAS.
“I’m delighted that Professor Shapiro was recognized,” Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said. “Despite the heavy administrative load he carried as chair of Political Science and now as director of YCIAS, he is nonetheless amazingly productive, a gifted educator, and someone whose books are provocative and really make you think.”
Shortly before receiving the award, Shapiro turned down a prestigious job offer from the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Faculty at the IAS have no teaching responsibilities and so can devote all their time to research. IAS’s faculty, which once included Albert Einstein, has a position for only one political science expert, William Foltz, professor of political science and former director of YCIAS said.
When asked about his decision to remain at Yale, Shapiro said if he were to move to IAS, he would regret losing the opportunity to teach undergraduates. Currently, Shapiro teaches the popular lecture “Moral Foundations of Politics,” as well as “Democracy and Distribution,” a seminar for upperclassmen.
“That’s purely a research position,” Shapiro said. “I thought I would miss teaching, particularly undergraduate teaching, which I find very invigorating and helpful for my research. The trade-off that many people talk about between teaching and research don’t exist at Yale largely because the quality of undergrads is so high that you can actually get huge benefits for your research from teaching undergraduate classes.”
Foltz said that the award might have been in part an acknowledgement of the prestigious position the IAS offered him and a reward for Shapiro’s decision to stay at Yale.
“It would not be surprising that Yale would reward such loyalty and the real mark of distinction of being offered that position,” Foltz said “It’s a very special and single honor. It becomes available only once every 20 years or so. So when he turned it down, it was a major statement, and a coup for Yale to keep him.”
Students who have taken Shapiro’s “Moral Foundations of Politics” course were nearly unanimous in their praise of the professor.
“He was able to take a topic with so much breadth … and make it accessible to undergrads in an engaging way,” David DeCarlo ’08 said. “He wrote a book called ‘Moral Foundations of Politics,’ and he dedicated it to … students. It’s only recommended that you pick up his book, but I was very impressed by the fact that he had dedicated it to the students of his class. It made an impression.”
Michael Walzer, a professor with the IAS’s School of Social Science, declined to comment on any efforts by IAS to hire Shapiro.