YCIAS pursues new profs

Officials at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies said they plan to fill three new senior faculty positions in international studies by next summer, as part of Yale’s effort to become a more global university,

Though the new hires will formally be members of other departments on campus, they will be expected to teach courses that cover international issues, YCIAS Director Ian Shapiro said. The interdisciplinary searches are in progress for professors who study international distribution and finance, ethics and international affairs, and contemporary Middle East issues, he said. YCIAS has already raised funds for a total of six new senior positions, one of which was filled last year by political science professor Alec Stone Sweet, and searches for three new junior faculty are ongoing.

Yale President Richard Levin said he hopes the new hires will provide more specialized points of view to guide students who wish to explore international affairs in greater depth.

“If one of our primary objectives as an educational institution is to prepare young people for leadership in the world, today more than ever before knowledge of parts of the world beyond our borders is essential,” Levin said. “Hiring scholars who study international issues or who have expertise in one particular country or region is important for having a well-rounded curriculum.”

Shapiro said the decision to expand international studies faculty was partly a response to increased student interest in international affairs. The 2003 Committee on Yale College Education review called for more ladder faculty in areas of strong student interest to avoid using adjunct or visiting faculty to fill the gap between supply and demand, Shapiro said.

“We’re trying to internationalize the University,” he said. “Building faculty strength on international affairs is one important component of that.”

In the past, search committees for YCIAS-affiliated professors have assigned the slot to a specific department in exchange for a commitment from the department that the new hire will teach two classes per year for YCIAS, and another professor in that department will teach two additional courses in international affairs.

History professor Abbas Amanat, the former chair of the Council on Middle East Studies at YCIAS, said faculty at Yale have historically focused on the premodern period in Middle Eastern studies, and he is glad that the University has decided to make a senior appointment with a focus on the modern period. Amanat, a member of the search committee for the position, said whoever is hired will likely cross between humanities and social science disciplines.

“It may be that we would end up with a historian with an interest in current affairs or a sociologist with an interest in history,” Amanat said.

Julia Adams, a sociology professor and the chair of the Middle East search committee, said her committee will meet for the first time next week, but preliminary letters soliciting suggestions for potential candidates have already been distributed throughout the academic community. Adams does not study the Middle East, but she said she is a “historical sociologist,” whose research draws on both sociological theory and historical materials, and interdisciplinary processes can be particularly useful for studying the region.

“I think interdisciplinarity is crucial in general, because the questions that are being asked now about Middle Eastern societies and cultures and developments can probably be most easily addressed across more than one discipline,” Adams said. “I have to stress that by that, I don’t mean necessarily my discipline.”

Shapiro said the search committees, which are composed of faculty from multiple departments, are beginning their work now with the goal of filling the positions within a year. While the timeline is not absolute and some hires take months or years to complete because of the difficulty associated with moving professors’ spouses and children to a new city, Shapiro said he hopes new faculty members could arrive at Yale by next July.

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