Colleges plan series of conferences

The leaders of 10 top international research universities — including Yale — met in Australia last week and agreed to hold a series of conferences on topics ranging from sustainability to the role of women in academia.

The 10 schools comprise the International Alliance of Research Universities, founded in January 2006 to promote collaboration and information-sharing on issues common to the institutions. Each of the member institutions also promised last week to formulate a specific plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At University President RIchard Levin’s urging, Yale will host a conference for the schools’ sustainability directors to discuss reducing emissions. Yale also agreed to host a conference on advancing women in universities, which will be led by the Yale Women Faculty Forum next spring.

“On the whole, it was a very productive meeting,” Levin said.

Other planned collaborations include studies on aging and longevity, international security, the use of natural resources and demographics. Not all of the member institutions participate in every collaboration, Office of International Affairs Director Donald Filer said.

Next spring’s conference on the role of women in academia, although in the preliminary planning stages, will be organized by Yale in collaboration with IARU members Cambridge University and the University of California at Berkeley, and will be a two-day event, one day for representatives from IARU member institutions and another for general academic discourse, said Cindy Tobery, the Women Faculty Forum coordinator.

Sociology professor Deborah Davis, a co-chair of the WFF, said the IARU allows universities to address broader problems more effectively by pooling resources.

“The idea is to have the 10 or 12 research universities meet twice a year regularly and then intermittently for special projects so they can address problems they all face but that they don’t have the resources to address one by one,” she said. “You get to have more resources, more experiences and more comparative insights to help tackle these issues.”

The Women’s Faculty Forum has already planned to host two forums this spring with presentations from faculty members at Berkeley and Cambridge.

Julie Newman, who runs Yale’s sustainability office, said no concrete plans have yet been made for the Yale conference at which the member schools will discuss how to formulate and implement sustainability plans. Levin, who made international news in January when he reiterated Yale’s plans to reduce emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, has been hailed as a leader of campus sustainability efforts in higher education.

The IARU, which was officially launched in January 2006, includes member institutions from four different continents. The only other American university in IARU is Berkeley.

Since its launch, member institutions have engaged in collaborations and exchanges to share academic and administrative resources. This year, the Australian National University, IARU’s founding member, sent its vice president for development, Malcolm Gillies, to Yale to observe the University’s development office in action. Student exchanges have also been a part of the alliance, with 10 Yale students visiting the National University of Singapore — also an IARU member — last summer to do field research in various academic disciplines.

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