Spouses band together, help recruitment

A new organization that aims to unite staff spouses and partners is designed to help ease the transition to New Haven and Yale community life.
A new organization that aims to unite staff spouses and partners is designed to help ease the transition to New Haven and Yale community life. Photo by David Burt.

A new group of faculty and staff spouses and partners could help recruit professors to Yale.

About 30 men and women gathered at the Provost’s house Monday night for the second meeting of a support network for faculty spouses, who sometimes feel distant from the Yale community in which they live. Members discussed their plans to start meeting with prospective faculty and their families, welcoming husbands and wives who sometimes feel left out of the recruitment process and providing information about aspects of life in New Haven such as real estate, the job market and the school system.

Deputy Provost for Faculty Development Frances Rosenbluth will notify department heads, who handle recruitment, of the group’s desire to be involved this week, she said, adding that she expects them to accept the assistance.

“It will benefit the University if we can make the spouses feel like they have a place in the city before they even get here,” said Brad Lupien, outdoor educator, husband of English professor Jessica Pressman and one of the support group’s founders.

Partners play a major role in determining whether a couple decides to move to New Haven, Rosenbluth said, so these informal dinners could make spouses more comfortable with the change. She said she thinks the department chairs will be willing to give up some time with the recruits to accommodate the group’s plan.

Tamar Gendler ’87, chair of the philosophy department, said the group’s idea was “terrific” because it institutionalized the practice of informing prospective families about New Haven. She said some departments do this better than others.

She added that visiting families would have more than enough room to fit in meetings with members of the partners group.

“There is no shortage of time,” she said. “By the time we’re ready to bring someone here [to visit Yale], we have had a lot of time for interaction.”

On the other hand, Abraham Silberschatz, chair of the computer science department, said the group’s efforts would have little impact since prospective families already explore New Haven on their own.

Members of the partners group said they could have used more guidance when they first arrived at Yale. Matthew Polly, a writer and husband of astronomy and physics professor Marla Geha, said he had difficulties learning about New Haven and meeting new people while his wife was being recruited and even after they moved.

“Yale has a lot of resources for new faculty but doesn’t spend a lot of time with spouses,” he said. “Those who join them often feel somewhat isolated.”

Marc Levenson, a current stay-at-home dad and husband of Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in English Catherine Nicholson, is leading the group’s welcoming committee, and said he hopes to build friendships among spouses. He will make sure incoming partners have group members to contact with basic questions, he said, adding that he also hopes to organize “mini-orientations” for new spouses.

In addition to connecting the new spouses to others in the Yale community, the group plans to help them search for non-academic work in New Haven. Shelly Lerner, who is hired by Yale to help spouses of faculty members find jobs, said it can be difficult to find work for partners during the current recession, but the new group will boost her efforts.

“Most jobs are found through networking,” she said. “The more people [incoming spouses] can talk to, the better.”

Assistant Secretary of the University Casey Nagy, whose wife works in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, was a founding member of the group, which met for the first time in last fall. He said the group will invite New Haven experts to speak at roughly four large meetings per year, adding that members can hold smaller gatherings as well if there is demand for information on a particular topic. Garth Harries, assistant superintendant for New Haven public schools, visited the group Monday to give an overview of public schools in New Haven and field questions from parents in the group.

This is not the first group for spouses of members of the Yale community. Yale historian Gaddis Smith said wives of students formed the “Yale Dames” after World War II. The wives drank tea and “wore white gloves,” he said. Smith’s wife Barclay, who was a member of the group, said they talked about trivial things such as where they went shopping.

“It was a very warm friendship for those who were here and whose husbands were studying in the library,” she said.

The Yale Dames disbanded in the 1960s, Smith said.

Comments

  • JackNH

    Smith is at least in part incorrect. “Yale Dames” still existed in the 1970s. We all made fun of it.