Smith reflects on future at Yale

Branford Master Steven Smith has no plans to scale back his commitment to Yale after he steps down from his post next year.

Smith, who has served as master for 15 years, said he will continue to work as a political science professor at Yale and devote his newly found free time to co-directing the new Yale Center for the Study of Representative Institutions. Smith said that the creation of the new center, which will study the origins of the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, helped him decide to stay on at Yale.

“[This center will] help to refocus attention on this crucial period of modern political thought,” Smith said. “I am very excited about it, and want to put a lot of my energy into that.”

Though Branford College Master Steven Smith will soon leave his post, he will stay busy by teaching and directing a new Yale center.
Though Branford College Master Steven Smith will soon leave his post, he will stay busy by teaching and directing a new Yale center.

In addition to the prospect of directing this new center, Smith said Yale’s unique blend of high-caliber Yale’s faculty, students and resources helped convince him to stay put.

While Smith said he is excited about the new center, he said he will miss his job in Branford, which has largely shaped the past 15 years of his life.

“It’s going to be very strange,” he said, noting that he has lived in Branford for a quarter of his life — longer than he has lived in any other single place.

From eating in the dining halls and hosting events in his house, Smith said he has had ample opportunity to become close with students.

Smith recalled how friendships with his pupils impacted his trip to Oxford earlier this year to deliver a lecture. During his time in England, 10 of Smith’s former students who now live in the country made their way to visit Smith, who called the experience “very moving.”

“Where else am I going to have students who are not only students but also life friends?” he said.

He said he will miss those aspects of residential college life next year, adding that he and his wife value living in the heart of Yale’s campus, and therefore ensured that house in which they will live next year is a short walk from campus.

After he steps down, Smith said he hopes he will have more time to work on writing books, even as he takes on the added responsibility of co-directing the center.

Smith’s current and former students said that his focus on developing strong relationships with his students will benefit the center.

Dylan Morris ’11, who has taken four classes with Smith and is majoring in ethics, politics and economics, said that while he is sad he will not be able to study in conjunction with the new center, he is excited to see how it fares next year under Smith’s leadership.

“Smith has a quiet, understated charisma that draws students in to work closely with him,” he said, adding that this quality will be a great asset to the new center.

Morris said he has spent considerable time with Smith outside of class, as he is part of Smith’s informal student book club. Through this group, Smith invites some of his students to discuss books and movies at the Branford master’s house.

Math and philosophy major Rebecca Linfield ’11, who is currently taking her third class with Smith, said she appreciates how Smith devotes time to meeting with students. She said she thinks Smith’s knowledgeability and his many connections to others in the field of political science will serve the new center well.

The opening of the Center for the Study of Representative Institutions was officially announced March 25, and will open next year under the direction of Smith and history professor Keith Wrightson. School of Public Health professor Betsy Bradley GRD ’96 will take over as master of Branford effective July 1.

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