ZHENG: Towards a truly global University

When I first heard that President Levin was going to step down at the end of the school year, I was shocked.

As an international student, I appreciate the accomplishments of the Levin administration even more strongly than most. In the past 20 years, international students might have benefited from Levin’s tenure more than any other student group on campus.

The international student page on the Yale admissions website features the following quote from Levin: “As Yale enters its fourth century, our goal is to become a truly global university — educating leaders and advancing frontiers of knowledge not simply for the United States, but for the entire world.”

The line captures two important ways in which Yale has evolved during Levin’s tenure: the increased presence of international students on campus and heightened interaction between the University and the world.

I remember the first time I saw Levin. It was not at Yale, not in New Haven, but on the living room television screen in my house in Shanghai, China. He was speaking on a Chinese talk show program on the English channel of CCTV, the state-sponsored central television station.

I had just been admitted to Yale and was still gushing with awe and enthusiasm for anything that began with the capital Y. The specifics of Levin’s interview have already faded from my memory, but I won’t forget the excitement and sense of pride I derived from his presence in my home country. At that moment, I felt more than an international student going to an American school. I had become a member of a global institution with a worldwide reach.

After coming to Yale, I enrolled in Directed Studies and was lucky enough to be placed in professor Jane Levin’s literature section. At the end of the semester, she invited our entire section to the President’s House for dinner. Besides wolfing down shrimp ravioli in vodka sauce and staring at the Degas piece on the wall, we enjoyed a lengthy two-hour conversation with Rick and Jane.

During the conversation, I raised the topic of Yale-NUS. Mind you, this was the spring of 2011, when the decision to establish a joint liberal arts college in Singapore had just been announced. The curriculum was all up in the air. Funding had yet to be secured. How would the faculty be hired and students recruited? What would be taught in the classroom?

In his replies to my questions, President Levin outlined his vision for how Yale would be able to educate people of all nations not only in America, but in their home countries as well. He spoke fondly of creating at Yale-NUS a mandatory two-year, D.S.-like liberal arts program that would combine study of the Western canon with the classics of the East.

The spark in his eyes and the conviction in his voice left a deep impression on me. Levin’s passionate desire to expand liberal arts education to where the world needs it most is genuine, and I agree with that vision. Yale’s global expansion is not a marketing ploy or a corporate gamble — it is consistent with its status as one of the world’s greatest universities and her unique ability to nurture the next generation of global citizens.

Levin began to fulfill his goal of making Yale a global university right here in New Haven. During his tenure, the international student population more than doubled. Yale College students now represent 88 countries around the world, and the benefits from increased diversity on campus are myriad and obvious.

One might argue that increased campus diversity is a common trend among American colleges and is nothing special. However, Yale went further than almost all of its peer institutions by extending its need-blind financial aid policy to cover every international student. If it were not for this policy, I would never had been able to come to New Haven.

Although I am saddened to see Levin go, I am not worried about the future of international students at Yale. Our campus is more diverse than ever before, and Yale has brought its brand of liberal arts education to the world stage. The success of these strategies is for all to see.

I am confident that, whoever he or she may be, the next president will continue and further Levin’s vision of shaping Yale into a truly global university.

Xiuyi Zheng is a junior in Davenport College. Contact him at xiuyi.zheng@yale.edu.

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