President Levin altered Yale’s relationship with the world in an unprecedented manner. Aside from improvements to Yale’s physical plant and better town-gown relations, Levin’s legacy will be the impact he had in bringing the world to Yale and Yale to the world. As such, Levin presided over changes that reflect — and shaped — the University’s changing role in our shifting global landscape. Levin’s presidency has emphasized the importance of globalization and the increased interconnectedness of the world.
One way Levin emphasized global interconnectedness was by shifting campus demographics. He recognized that in order for Yale to stay relevant in the 21st century, the University had to appeal to not only the rest of the country, but also the rest of the world. When Levin took office in 1993, just 2 percent of Yale’s undergraduate student body was comprised of international students. That statistic is now close to 11 percent.
In an increasingly globalized society, Yale should emulate the world. Having suitemates, classmates and friends from a variety of geographic backgrounds allows students, American or not, to attain an understanding of the different cultures that increasingly interact in our world of multinational and international NGOs.
Providing financial aid to international students was also central to Yale’s ability to offer students a diversity of experiences. Additionally, over the course of Levin’s tenure, the number of students studying or interning abroad has also grown extensively. In 2011 alone, Yalies were dispersed across 81 countries and in every continent. That means nearly a quarter of undergraduates have some sort of international experience every year. And in 2005, these vital international experiences became even more accessible when the University established the International Summer Award (ISA) to provide a summer’s worth of financial aid to all aid-receiving students. The award provided $3.6 million to the class of 2011.
But some of Levin’s international efforts have been more controversial. Our outgoing president has drawn perhaps the most ire for Yale-NUS. Many have reservations about this experiment — but all innovation faces such opposition at first. These reservations likely parallel those held by skeptics from the 1930s, when Yale sought to emulate the Oxbridge system in America.
I, too, once had many reservations about the project. But the importance of the Yale-NUS College Curriculum Report released last Thursday should not be undermined. It could serve the same role in our century as the Yale Bulletin of 1828 and the Harvard Red Book of 1945 served during their respective eras. These documents outlined the role that the American colleges should fulfill, and were influential in defining American higher learning.
The 90-page Yale-NUS report is a surprisingly interesting read. The text paints Yale-NUS as more than an ad-hoc partnership brokered between two universities — an experiment that questions and redefines the very notion of the modern college.
To Levin, the role of the college in the 21st century should be to produce global citizens. The vision for Yale-NUS is naturally then that of “a community of learning” that is “in Asia, for the world.”
As a Yale student who studied abroad at NUS during the summer after my freshman year, I can confirm that Singapore is not as oppressive as many might want to paint it. The city-state does come off as sterile at time, but at no time when I was discussing Southeast Asian history and politics did I feel I was being censored, nor was the discourse in class ever stifled. The administration has done a great job at assessing whether this collaboration is a good fit. After close analysis, it likely is.
Of course, whether you agree with the conception of global citizenship is another matter. But in the wake of the massive changes that the Levin presidency has initiated over the course of the last two decades, it could be argued that the refrain “For God, For Country and for Yale” may require an addendum: “For the World.”
Undoubtedly, Levin’s legacy will be this international presence. Yale-NUS is a wager, but the fruits of this experiment could redefine the role served by American colleges in the next century — that’s a gamble worth taking.
Christian Vazquez is a senior in Branford College and a former production and design editor of the News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .