University President Peter Salovey recently bought a pair of spikes to affix to his shoes called crampons, which are typically used by mountain climbers.
There is over a foot of snow on the ground in the alpine resort town of Davos, Switzerland, where Salovey and thousands of corporate chief executives, policy-makers and other leaders have gathered for the annual World Economic Forum. Salovey traveled to Davos for the Global University Leaders Forum, a subset of the wider forum meant to bring together presidents of prominent universities to discuss issues surrounding research and higher education.
The education-focused forum, like the World Economic Forum as a whole, is meant to provide a space for noncompetitive discussion between leaders about a range of concerns. The theme of the Davos conference this year is rising income inequality, and Salovey, who attended a White House conference on higher education accessibility to low-income students only last week, said affordability will be a central topic of discussion for university leaders.
“The challenge is that a college education costs a lot,” Salovey said in a Wednesday interview with the Huffington Post.
Salovey added that he was concerned about the fact that, for a middle-income student, attending Yale is less expensive than attending a local state institution, because this suggests that the United States is not investing enough in higher education.
Higher education, Salovey said, is the best investment taxpayers can make to ensure the country’s future.
In addition to affordability, Salovey said the university leaders planned to discuss massive open online courses, commonly referred to as MOOCs.
Until this year, the Global University Leaders Forum was led by former University President Richard Levin. This week, National University of Singapore President Tan Chorh Chuan was appointed the chair of the forum.
Economics professor and Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller is also representing Yale at Davos and will give a talk on Friday entitled “A Journey of Discovery.”
Salovey’s week in Davos has already made for a busy travel schedule for the Yale president in January, during which he has spent seven days on the road.
Last week, Salovey traveled to Washington, D.C. for a summit of university, government and philanthropy leaders to discuss access to higher education for low-income students. Between Washington and Davos, Salovey spent a brief amount of time in London with donors, alumni and other supporters of the University.
Throughout the month, Salovey also kept up a busy fundraising schedule as the University continues toward its $500 million goal for the two new residential colleges.
“President Salovey [has] been keeping a busy schedule of development travel similar to what President Levin had done in the past,” University Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said.
O’Neill added that Salovey has been “very focused” on raising the funds for the new residential colleges during his development travel, which typically centers on individual meetings with donors considering major gifts to Yale. Thus far, Salovey has had “some very good success,” O’Neill said, adding that she is optimistic the full $500 million for the project will be raised by the end of the year.
In several interviews, both Salovey and his advisors said that being on campus is one of the president’s top priorities, but that balancing his roles as a figure at Yale and as an educational leader on the national and global stage can often make scheduling difficult.
Of eight students interviewed, only two were aware that Salovey was away from campus in Switzerland. However, the president’s extensive travel through January bothered none of them.
“I would much rather him spend the five minutes talking to me talking to a $5 million donor,” said Tyler Blackmon ’16, who is a staff columnist for the News.
Andrew Grass ’16 said that he thinks Salovey has made a significant effort to remain visible on campus and has been more connected to the student body at Yale than his predecessor, Richard Levin.
After the week in Davos, Salovey will return to campus for the rest of the month and will meet with the University Council, a large group of alumni charged with making recommendations to the University president about campus life.