Elizabeth Bradley, head of Branford College and the Brady-Johnson Professor of Grand Strategy, will leave Yale at the end of this academic year to serve as the president of Vassar College, according to a Jan. 11 email from University President Peter Salovey.
In an email to the News, Bradley noted that while the decision to leave Yale was hard, she is excited about helping to “shape the future of Vassar.”
In addition to her position at Branford — which she has led since 2011 — Bradley, a professor of public health, also serves as faculty director of the Global Health Leadership Institute which she founded in 2009. Under her leadership, Yale also launched the Global Health Scholars, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program that combines coursework and field practice.
“I really enjoy my job and love Yale,” Bradley said. “I have been contacted for jobs like this one several times in the past few years but I never pursued them. I was waiting I think for the right organization to come around, where I felt I could really make an important contribution. Vassar College is that organization.”
She added that much like at Yale, students at Vassar are “independent, critical thinkers.” Additionally, Bradley stated she is attracted to Vassar College’s model of shared governance where the faculty members are engaged in the leadership of the college, and its deep commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Bradley came to Yale 25 years ago as a doctoral student in health economics after receiving her bachelor’s degree from Harvard and master’s of business administration from the University of Chicago. In his email, Salovey praised her as a champion of innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration.
“She has enriched immeasurably the life of our campus community and will be missed as a visionary researcher, beloved teacher, wise mentor, trusted leader and invaluable colleague,” Salovey wrote.
In an email to the News, John Gaddis, history professor and former director of Yale’s Grand Strategy Program, noted that Bradley has been an important contributor to the program.
According to Gaddis, though Bradley has only been the director for a year, she has brought to the program a “clear demonstration” that the principles of grand strategy apply widely across different professions, not just in military and diplomatic fields. Additionally, she recruited a group of younger professors into the program and organized an alumni network of almost 500 students, a substantial number of whom returned to Yale last fall for the program’s first reunion in many years.
“In short, the program needed fresh leadership, and professor Bradley provided it,” Gaddis said.
Michael Skonieczny, the executive director of the Global Health Leadership Institute, praised Bradley for her “tremendous impact” on global health at Yale through the Global Health Leadership Institute. He noted her contributions to renewing the global health concentration at the School of Public Health including the creation of the first undergraduate program in global health education at Yale and supporting the launch of research and programs in noncommunicable diseases, mental health, early childhood development and human resources.
Dean of the School of Public Health Paul Cleary said Bradley’s departure is a “huge loss” for the school and Yale in general, but added that the position at Vassar is an incredible opportunity and Bradley is a “wonderful person” to take on the leadership of the college.
Besides Bradley’s academic leadership, Salovey noted her dedication to undergraduate life at Yale, citing in particular her role in helping students start the Branford Tea Room — a technology-free zone that hosts regular gatherings — strengthening the graduate affiliates program and “generally nourishing Branford’s strong sense of community.”
“In Branford, she did a fabulous job. She was a real force in the Council of Heads and took really strong leadership positions on various committees,” said Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway. “She was an advocate amongst the college heads for the colleges and was a great ambassador to the Yale community. I just know that she gave her all to that college.”
Students interviewed spoke highly of Bradley’s contributions to the Yale community, both as a professor and college head.
Salaar Shaikh ’17, one of Bradley’s former students in Grand Strategy, referred to Bradley as a “gifted teacher” with a unique ability to communicate complex ideas with top thinkers and practitioners and also debate them out with students.
“She’s also extremely approachable despite how qualified she is and also how busy she is — it’s incredible how she can run Grand Strategy, run Branford, teach at the [School of Public Health] and take part in all the conferences [and] symposia she runs,” Shaikh said.
At Vassar, Bradley will succeed Catharine Hill GRD ’85, an alumni fellow of the Yale Corporation since 2013, who stepped down from the Vassar presidency last year after a decade of service.
Founded in 1861, Vassar College is a private liberal arts college with a total undergraduate enrollment of just under 2,500 students. Yale and Vassar have a storied history: in 1966, Yale proposed that Vassar, which was then a women’s college, sell its campus and relocate its students to Prospect Hill. The two institutions explored the merger through 1966 until it was rejected by Vassar trustees in November 1967. However, just two years later, in the fall of 1969, both schools embraced coeducation.
According to Salovey’s email, the Yale community will be kept abreast of plans for identifying successors to oversee the many areas of the University that Bradley has been involved with.
This article was updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Jan. 16, 2017.