To the Editor:
I applaud the even-handed presentation of the issues in Thursday’s review of Yale’s engineering program (“Faculty of Engineering commits to strong future,” 11/29).
The Yale Daily News clearly showed that views about how to improve the stature of Yale Engineering are disparate, and, therefore, not easily resolved.
Nonetheless, as a senior member of Yale’s Faculty of Engineering, a former engineer at a corporate research laboratory, and a former senior faculty member at a university with well-regarded engineering schools, I can say with great confidence that having a great faculty and a program of substance is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to bring an engineering program into national prominence.
The prestige of a university and its programs is ultimately determined by the quality of its students.
The University is keenly aware of this. It knows that the very best students go to the most prestigious universities.
Therefore, Yale works hard to maintain its prestigious corporate image. But Yale is not yet doing this with its engineering program.
In spite of its prestigious faculty and outstanding courses and research programs, the very best engineering students are not yet enrolling in Yale’s engineering program. These students are unlikely to choose a university on the basis of citation indexes or size of its engineering faculty.
Rather, they make their choice by talking to the top students who have preceded them and by considering national rankings.
Therefore, in order for Yale Engineering to become what it wants to be, it needs to become an engineering school with close ties to the liberal arts programs of Yale College. Being part of Yale’s prestigious Faculty of Arts and Sciences is not enough.
To understand this issue, imagine what would happen to Yale’s prestigious Law School were it to become part of the School of Management.
Jerry M. Woodall
November 30, 2001
The writer is the C. Baldwin Sawyer Professor of Electrical Engineering.