This editorial is the second in a four-part series about the academic review.
Yale President Richard Levin initiated the academic review at the end of a tercentennial year spent explaining Yale’s fourth century goal to become a more international university. The work of the 6-month-old Committee on Yale College Education will doubtlessly span many areas, but integrating Levin’s global vision into the undergraduate curriculum must be a fundamental part of the committee’s mission.
The committee should first look at study abroad, the most traditional means of internationalizing undergraduate education. Dramatic improvements in Yale’s Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs have made study abroad considerably more accessible for students than before. But the reality remains that few students want to take a semester abroad — simply put, they don’t want to miss out on time at Yale.
That said, there seems to be universal agreement that time abroad ought to be encouraged. Summer abroad programs can provide the perfect opportunity for most students, and the University should increase its resources in this area. Yale should establish a special Summer Abroad Office, staffed jointly by IEFP and members of various academic departments.
Together, administrators and academics could compile a set of programs that ensure a quality experience both culturally and academically for all types of students. Science majors could work in foreign labs, for example, while economics majors could work at international banks. Furthermore, Yale should use the Summer Abroad Office to tap into alumni resources worldwide. The Association of Yale Alumni should establish a close partnership with the office, which would allow the University to demonstrate its global commitment to its alumni while simultaneously providing opportunities for undergraduates.
The committee should also work to improve international education at Yale by capitalizing on the University’s recent investments in international studies, such as the year-old Center for the Study of Globalization and the nascent distance learning alliance with Stanford and Oxford. The committee’s goal should be to bring the prestige and ability of Yale’s international scholars to the undergraduate curriculum. The “Studies in Grand Strategy” course taught this year though International Security Studies offers an example of how such cooperation can work.
Finally, the University should bolster its international offerings in all undergraduate disciplines, especially in interdisciplinary majors like ethics, politics and economics and international studies. Such programs currently suffer from a lack of tenured professors designated to teach undergraduates. To help these majors reach their tremendous potential, Yale should hire a number of senior-level faculty members specifically committed to teaching interdisciplinary undergraduate courses.
Such a hiring increase would be expensive, as would some of the other prescriptions, but in the academic review the University has a unique opportunity to chart its fourth century course in a new and important direction. The committee should take advantage of that chance.