Globalization is not a choice; it is a fact of life. To take full advantage of the opportunities it offers — and to minimize some of its risks — is the challenge faced by our country and others in this third millennium. And to study and try to understand and convey the subtle substance of the multi-faceted dimensions of that challenge to our students as well as to the world at large is the task of our great university as it enters its fourth century.
Yale President Richard Levin has clearly seized on the internationalization of Yale as a key element of what he hopes to leave behind, building on what his administration has already accomplished in terms of balancing the budget, repairing Yale’s infrastructure and improving town-gown relations. I have just returned from Mexico where, as in China last year, a Yale delegation, headed by its president, reiterated our intention to become a major player in the international arena.
So what does it mean to become a truly international university? It means fully exploiting Yale’s substantial existing assets for the task at hand as well as innovating in exciting new directions. I am, of course, biased, but I consider the institution I head, the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, a key instrument for studying the complexities of our ever-shrinking globe — from the many dimensions of economic interdependence to the interaction of cultures — and conveying them to Yale’s students. Currently, more than 150 Yale faculty members are engaged in comparative interdisciplinary studies — of genocide, slavery and abolition, the relationship between economic growth and human development, the mysteries of migration, diasporas, and the future of the nation-state under siege from above and below. All of this research and all the related conferences — from humble brown bags to noted speakers (totaling more than 500 events annually) — feed back into YCIAS’ teaching programs, including our flagship international studies program, along with several free-standing area studies majors in Yale College. It is my hope and expectation that these internationally-focused teaching programs will be further strengthened and expanded as a result of the overall review of the Yale College curriculum Levin has asked Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead to head.
Other parts of Yale have also been gearing up for the expanded role the University will be playing internationally in the years ahead. This includes the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, which, under Dean James Gustave Speth’s leadership, is increasing its international focus. The same is true of the Yale School of Management and the Yale Law School, among others. With the help of the Consultative Group on International Activities, whose membership includes all internationally-involved deans and directors, we intend to work together in exploring joint opportunities for enhancing Yale’s international presence in the classroom and in the world at large.
While expanding existing structures, Levin has also added significant new initiatives which will help place Yale firmly and visibly in the international arena. Possibly most important is the decision to extend need-blind admissions to international students, making it possible to admit everyone on the basis of merit, not ability to pay. Second, Levin has created three incremental professorships, distinguished by their description as both international and interdisciplinary, which lie at the borders of traditional departments and schools and are open to joint appointment procedures. These professors, recruited by YCIAS, will provide much-needed senior strength to Yale’s internationalization efforts. Moreover, Levin created the World Fellows Program, whose first 17 members — selected from 500 applicants — are due to arrive in New Haven this fall. The intention of this program is to annually select 15 to 18 presumptive future world leaders and expose them to special courses and to Yale faculty and students, as well as to each other.ÊFinally, under the YCIAS family, Yale has established the Center for the Study of Globalization, which will serve as a link between academia and world affairs, raising Yale’s visibility and its impact on the way statesmen and public intellectuals view the various dimensions of globalization. As the class of 2002 and future Yale classes graduate, it is not only our hope but our expectation that the global university we are building will serve you well as you endeavor to build careers, raise families and take your place in our ever more complicated and ever-shrinking globe.
Gustav Ranis is the director for the Yale Center for International and Area Studies