This week President Levin is touring China again, meeting with government officials, appearing on Chinese talk shows, and making partnerships with Chinese universities as part of his highly-touted campaign to make Yale a truly global university.
The University should continue to make these partnerships, but needs to be clearer about what the goal of “globalizing” Yale is. Connecting Yale to the world is important, but the University should define how it plans to use those connections. The goal should not just be to broadcast the Yale name to the world, but also to ensure students here interact with it.
During the tercentennial year, Levin presented a plan for globalizing Yale in the next century and unveiled some impressive new initiatives, including the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and the Yale World Fellows Program. With those initiatives came a lot of flash — Strobe Talbott, Ernesto Zedillo, Kofi Anan and Bill Clinton. Having such high-profile statesmen on campus has been exciting, and perhaps even necessary, in generating the momentum and energy for a long-term globalization effort. But where the globalization initiatives have been most successful, we believe, have been the efforts to make Yale global on a day-to-day basis.
Take, for example, the commitment to international recruiting, highlighted by the 2000 announcement that Yale would, for the first time, extend its need blind admissions policy to international students. Or take the well-reasoned decision to separate the International Education and Fellowship Programs office from Undergraduate Career Services, a move that has given IEFP new momentum and identity. This restructuring has been accompanied by an increased commitment to study abroad, with the development of new Yale-affiliated summer study and internship programs abroad.
These more understated moves have been the right ones. It’s great to expose students — those who manage to finagle tickets, anyway — to global thinkers like Clinton and Anan, but it’s also important to ensure that students themselves become such global thinkers. A history major, for example, that requires two classes in American history, two in European history, and three for the rest of the world combined hardly seems to embrace the spirit of the global community the University is intent on emphasizing. More opportunities like “Grand Strategy” could be created to allow more students to participate in interdisciplinary, international study. The World Fellows Program is one underused resource for providing these opportunities, and we are happy that this year the program finally seems be making a concerted effort for visibility and integration into University life. But the best way to educate students to think about the world beyond Yale is to send them out into it. To that end, we think study abroad programs are in desperate need of further expansion; they should be made more accessible to students and include more programs in more locations worldwide. As important as it is to bring the world to Yale, it’s equally important to bring Yale — and its students — to the world.
When he unveiled his plans for globalization, Levin said the goals were two-fold: to increase Yale’s global recognition and to expose students to international ideas. These goals are not mutually exclusive, but we think the efforts so far have been more successful at the former than the latter. The University can certainly pursue both goals, but needs to better articulate its plans for and visions of a “global” Yale, and how we, as students, can participate.