The Yale Corporation is expected to give final approval this month to tenure two junior professors who were promoted to the senior faculty at the end of last semester.
Political science professor Jacob Hacker GRD ’00 and African American studies professor Elizabeth Alexander ’84 were approved for tenure by the Joint Board of Permanent Officers during the fall at the board’s most recent meeting. Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Hacker and Alexander are “high-impact scholars” whose work is widely read. About one of every four or five junior faculty members are promoted to tenure, Salovey said, and those who are tenured are prominent scholars as well as educators.
“Individuals promoted to tenure are very much stars in their fields,” Salovey said in an e-mail. “They are scholars and researchers with international impact who contribute in significant ways to the University’s educational mission.”
Alexander is an award-winning poet who has won three Pushcart Prizes for poetry and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, which is awarded for those who have “demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”
Alexander said she was attracted to Yale for its combination of scholarly and artistic resources. Yale’s Department of African American Studies is one of the best in the nation, she said, and its strong graduate programs in the fine arts make it a highly creative place.
“Yale is also a place where poets and artists have thrived over the generations,” Alexander said. “[That] made it clear to me that this is a place where all of the various aspects of what I do could really blossom.”
Hacker studies U.S. public policy and has published books on health care and the welfare state, with a book on risk and economic insecurity forthcoming this year. His most recent book, co-authored with University of California, Berkeley professor Paul Pierson, is titled “Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy.”
Hacker said Yale has been supportive of his research by providing him with time away from teaching and funding. The University’s Department of Political Science is comprised of scholars with a wide range of approaches and theoretical perspectives, Hacker said.
“Everyone is very collegial, and there’s a lot of collaborative research and thinking across the traditional sub-field boundaries,” he said.
Both Alexander and Hacker said they appreciated the chance to work with motivated and interested Yale undergraduates. Hacker teaches courses on inequality in the United States, the welfare state and comparative public policy.
“Both my graduate and undergraduate teaching has allowed me to talk about some of these policy issues with engaged students, and that’s been really invaluable,” he said.
Political science chair Peter Swenson said Hacker’s focus on public policy is a particular asset to the department. Hacker’s research on government social policy merits greater attention in the political science community, he said.
“He’s among the best in that neck of the woods,” Swenson said in an e-mail.
Robert Stepto, the chair of the Department of African American Studies, said he remembers Alexander from her years as an undergraduate, when she participated in poetry events.
Stepto said the decision to tenure Alexander is in keeping with the 2003 academic review, which called for Yale to look for professors who bridge the gap between artistic practice and the teaching of the arts.
“She really is a very special presence in the academy,” he said. “She is someone who brings the academy and the artistic creative world together in wonderful ways.”
Alexander teaches a course on contemporary African-American literature as well as a graduate seminar on rethinking the African-American literary canon.