University President Peter Salovey’s first year was a whirlwind — a $250 million gift, a push to raise another $80 million for two new residential colleges, a review and reorganization of Yale’s administrative structure and the appointment of three new deans.
Of course, he also had to get used to the job of president itself, which administration officials have described as so tough that no one could ever be fully prepared for it.
Now, Salovey is facing his “sophomore year,” as he said in an August email. To a great extent, his predecessor Richard Levin’s initiatives will continue to drive conversation on campus. But no longer new to the job, Salovey is looking to embark on his own initiatives to make his mark on Yale.
“There is always a balance to be struck between building on, sustaining and expanding existing priorities and working on more innovative projects,” Salovey said.
THE 800-STUDENT CHALLENGE
Perhaps the biggest existing priority currently on Salovey’s desk in Woodbridge Hall is the construction of two new residential colleges. The first expansion of Yale College since the late 1960s, the colleges will increase the student body by some 800 students, or 15 percent.
In June, the University completed its $500 million fundraising project for the colleges, which will be entirely funded by donors. But those funds alone — while enough for bricks and mortar — will not be enough to complete the vision, first set out over a decade ago, for a larger Yale College.
To do that, Salovey has to ensure that there is enough financial aid for 800 more students.
“Building our financial aid, especially as we anticipate the arrival of 800 additional students, will remain a priority,” Salovey said.
When asked about specific fundraising goals or strategies, however, University Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said that her office is “still working out the details.”
Yale’s current financial aid budget is $117 million per year. If the University were to keep the average financial award constant for the 800 new students, it would, in theory, have to be prepared to distribute an additional $17.55 million in financial aid per year by 2017, when the new students will arrive.
Salovey added that the push for financial aid is just part of a broader conversation — one that is occurring both at Yale and nationwide — about access to higher education for students from all walks of life.
In addition to financial aid, the University is faced with a myriad of other challenges caused by the creation of two new colleges. Among them is the question of integrating the new colleges, which are far removed from the traditional physical footprint of Yale College, into campus life.
Although administrators claim that the Yale College faculty, which grew significantly in the years leading up to the 2008 recession, has enough teachers to accommodate the 800 new students, the University will still need to contend with greater staffing needs. Additional challenges may include lecture-hall capacity and the number of discussion sections and teaching assistants.
Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith said that newly appointed Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, along with Salovey and Admissions Dean Jeremiah Quinlan, will play key roles in the expansion.
“We have about 18 months to really figure out the nuts and bolts of what’s going to be needed to open up those colleges,” Holloway said. “That really is the big agenda item.”
MORE LEARNERS, BETTER TEACHERS
While preparing for the influx of 800 more students, Salovey has also expressed an interest in making substantial improvements to teaching and learning at the University.
Yale, like all research universities, faces a dual mandate: to expand knowledge through groundbreaking scholarship and to pass that knowledge on to a new generation of students. At times, administration officials and students alike acknowledge, these mandates come into conflict when the best researchers fail to be the best teachers.
In promoting the launch of a new center for teaching and learning, Salovey — who himself won two teaching awards before moving into the University’s administration — has sought to bring the matter into focus.
“Teaching and learning are clearly a focus with the launch of the new University-wide Center for Teaching and Learning under the direction of Deputy Provost and Vice President for West Campus Planning and Program Development,” Salovey said.
The center, which will consolidate tutoring resources and provide instructional support for graduate students and faculty, will include the Teaching Center, the Graduate and Yale College Writing Center, the Center for Language Study, the Science and Quantitative Reasoning Center, the Center for Scientific Teaching, Educational Technologies and Yale Online. Provost Benjamin Polak announced the launch of the center in late August.
“This will provide graduate students and faculty with better opportunities for improving their teaching and incorporating new technologies into the classroom,” Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley said.
Highsmith added that the center “holds much promise for offering a wide array of resourcing and support for teaching across campus.”
Students interviewed expressed a broad array of hopes for Salovey’s second year, ranging from more engagement with students to a closer examination of the University’s approach to sexual misconduct.
Sarnak ’17, for instance, said she hopes Salovey expands his Africa initiative, which he first discussed during last October’s inaugural address.
“I would be really excited if we started to see more initiatives and joint programs on campus come out of that,” Sarnak said.
Kevin Sullivan ’18, meanwhile, said he would like to see Salovey focus more on environmental issues. At the same time, Sophia Charan ’16 said Salovey should work to improve campus resources for mental health.
Many students, though, had little familiarity with Salovey’s policies and even fewer opinions on them. For many of these students, the default hope was for an ever-more visible president.
“I got an email last week from Holloway about lunch,” said one student, referencing an opportunity for some students to eat with the new Yale College dean. “I’d like to see the same kind of engagement from Salovey.”
Still, many said they thought Salovey had made substantial strides in building a more accessible administration.
“This administration is already fairly accessible, thanks to the outgoing nature of the personnel at the upper levels of the university,” said Professor Wai Chee Dimock GRD ’82. “Every indication is that this trend will continue.”
AN ENTREPRENEURIAL YALE
One area in which Salovey and some students align, though, is entrepreneurship. Since discussing it in his inaugural address last October, Salovey has consistently expressed an interest in encouraging innovation at Yale and in New Haven.
“We must nurture innovation and entrepreneurship among our students and our faculty, as I mentioned in my inaugural address last year,” Salovey said. “I expect to work with my colleagues to find new ways to support our entrepreneurs and innovators, whose ideas improve people’s lives.”
He did not comment on exactly how he plans to do that.
Alan Zhang ’16 echoed Salovey’s focus on innovation, but did so with more urgency than the University president.
Suggesting that the University shift far more of its resources to STEM fields, Zhang said that “we’re not going to survive in this high-tech area unless we change.”
Zhang said changes would include putting more resources into supporting entrepreneurship and computer science. But at the broadest level, he said, Salovey needs to encourage Yale students to be less risk-averse at Yale and beyond.
Salovey took office on July 1, 2013.