An avid backpacker, William Segraves plans to spend time in the wilderness after retiring as associate dean of science education for Yale College, effective this January.
Fourteen years after Segraves arrived at the Dean’s Office and 10 years after he assumed his current position, his colleagues voiced sadness at his coming departure, noting his legacy of initiatives and reforms in science education. But Segraves said he is sure that the transitions in science education at Yale over the next several months, including changes in leadership appointments and the establishment of the Center for Teaching and Learning, will be “seamless” even after his departure.
“There isn’t much cellphone service in the wilderness,” Segraves said. “Even if [my colleagues] need me, they won’t be able to reach me. But they won’t need me — I gave them a test run this past summer.”
Segraves arrived at Yale in 1992 as a faculty member in the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department, and in 2004, he rose to his current position as associate dean, in which he oversees course development for science and quantitative reasoning classes, undergraduate research opportunities and tutoring programs in science and quantitative reasoning.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon, who described Segraves as “funny, quick, very considerate,” said he was sad to be losing an important colleague and friend. But, he added, he is confident in the future of science at Yale because of the initiatives that Segraves is leaving behind.
One of those initiatives was developing science courses aimed at non-science majors. When he first arrived at Yale, Segraves said, there were some complaints that the Biology Department was not as well integrated into the rest of the science community. Therefore, under his leadership, courses throughout the science department become more interdisciplinary, he said. For instance, Physics 170 — a course designed for students have little background in physics — integrates medical and biological sciences into its curriculum.
Fran Harris ’18, who is on the pre-med track, is taking “Mathematics for Biosciences.” She said it is unlike any course she took in high school.
“This class made me realize that organic, natural processes and structures also fit into a precise over-arching pattern,” Harris said. “Using math to analyze biology is more noticing a pattern that is already there, rather than creating a rigid, artificial pattern.”
Though he will be leaving the sciences at Yale more financially secure than when he arrived, Segraves said there were times during his career when receiving grants for undergraduate research proved particularly stressful. Over the past 15 years, there were at least three instances in which grant turnovers threatened to place programs like STARS — which provides research opportunities to students who are underrepresented in the sciences — in jeopardy.
“[Segraves] energetically worked to expand the number and variety of research opportunities for undergraduates, resulting in the retention of more undergraduates in science and quantitative majors,” wrote former Yale College Dean Mary Miller in a June email to the Yale Community announcing Segraves’s retirement.
Cell Biology professor and Assistant Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Carl Hashimoto will be taking on many of Segraves’s roles as assistant dean for science education in January, an email sent to members of the Yale College Dean’s Office announced on Tuesday.
Hashimoto said he is excited for the new role but is experiencing “some trepidation” at the thought of filling Segraves’s shoes. He added that he has been working closely with Segraves, who he has known for over 30 years, by sitting in on meetings with faculty in order to rise to the responsibilities seamlessly.
Hashimoto added that while he does not expect to make large changes to his new role, he wants to engage directly with students to find out their perspectives on science and QR courses, as well as help faculty discover ways to implement some of their innovative ideas for teaching.
Although Hashimoto will maintain his position as assistant dean of the graduate school, he said he has no problems “wearing multiple hats,” and his past experience with promoting science and research fellowships will be relevant and useful.
“I have the same interests and concerns in doing what is best for students, which translates very well,” Hashimoto said. “I think it’s a natural marriage of the two roles.”
Throughout his time as associate dean, Segraves also worked to make tutoring more available and accessible to all students — the use of peer tutor programs has tripled throughout his deanship. But Segraves’s successor will no longer be responsible for overseeing the tutoring programs in the Center for Science and Quantitative Reasoning, Gordon said.
Instead, the Center, which is currently located in the Dean’s Office, will be moving to the new Center for Teaching and Learning, said CTL Executive Director Jennifer Frederick. Announced in July, the CTL consolidates eight pre-existing programs for tutoring, writing, teaching and technology-enabled learning. In 2016, the eight programs will physically move to Sterling Memorial Library, and educators of the programs will be able to collaborate together.
Frederick said Segraves has been working diligently on the transition to the CTL since the announcement of his retirement. In the CTL, the science and quantitative reasoning areas will maintain their separateness, but tutors will be encouraged to collaborate. Frederick said that although they are still in the early phases of planning, her goal is to maximize student usage of tutors in the sciences by locating them in one “happening” place — unlike writing tutors, there is not a specific tutor for each subject in the sciences for every residential college.
With Segraves’s departure, Holloway said that the University’s “commitment [to science education] is unchanging.”
After Segraves departs, he hopes to become a student again, learning some physics and computer programming he never got to do when he was younger.
“I need to practice what I preach.”