Amid broad changes to the program, Emma Sky, senior fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, will be taking the helm of the Yale World Fellows Program beginning July 1.
In an announcement made earlier this month, University President Peter Salovey appointed Sky to oversee Yale’s signature global leadership development program, which provides fellowships to mid-career emerging global leaders. She will serve a three-year term and succeed current program director and School of Medicine professor Michael Cappello. As part of the leadership transition, the program will now become incorporated into the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and will be guided by a new advisory committee appointed by Provost Benjamin Polak.
Although senior administrators have heralded the new direction of the program, some former World Fellows have questioned the changes and called for greater transparency in explaining the decision-making.
“Moving the World Fellows into Jackson seems to me to make a ton of sense,” Director of the Jackson Institute Jim Levinsohn wrote in an email. “I think the World Fellows bring a lot to our campus community and with the integration into Jackson, I’m optimistic that the fellows’ contributions to Yale will further expand.”
Levinsohn said Sky was unanimously recommended by a search committee — which included faculty members and a former World Fellow — and then formally appointed by Salovey and approved by the Yale Corporation.
Before coming to Yale, Sky worked at senior levels for both the American and British governments, and she has accumulated experience that spans the fields of development, defense and diplomacy. As a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute, she lectures on Iraq and the Middle East.
“I’m an internationalist, a global citizen,” Sky wrote in an email. “I am really excited at the opportunity to work with world fellows who are passionate about what they do, and who seek to make the world a better place for all.”
Cappello, who declined to comment, served as director of the program for nine years, will no longer have a formal leadership role after his term ends in July.
Following the announcement of the changes, former World Fellows have voiced mixed reactions to the new direction. While many commend the qualifications of Sky, others have expressed concern over a perceived lack of dialogue in the decision and were disappointed in the departure of Cappello.
“To be frank, I don’t really understand why such changes have been made given that the program has been running well … the program staff are dedicated and experienced and the Yale community at large feels very positive about the program,” said 2013 World Fellow and Vice President of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation Wang Xingzui in an email.
According to Wang, the decision to move the World Fellows Program under the purview of the Jackson Institute and a new advisory program was made without consultation with senior World Fellows administrators and other World Fellows.
He said he feared that the program would lose its diversity of fellows because it may now only attract candidates involved in diplomacy. In addition, he urged the administration to keep the program independent and “unique,” rather than integrate it into the programs already under the Jackson Institute.
Saul Kornik, 2013 World Fellow and CEO and co-founder of Africa Health Placements, a social profit organization, also criticized the loss of Cappello’s leadership and said he believed it was likely that the program’s funding will be cut substantially. Kornik said that through conversations with current staff members, he believed that there will be significant reductions in personnel.
Still, Kamal Amakrane, 2012 World Fellow and head of the Office of the Joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, said he felt the University administration was making strong efforts to address the concerns raised by the World Fellows. Last week, Amakrane joined four other World Fellow alumni for a dinner on-campus with Sky, Levinsohn and Polak to address the criticisms and rumors that had been circulating among the fellows.
“At this stage, we are pleased with the appointment of Emma, pleased with the constructive engagement of the administration, pleased by the assurances of the administration and happy to see the enthusiasm from the other side to ensure the program continues to be a successful initiative both for Yale University and those who take part in the program,” Amakrane said.
Amakrane said he was reassured by the administration that the identity and independence of the program would be maintained and was pleased by the commitment of the provost to continue the fundraising efforts to ensure the future sustainability of the program.
The University plans to host a discussion in mid-February in which World Fellows would be invited to learn more about the changes and ask for further clarification, Amakrane said.
The World Fellows Program has been bringing diverse leaders from around the world to Yale’s campus since 2002, with an alumni body of nearly 250 Fellows from 81 countries.