Quinn Lewis

University President Peter Salovey’s cabinet — composed of academic deans, University-wide vice presidents and the provost — will soon welcome five new faces.

Searches are currently underway to hire replacement deans for the Schools of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Art and Public Health, as well as the inaugural vice president for communications and senior vice president for operations. Salovey said he expects the new dean of art to be announced this semester and the other two deans to be announced by the end of second semester. The timing of the vice-presidential announcements is more uncertain, he said.

While deans’ and vice presidents’ responsibilities differ, together they make up Salovey’s cabinet — a body that meets with him at least once a month and has two to three daylong retreats per year. In selecting members of his cabinet, Salovey said he has four major criteria.

“I like cabinet members who are first and foremost experts in their domain — we are not going to compromise core expertise,” Salovey said. “Second, I like people who are willing to speak out and are not afraid to challenge my views or the provost’s views. Third, I like cabinet members who have some emotional intelligence, because so much of working in a mission-driven environment like a university involves building consensus, persuading people of one’s positions and managing teams. I also really want people who can collaborate with each other.”

Salovey established the 25-person cabinet upon assuming the presidency in July 2013, calling it an “academic brain trust” whose purpose was to bring University leaders together to foster communication between top-level officials and the deans of Yale’s various schools, as well as to discuss large-scale policy issues and the grander University mission. Prior to its creation, there existed a Deans’ Cabinet and Vice Presidents’ Cabinet, but the two bodies did not formally collaborate.

While Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith said having five senior searches at once is unusual, she dispelled the idea that the upcoming changes are a result of Salovey wanting to install his own generation of campus leaders.

“None of the positions have been filled as a result of the president deciding to clean house,” she said. “They are all on the basis of attrition … It’s unusual that we have so many positions changing at one time, but it’s just coincidental.”

Interviews with Salovey, administrators and faculty indicate that the search processes — all of which are being coordinated by Highsmith — for vice presidents and deans differ slightly. While faculty-run committees are leading the searches for the three new deans, outside firms are taking charge in hunting for the inaugural vice presidents for communications and operations. The results of both will further shape Salovey’s leadership team.


The ongoing searches for the three deanships follow the recent hiring of new deans of architecture and nursing. Paul Cleary, the current dean of the School of Public Health, will step down at the end of his term in June 2016 but remain at Yale, while Dean of Forestry and Environmental Studies Peter Crane will leave Yale at the end of this academic year to become the inaugural president of Oak Spring Garden Foundation —  an estate that includes gardens, as well as a library of landscape history and plant science. Robert Storr, the dean of the School of Art, will also be leaving his deanship by the end of this year.

Highsmith said searches for deans involve a search advisory committee composed of a chair and five to nine faculty members drawn both inside and outside the specific school. Committees begin by speaking with students, faculty and alumni groups during a “listening” phase through which committee members outline the characteristics the dean in question should possess. Highsmith said the committee then embarks upon its most time-consuming responsibility: using contacts, peers and professionals to gather the names of potential candidates. The committee interviews 10 to 20 individuals, after which it recommends three to five to Salovey. Salovey then conducts his own set of interviews and makes a decision, Highsmith said.

“The president may ask other people on campus to meet with the candidates,” Highsmith said. “For example, the provost almost always meets candidates for deans. Other deans might as well. But ultimately it’s his decision. He might bring a candidate back two or three times.”

Faculty involved in the searches all spoke positively about the search process, but others questioned the committee’s transparency and expressed their own views about what attributes prospective candidates should possess.

According to Highsmith, the search committee for a new dean of public health is currently in its listening phase, led by Professor Susan Busch, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management.

Professor of public health Heping Zhang said he believes the selection of the committee’s members should have been more transparent.

“There was no discussion as to who should be on the committee — we just one day got an email about who was on it,” Zhang said. “But if we take this dean position seriously, then we should take the formation of the committee seriously too. The rationale behind the selection of the committee should be clear — do those people have a vision for the school, are they more respected by the school, do they represent the diversity of the school?”

Zhang said he would like the new dean of public health to first and foremost be a respected scholar, and secondly to possess strong management and leadership skills. He added that were he and other faculty to share their views with the committee, he would like to receive assurances that those views are being taken seriously.

While Busch said she has no insight into how the members of her committee were chosen, she said Robert Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine, was the one who asked her to serve as chair. She added that while soliciting the opinions of all public health faculty members is not a stated goal of the committee, she still sent an email to all faculty in an effort to be inclusive. Meanwhile, she said, the committee is moving forward in its search.

“It is hard to predict how many finalists there will be, but I expect we will invite two to five candidates to campus this winter,” she said. “We have already met with several groups of YSPH faculty and spoken or met with many individuals across the University. We still plan to meet with YSPH students and a group of alumni this fall. These discussions focused on opportunities in public health research and education both generally and specific to Yale.”

Cleary said other than meeting with the search committee to discuss his position and the future of the School of Public Health, he is not involved in the search. He added that the search committee has the ability to look at the school with a fresh perspective and form its own judgments.

The chair of the search committee for the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has not yet been chosen, Highsmith said, as the search is just beginning.

Oswald Schmitz, professor of population and community ecology at FES, said he would like the committee for FES to search for individuals who are not only respected scholars, but who are also trained in environmental policies and appreciate the importance of all sciences. He said while Crane is an excellent scholar, he lacks a strong understanding of environmental policy, as his training focused in botany.

Schmitz added that whomever the committee selects will face various challenges exacerbated by the unusually varied interests of those at the school.

“It’s probably one of the hardest deanships at Yale because we have such a broad constituency of scholars to begin with and an even broader constituency of students. The new dean needs to be someone able to juggle many balls, keep them in the air — it’s a challenging job.”

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, director of graduate studies in graphic design, is serving as chair of the search committee for the School of Art. She said committee members were drawn from the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as from the Yale University Art Gallery. She added that the committee is working to solicit the opinions of all members of the art community.

“As part of our work, we invited the School of Art community — faculty, students, staff and alumni — to offer input about the future of the school,” she said. “Our committee participated in meetings open to all faculty, and one with all staff and another one open to all students as well.”


The University is also working to select the inaugural holders of two vice-presidential positions in communications and operations. Salovey said the searches are in their initial stages, including preliminary vetting, and that their timelines are flexible. Because he wants to find “the right people,” Salovey said he is in no rush to make hiring decisions.

Unlike in the searches for the new deans, Highsmith said the University hired search firms to identify prospective vice-presidential candidates, as it did in the search for a new general counsel last year. The search consultants first met with Highsmith and Salovey to discuss their visions for the roles, the types of people they want and how those people can best be identified, she said. As the firms identify candidates, they will gather background materials and assess their interest and suitability for the position, after which Highsmith said she will interview the candidates while updating Salovey. Highsmith and the firms will then present a list of finalists to Salovey who will conduct interviews of his own and ask other University officials to do the same before making final decisions.

Traditionally, the top communications position at Yale has been the chief communications officer. Elizabeth Stauderman filled the role from 2012 until last spring when she accepted the position of vice president for communications at the University of Rochester. Salovey said her departure was the only “surprise” of recent top-level changes and that he would have been happy to work with her. Stauderman did not respond to a request for comment.

The goals of establishing a vice president for communications are to increase strategic thinking and to have a member of his cabinet focused on honing Yale’s image, Salovey said.

“We operate in an environment that is very competitive for getting the very best faculty and students,” Salovey said. “So we have to be mindful about how we represent Yale, how we position Yale, how we enable faculty and potential faculty and students. I’m confident we could do that in a better way. I think you need a person who is in charge of communications -— a chief of communications — who is sitting at the table with the rest of the cabinet in order to do that.”

Highsmith said that while debating whether to establish a vice president for communications, she and Salovey examined the leadership structures of peer institutions, most of which had such a position. They decided to create one at Yale to be competitive with those universities and to convey the importance of communications to the overall functioning of Yale.

The new senior vice president for operations will have authority over all business-related areas of the University, including finances, budget and business operations. Establishing a vice-presidential position in this area reflects the increasing complexity of the operations of the University, Highsmith said.

“We want to be able to attract someone who is really outstanding, who can fit well in an academic culture, while still maintaining an endless focus on efficiency and the bottom line,” she said.