Dozens of high-profile individuals descended upon Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum last week, including six U.S. Cabinet secretaries, Vice President Joe Biden and University President Peter Salovey.
Salovey travelled to Switzerland to participate in the forum from Wednesday to Friday of last week, in what has become an annual tradition for Yale’s president. Several other University faculty members attended the forum, including Economics professors Aleh Tsyvinski and Robert Shiller, Angel Hsu GRD ’13, an assistant professor at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Stefan Simon, the director of Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Simon said Yale launched an alliance with the Smithsonian Institution while in Davos about the preservation of cultural heritage, a subject Salovey said the University highlighted across several events at the forum.
“One of my most important roles as president is to bring the outstanding research and scholarship of our faculty to the world’s attention,” Salovey said. “What I look for in particular are research themes that bring together Yale scholars across schools and disciplines, as well as ones where Yale has particular expertise. I feel one of those areas is the preservation of cultural heritage.”
Simon said questions about the preservation of cultural heritage are as much related to the future as they are to the past, as cultural heritage provides certain groups of people with a source of identity, economic growth and reconciliation. He said that Yale has pledged to become a leader in the study of the preservation of cultural heritage, so the administration chose to present it in Davos.
Eileen O’Connor, Yale vice president for communications, added that Yale is uniquely positioned to take the lead in researching the subject.
“There are aspects of cultural heritage that can be informed by just about every one of the schools at Yale, from the divinity school to the architecture school to the school of management to the school of forestry,” she said. “It really is an issue where Yale is uniquely qualified to lead, because Yale is at its core a place where the humanities and the sciences come together in such an interesting way.”
Chief of Staff to the President Joy McGrath said in addition to discussing the preservation of cultural heritage, Salovey held conversations about Yale’s research in artificial intelligence and ways to enhance water conservation in a water-scarce world. McGrath added that Salovey also moderated a public panel about the use of big data in decision-making and met with world leaders to discuss Yale’s mission of educating the next generation of pioneers, though the specifics of his schedule remain confidential.
Salovey said he had three major goals while in Davos: to amplify the research and scholarship of Yale faculty, to participate in the Global University Leaders Forum — a community of 25 university leaders — and to meet with members of the Yale community, especially alumni and parents.
O’Connor said Salovey can meet with a large number of donors while in Davos, requiring less time and money than separate appointments. She added that highlighting the preservation of cultural heritage served as a “curtain-raiser” in the sense that it began a discussion that will be continued at the Global Colloquium of University Presidents. The colloquium will be held at Yale in April and attended by roughly 30 university leaders and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations.
Salovey said the WEF gave Yale the opportunity to refine its presentation of the topic before the colloquium.
“I thought at Davos we could present some of that expertise and get input from a very international and sophisticated audience, and that it would help us clarify the most interesting Yale findings to highlight at the global colloquium in front of the [secretary general] of the UN in April,” Salovey said.
Pilar Montalvo, director of administrative affairs at the Office of the President, said that while Woodbridge Hall prefers to limit Salovey’s travel while Yale is in session, the office has formed a communication structure that includes calls, emails and even texts.
Though the WEF requires Salovey to leave campus during the academic year, Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith said it is well worth the trip.
“President Salovey and President Levin before him have participated in the World Economic Forum in order to initiate partnerships, share best practices and expand the reach of our mission,” Highsmith said. “Yale is a global university and the World Economic Forum is an excellent way to maintain Yale’s role in the global higher education network.”
The WEF was founded in 1971.