Since Linda Lorimer, former vice president for global and strategic initiatives, retired last year, some administrators have argued that the University’s global strategy has become less coordinated.
Until April 2015, Lorimer’s role was to steer Yale on a path toward globalization. In recent years, University faculty have formed partnerships with hundreds of universities overseas, and the University as a whole has recently established major initiatives like the Yale Center Beijing and emphasized deeper engagement with Africa. University President Peter Salovey has chosen not to fill Lorimer’s vice president role, meaning his cabinet lacks an individual primarily charged with shaping the University’s global strategy. With Lorimer gone, organizations like the Office of International Affairs now report to University Provost Benjamin Polak. But his portfolio is much more wide-ranging than Lorimer’s was. Administrators interviewed disagreed on the impact of Lorimer’s cabinet-level position being eliminated: While some say it was a natural development as Yale’s global strategy matures, others argue that it has led to a less efficient operation.
“There was certainly more coordination when Linda Lorimer was still vice president for global initiatives. At this point, there is no point person for global at the cabinet level,” said David Bach, senior associate dean for executive MBA and global programs at the School of Management. “But more broadly, I would say that as a result of former [University President Richard Levin’s] and Vice President Lorimer’s successful efforts to make Yale more global, some of the larger academic units such as Yale College, the Law School, the SOM and the medical school built their own capacities for global engagement, effectively decentralizing global strategy.”
Decentralization of Yale’s global strategy has benefits and potential drawbacks, Bach said. On the one hand, he said, each professional school has the freedom to craft a plan specific to the school’s context, as well as to identify unique programs and partnerships. On the other hand — with the exception of Yale-NUS in Singapore — there are few global initiatives that involve the entire University, potentially diminishing Yale’s “visibility and impact” in some parts of the world, Bach added.
Lorimer, who was traveling, was unable to comment for this article.
Salovey said Yale’s international engagement stems primarily from faculty, adding that its global reach has only increased as a result.
“[Our internal programs] mostly function as distinct entities, but what binds them together is that they are mostly developed out of the strengths and interests of our faculty,” he said. “In other words, we have not said ‘Here are some interesting areas of scholarship — let’s build a partnership around them.’ We’ve instead said to our faculty: ‘Who among you wants to come together to build an international partnership?’ I would characterize the partnership strategy as largely bottom-up.”
While the University’s individual partnerships are in many ways separate, Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith said they collectively fit into Yale’s overall global strategy. She added that despite Lorimer’s retirement, Yale’s remains focused on areas like China, India and increasingly Africa. George Joseph, deputy director of the MacMillan Center, said while it is too early to fully understand the impact of Lorimer’s departure, he has noticed one key change: The responsibility to catalyze international efforts has increasingly fallen to the faculty.
“[Lorimer’s] retirement is absolutely a loss, because she was very helpful to have at the officer level for whom international affairs was their focus,” he said. “Admittedly, right now the Office of International Affairs and MacMillan report back to the provost, but for the provost, international affairs is one of the multitude of things he has to be concerned about and work on a day-to-day basis.”
Still, Highsmith said Polak’s jurisdiction over these programs makes sense because he is the chief academic officer of the University and global efforts are often academically focused. She added that when Lorimer began working on international efforts over a decade ago, the University’s global strategy was in its infancy.
Joseph agreed that it is only natural for Yale to have needed more centralized leadership 10 years ago. Back then, he said, the various schools of the University did not have the same capacity to engage globally as they do now.
Political science professor Ian Shapiro GRD ’83 LAW ’87, director of the MacMillan Center, said while Lorimer was “an incredibly good ally,” her departure has not had much effect on the center’s functions because of its focus on faculty. In contrast, Lorimer focused on building institutional infrastructure, he said.
“The creative energy comes from the faculty and the students, and no good research collaboration was ever designed by an administrator,” Shapiro said. “You have to lead from behind in a university. If the administrators start to define the intellectual mission, you’ll lose the creative energy of the faculty. The faculty have to own what you’re doing or it won’t work.”
Donald Filer, executive director of the OIA, commended Lorimer’s ability to coordinate Yale’s internal international efforts. But after her departure, Filer said these operations have not been disrupted.
Still, Filer said faculty partnerships have always been decentralized.
“There are over 1,000 members of the Yale faculty who work on various international projects all over the world. Many of those are their own research interests, or closely tied to courses they teach. There is nothing that says everyone has to be working on what everyone else is doing.”
Directors of various global initiatives interviewed agreed that collaborations spur from individuals’ own initiative, rather than from a top-down design.
Dan Murphy, program director of the Yale Center Beijing said the center has worked with many bodies such as the School of Music, the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Yale Young Global Scholars Program. The China Center at the Yale Law School also has an office at the YCB, Murphy, who is based in New Haven, said.
Therefore, Murphy pointed out, despite the center’s most immediate relationship to the SOM, it serves the entire University. Currently, the reporting line for YCB goes from Bach to SOM Dean Edward Snyder to Salovey and Polak. Bach said this arrangement exists because Salovey asked the SOM to set up and manage the center on behalf of the University.
Managing director of the YCB Carol Li Rafferty ’00, who is based in Beijing, said that the collaborations between the center and various Yale bodies are essentially “driven by people,” adding that her typical week at work involves close contact with different University bodies, such as the OIA and the Yale Office of Development.
Moreover, the collaborations are made easier because of her educational background at Yale and family ties to the University, Li said.
Ted Wittenstein, executive director of YYGS, agreed that collaborations have been driven by faculty and students. What made those collaborations possible is a shared interest in a specific region or subject matter, he added.
The MacMillan Center produces “The MacMillan Report,” an Internet show that showcases Yale faculty in international and area studies and their research in a one-on-one interview format.