The Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs has decided to implement a series of changes to its undergraduate major based on input from the Global Affairs Student Affairs Committee.
The changes were announced in an April 22 email from the Director of Undergraduate Studies Nuno Monteiro to the 11 students who served on the committee. Student feedback emphasized the need for cultural changes within Global Affairs, noting that the Jackson Institute focuses more heavily on graduate students than on undergraduates. As a result, beginning this fall, the Jackson Institute will implement a pre-registration system for seminars for Global Affairs students, allocate funds for undergraduate student activities and conduct information events to attract a more diverse pool of applicants to the major.
Students interviewed said they were glad to see the proposed changes and have their input taken into consideration.
“I’ve served on the student advisory committee for three years now, and this is the first time I’ve actually ever seen follow-up to the recommendations that we’ve provided,” said Andi Peng ’18, a member of the committee. “There’s definitely a culture change that needs to happen with the major, but it’s good to see the program heading in the right direction.”
In his email, Monteiro said next year’s DUS, Sigga Benediktsdottir, will oversee the implementation of the changes. Monteiro did not respond to requests for comment.
A pre-registration system will allow Global Affairs students to apply to seminars in other departments that currently allow pre-registration, according to Monteiro’s email. He also wrote that a “generous but limited” amount of funds for student activities, available by application, will be set aside to “foster the development of a Jackson undergraduate culture.”
James Levinsohn, director of the Jackson Institute and a professor of economics and management, praised the changes, though he was not involved in the discussions about them. Regarding Jackson’s undergraduate culture, he said there is a strong sense of community among graduate students that he would love to see extended to undergraduates.
“It’s more of a challenge since by the time undergraduates join Jackson in their junior year, they often have pretty established communities in their college and elsewhere,” Levinsohn said. “Providing resources to try to move the needle on this seems like an effort worth trying.”
While Monteiro’s email said the major will offer more “information events” as part of an increased effort to attract applicants from a variety of backgrounds, Levinsohn said the goal is not necessarily to make the major more “accessible.” He added that he thinks the major encompasses a “wonderfully diverse” group of students.
“We don’t have the resources to take more than the roughly 50 students we currently accept, so while I would love to offer an undergraduate major that was not selective, that’s just not in the cards at present,” Levinsohn said.
While the members of the committee said they were pleased to see steps being taken in this direction, they also voiced concerns about the implementation of the new policies and spoke to a need for deeper changes within the major.
Jinchen Zou ’18, a member of the committee, said that while the committee was a good way to solicit feedback from students, she hopes that more voices will be included in the future. She also said that it is unclear what the changes will actually look like.
“It’s important to note that policy change is one thing, but what really matters is the implementation,” Zou said.
Sam Savitz ’17, another member of the committee, said that he had mixed feelings about the change, adding that he was concerned that the applicant pool diversification changes were not specific enough. Savitz said the committee suggested doing information sessions at Yale’s four cultural centers, but that he was worried that nothing further will be done.
Committee member Stella Shannon ’18 said that while she was excited to learn the changes had been approved, there were many other suggestions from the student committee that did not make it into the plans.
“Naturally, those changes of least resistance are those which received administrative priority,” she said. “This is problematic because they are, perhaps, not truly the most important changes that should be made.”
The students interviewed said that in the future they would like to see more substantial changes to the major, some of which were discussed by the committee. According to Shannon, these changes include restructuring poorly-rated core classes, eliminating the two tracks within the major and changing the capstone project process.
“I hope that the administration considers taking on the project of making changes in these crucial areas in the near future, because what may entail a higher cost on their end will certainly result in much higher rewards for the student cohort,” she said.
The Global Affairs major was created in 2010.