This fall, Yale welcomed nine Presidential Visiting Fellows — professors and lecturers hailing from other universities — to campus as a part of the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative.
As the program enters its third year, this year’s fellows hail from universities in the United States, Canada, Brazil and the Netherlands. Visiting scholars, who are invited to join the program, take time away from their home institutions to assume year-long academic roles on campus. This year’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences fellows boast expertise in the fields of linguistics, sociology, African American Studies, History of Science and Medicine, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Political Science and Physics. One fellow will also teach at the Yale Law School.
The Provost’s Office covers half the cost for each visitor while the remaining portion of the salary stems from the sponsoring school, which this year consists of either the Faculty of Arts and Sciences or the Law School, according to Tamar Gendler, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
“In the FAS, we reach out to all departments and programs and invite them to nominate potential candidates,” said Gendler. “The FAS Dean’s office selects from among those nominations, and advances them to the provost’s office for funding … Faculty in the PVF program are selected because they bring diversity and excellence to our community.”
The program, which launched in the 2016-2017 academic school year, was part of a broader University-wide faculty diversity effort announced in the fall of 2015, during a period of heated discussions regarding race on campus. President Peter Salovey and Provost Ben Polak announced a five-year initiative and promised more than $50 million in resources designed to bolster “excellence and diversity of our faculty University wide,” according to the statement released by the Office of the President in fall of 2015. The institution of the Presidential Visiting Scholars program comprised part of the Provost’s Faculty Development Fund, which pledges to provide $25 million in resources over five years aimed at diversifying the faculty and contributing to strategic University areas of interest.
Still, Zoe Todd, one of the fellows in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said she was grateful to the students “who keep working so hard to hold Yale accountable.” Her year away from Carlton University in Canada provides a rare opportunity to decrease her administrative load, she added. As an indigenous scholar with roots in the Métis Nation, she and other “non-settler” professors bear an increased load to “decolonize the university,” in addition to their academic responsibilities.
In addition to teaching expectations, she also hopes to complete her book –– tentatively titled Fishy Futures –– which examines human relationships and responsibilities to fish in the Later Winnipeg Watershed during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Another international fellow, a visiting assistant lecturer of linguistics, James Crippen also hails from Canada where he was completing his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia. For Crippen, who carries ethnic ties to the Tlingit tribe, Yale’s attraction stemmed from the resources offered by the University as well as the chance to work with other nations found in the United States.
“There’s actually research … that was done on the early 20th century that is here in archives,” said Crippen. “Yale’s actually becoming an important school for a more general study of Native American people.”
Crippen cited the Native American Cultural Center as an unusual resource which provides a space in which Native American students can converse and work with one another.
Agnes Mocsy, a visiting physics professor, echoed Todd’s sentiment. As she enters her second year on campus, she said her time at Yale is “an honor” and “a luxury.” The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she is based, granted her a year-long leave to return to Yale, where she had been elected as a Fellow of the American Physics Society in 2016.
“For me moving away from the familiar provided a stimulating, new inspiration, allowing my creativity to release unobstructed. There was no doubt in my mind that if I have a chance to do more such explorations I would certainly embrace it,” Mocsy said.
Last year, Yale hosted 12 Presidential Visiting Fellows.
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