Dawn Kim

In an effort to boost faculty diversity, the University is hosting five visiting professors under the Presidential Visiting Fellows initiative for the fourth year.

This year’s fellows, each distinguished in their respective fields, hail from programs and universities across the country — including the University of Arizona, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and University of Michigan. They have taken leave from their full-time positions to teach and conduct research here during the 2019-2020 academic year. Two of the scholars — visiting professor John Azumah and visiting associate research scholar Anthea Butler — will teach at the Yale Divinity School, and two will work in the physics department. Susan Stryker will be teaching in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department.

“Each year Chairs of [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] programs and departments nominate exceptional scholars and practitioners who will contribute to inclusive excellence for the Presidential Visiting Fellows program,” Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler said in an email to the News. “Whether they are with us for a semester or a year, Fellows become full members of our intellectual and campus communities who enrich our curriculum and enhance our conversations.”

In 2015, the University President’s office launched the Initiative for Faculty Excellence and Diversity and committed more than $50 million to fund faculty recruitment and retention. With the fund, the University welcomed 10 professors last year, 12 in the 2017-2018 academic year and 13 in the 2016-2017 academic year. Deans of different departments and graduate schools across the University may nominate scholars who they believe will cultivate a more robust and inclusive curriculum and community. While individual schools and departments contribute half the funds to pay a visiting professor’s salary, the initiative’s budget covers the other half.

The University’s 2015 diversity initiative also supports programs for graduate and professional students interested in pursuing academia.

The FAS Dean’s Office accepts applications for the Presidential Visiting Fellows program one year before the visiting professors’ start date, and they continue to receive nominations on a rolling basis in the spring.

Azumah, who is a theological scholar on Christian-Muslim relations, said his academic focus is deeply personal to him because of his Muslim upbringing. He said his decision to come to Yale came at the heels of a tragedy when his mentor and former Yale Divinity School professor Lamin Sanneh passed away last January.

Apart from teaching, Azumah will work with the Divinity School and the MacMillan Center to establish the Sanneh Institute, a program that conducts research on religion in Africa.

“As an African, it is incumbent upon me to honor Professor Saleh to come here for him and the Institute,” Azumah said.

For her part, Stryker previously visited Yale in 2015 to receive the Brudner Prize for her contributions to LGBT studies. Outside of teaching a course on trans history in North America in the fall, she hopes to organize talks and a spring symposium on gender ideology, Stryker said. She added that the University’s “liveliness to the intellectual life” and the opportunity to interact with students attracted her to Yale.

Visiting physics professor Shelly Lesher, who is on sabbatical from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, also said Yale is a “very exciting place” and an “intellectually stimulating community.” In the spring, she will teach a multidisciplinary seminar on the history of nuclear physics.

“People are more interested about the science when they understand the history and implications behind it,” Lesher said.

According to Gendler, the FAS Dean’s Office has received funding to host fellows since the program’s inception.

Emily Tian | emily.tian@yale.edu