Vice Provost for Science Initiatives Scott Strobel will replace Benjamin Polak as University Provost, according to a University-wide email from University President Peter Salovey Wednesday.
Strobel, who also serves as vice president for West Campus Planning and Program Development, will take the reins once Polak steps down at the end of this semester. During his time at Yale, Strobel has served in a variety of administrative roles, such as chair of the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department and deputy provost for teaching and learning. In his email, Salovey noted Strobel’s role in overseeing the renovations to the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, his contributions to the expansion of West Campus and his work as chair of the University Science Strategy Committee.
In an email to the News, Strobel said he is “honored and humbled,” to accept the position, which Salovey offered to him at the end of last week.
“[I feel] an equal mixture of excitement and intimidation,” Strobel wrote. “I know some parts of the University fairly well, but I will have a lot to learn … Yale’s mission is centered on research, teaching and practice … It is a grand and critical mission, particularly at this time where subject expertise has been marginalized.”
Strobel said that before he was selected for the position, he anticipated that he was in a group of “qualified people” under consideration. Salovey has identified improving Yale’s STEM research and teaching as his primary goal, and Strobel played a key role in developing a strategic plan for that vision. Some of the goals set by Strobel’s committee, the USSC, include building a consolidated institute for neuroscience and expanding laboratory space for quantum sciences, physical sciences and engineering.
Still, Strobel said he will work to bolster the University’s programs across all subject areas, rather than solely implementing the USSC’s goals.
In an email to the News, Polak said he is delighted to see Strobel succeed his post.
“Scott is a strategic thinker, a builder, a leader,” Polak wrote. “He has great vision and judgement. He is courageous and fair, ethical and firm. He holds everyone’s respect because he earns everyone’s respect. He has an uncanny ability to bring people together, to align people toward a common goal. He gets stuff done. Scott Strobel is the best person to be the provost of Yale. I am grateful to Scott for taking on the job.”
Strobel is currently the Henry Ford II Professor of MBB and a professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He earned his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology and joined the MBB department in 1995.
Vice President and Vice Provost for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis said Strobel made huge contributions to the educational mission of the university through his work on teaching and to its research mission through West Campus and the science strategy.
“He is also a warm and thoughtful person, and I look forward to working closely with him,” Lewis wrote in an email to the News. “He is in a great position to build on the accomplishments of Ben Polak’s seven years as provost.”
Chair of MBB Mark Hochstrasser told the News that the department’s community is “delighted” to hear that “one of [their] own” will be provost.
He added that Strobel has shown “great wisdom and administrative acumen,” through his work around campus and demonstrated these skills in his academic work.
“In MBB, we will of course miss his contributions to the daily life of the department,” Hochstrasser wrote in an email to the News. “But having a scientist of Professor Strobel’s talents in the provost position will be crucial for the realization of President Salovey’s vision for the University.”
Polak’s departure was initially announced in an Oct. 1 University-wide email, in which Salovey wrote that Polak will return to teach as the William C. Brainard Professor of Economics and professor of management.
In an email to faculty and staff, Polak said that his seven-year tenure was a “long stint,” as provost, and that turnover helps to generate new ideas.
“It’s good to try to step down at a time when things look pretty stable and good … You don’t want to step down when there’s a bump in the road,” Polak said in an interview with the News after his departure was announced. “I think the timing is right because [Yale] is in great shape right now, and it’s going in a great direction.”
Polak took the provost’s seat in January 2013 during a time of economic uncertainty for the University, brought on by the 2008 financial crisis. According to Salovey’s Oct. 1 email, several of Yale’s ongoing projects at the time — building two new residential colleges, revamping STEM infrastructure and recruiting faculty — slowed to a halt as a result. However, after Polak implemented massive cost-saving measures beginning the 2014–2015 school year, Yale’s deficit turned into a surplus, revitalizing the University’s plans.
Typically, a provost will move onto other university administrative roles such as president or chancellor. However, Polak explained in an interview with the News that he prefers to work “behind the scenes,” and therefore a more high-profile role would not best suit him.
In his spare time, Strobel practices woodworking, carving pens and “Yale Bowls” — dishes fashioned from trees grown on the University’s campus.
Valerie Pavilonis | firstname.lastname@example.org
This article has been updated to reflect the version published in print on Nov. 7.