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Aiming to paint a fuller picture of their scopes, two Yale institutions — the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Department of Geology & Geophysics — will change their names this July.

According to a press release on Saturday, the Yale Corporation and University President Peter Salovey voted to change the name of FES to the Yale School of the Environment, a change that will become official on July 1. Two days later, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler also announced the decision to change the name of the G&G Department to Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. While the name changes are not related, both units rebranded for similar reasons: the former sought to more accurately reflect the school’s mission, and the latter looked to better describe its academic interests.

“The name change really conveys a shift that was already present at the school and is now permeating popular culture. There’s increasing awareness and desire to take action on the climate crisis and address interrelated environmental, social and economic inequality,” Franz Hochstrasser FES ’19 said. “My focus at Yale was on starting a sustainable fintech platform to empower anyone to create or invest in climate solution projects, like community-scale solar. Many current students have similarly varied interests across a broad spectrum and the new name reflects that shift.”

In addition to the change from FES to YSE, Salovey and the Corporation also voted to create the Forest School at the Yale School of the Environment to recognize the role of forestry in the school’s history and the enduring importance of the program. In the press release, FES Dean Indy Burke said that she requested this name change after a school-wide strategic planning process. She added that the renamed Yale School of the Environment will best communicate the breadth and depth of the unit’s work.

Also slated to undergo a name change this summer is the Department of Geology & Geophysics.

“I am delighted that the department is adopting this new name,” wrote Jeffrey Brock, FAS Dean of Science and dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in an email statement to the News. “The name change reflects the growing diversity of the questions that our faculty ask and answer about the dynamics and physics of the Earth and other planets. Moreover, it recognizes how Yale’s Earth and planetary scientists make discoveries that support the future of life on the Earth.”

G&G professor Jun Korenaga, who has taught at Yale since 2003, told the News that he has advocated for a name change for over a decade. Even though Korenaga studies geophysics, many of his colleagues in the department do not consider themselves geologists or geophysicists, which can lead to confusion.

The name “Earth and Planetary Sciences,” Korenaga said, covers more of the department’s disparate academic interests and puts the University more in line with peer institutions, whose analogous departments have largely ditched the “geology” title in favor of a more comprehensive name.

“[The change] makes perfect sense,” he said. “We are very excited.”

While the dictionary describes “geology” merely as the study of Earth, G&G professor David Evans said that the word may conjure up images of dusty men digging in the desert, holding a rock and examining its layers. And even though some professors in the department, in fact, do this type of work, he said that many do not. The change could give the public a more accurate view of the department’s work, he added.

This is not the first name change for the G&G department. Professor Emeritus Robert Gordon remembers studying in what was then dubbed the Geology Department in as early as 1949. A field with significant collaborations with other disciplines, the Geology Department added “geophysics” to its name in the 1960s, Gordon told the News. This new name change is proof that the department’s “great strength” of interdisciplinary interaction has continued, he explained.

“All this has made for a great department with wide intellectual horizons,” he wrote in an email to the News. “So, it is good news.”

Still, some say it is difficult to encapsulate the department’s broad research interests in a pithy title. Even though G&G professor Ronald Smith told the News he is “happy” with the name change, “there is no single short name that fully represents all the areas we cover.”

The Yale Forest School was founded in 1900.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu

Matt Kristoffersen | matthew.kristoffersen@yale.edu

  • Awal

    So if Geology is now going to be “Earth and Planetary Sciences” what are the folks over in the Astronomy and Astrophysics department going to have to start calling themselves?