Yale News

Last week, the University announced the creation of a new position in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office — the Director of Strategic Projects — who will oversee the University’s faculty-related projects including plans to support professors in their early careers and the implementation of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences’ diversity initiatives. 

Professor of applied physics Peter Schiffer will serve in the new role, which is the first new FAS administrative position created since 2015. The new position was created in response to requests from science faculty members, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Tamar Gendler said. Schiffer has no designated responsibilities but will address needs as they arise, such as disruptions to junior faculty researchers during the pandemic and coordinating efforts to nominate FAS faculty for national awards.

“I’m delighted that Peter Schiffer is joining the FAS leadership team,” Gendler wrote to the News. “With his nuanced understanding of what faculty need in order to succeed as researchers and teachers, Peter will play a key role in helping the FAS grow and flourish in the coming years.”

The appointment was announced Nov. 17 in an email to faculty. Schiffer will begin the role on Dec. 1.

Schiffer is currently the director of graduate studies in the applied physics department and is also appointed as a professor of physics. He will retain both of those roles in addition to his new position. As a former deputy provost for research, he oversaw logistics for the Yale Science Building that opened in 2019.

The Director will maintain a portfolio of projects that Gendler said will address a range of faculty issues. For example, Schiffer will soon begin interviewing faculty members in the early stages of their careers to design appropriate support for junior faculty members who had their research interrupted by the pandemic. 

“The possible range of strategic projects is quite broad,” Schiffer wrote in an email to the News. “The specific projects will vary, but they will likely involve engaging with many other faculty members in FAS.”

Schiffer will also be tasked with the coordination of efforts to nominate faculty for national honors. Schiffer’s role is also designed to support Dean of Diversity and Faculty Development Larry Gladney in implementing the FAS’ unit plan for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Gladney wrote to the News that he is “very pleased” that Schiffer will join the office’s leadership team.

Schiffer previously held administrative positions at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Penn State University. He is also a senior fellow of the Association of American Universities and a member of the Council of Representatives of the American Physical Society.

Still, Biology professor Joel Rosenbaum criticized the new appointment, calling it a “slap in the face” to faculty who have pushed for limiting the growth of new administrative positions and saying that the role’s duties are too vague. 

In response, Gendler emphasized that the position is a one-day-a-week voluntary position, describing the role as “informal.” She added that Schiffer will remain a full member of his department and continue to engage in research and teaching and will have no physical office or staff designated to his position.

The FAS Dean’s Office was created in 2011.

Isaac Yu writes about Yale's faculty and academics. He lays out the front page of the print edition, edits the News' Instagram and previously covered transportation and urban planning in New Haven. Hailing from Garland, Texas, he is a Berkeley College sophomore majoring in American Studies.