Yale’s global strategy takes ground-up approach
Senior administrators indicate that the University is taking a step back from larger global strategy initiatives, instead focusing on smaller, faculty-led projects.
Tim Tai, Photography Editor
Since its most recent global strategy report in 2019, Yale is shifting its international focus from administrative-led initiatives to smaller faculty-led projects.
The University, which in the past decade has prioritized several high-profile global strategy projects, including Yale-NUS, the Africa Initiative and most recently the Jackson School for Global Affairs, has not yet announced plans for any new projects on such a scale.
According to Steven Wilkinson, the new Vice Provost of Global Strategy, the University does not have any “big” global initiatives on its agenda, although he will work with faculty to develop a plan for the near future.
“Global strategy doesn’t talk down,” Wilkinson told the News. “It really is a product of discussions with members of the [administrative] faculty with people in the schools about what they’re interested in doing, so Yale can help them do more of it.”
Wilkinson took over the role from former President of Yale-NUS, Pericles Lewis, who will serve as the new Dean of Yale College.
Wilkinson explained that most schools and centers at the University generally operate as an individual “unit,” led by a director, when it comes to its international strategy. However, such units often collaborate with others if they intend to broaden their audience and “forge links.” They also frequently contact the Office of International Affairs when they need help with projects.
Wilkinson told the News that Yale’s international reach intersects with various disciplines, citing the Yale School of Public Health’s international COVID-19 response as well as international development research conducted by the economics department. Because of this, Wilkinson said the University is looking to strengthen its global strategy plans with unique, diverse people, from “artists, activists [and] politicians.”
“We don’t want [just] this one kind of person coming in,” Wilkinson said. “We want people who are going to stretch all of our understanding about the international world.”
This approach to global strategy marks a shift from larger initiatives led by administration over the past decade. Yale’s most recent global strategy plan, which was adopted in Dec. 2019, listed the University’s “aspirations” to invest resources in its large projects, including Yale-NUS, the Africa Initiative and the Jackson Institute. While the Jackson School for Public Affairs officially opened its doors this fall, Yale has not announced any new plans for collaborations or global projects.
Yale-NUS was a large-scale collaboration between Yale and the National University of Singapore which opened its permanent campus seven years ago. In Aug. 2021, NUS announced the closure of Yale-NUS in 2025. Lewis has previously said that there are no current plans for a campus-building project of a similar scale in the works.
The Africa Initiative, which was launched by President Peter Salovey in 2013, has continued with its collaborations. While the senior administration initially placed great emphasis on expanding its efforts such as through the hiring of a “point person” for the Africa Initiative, a more recent statement to the News noted that at least at the School of Medicine, relationships with African countries was a result of “individual faculty partnerships.”
Over the last year, it has been students and faculty — not administration — who have launched many of the University’s newest initiatives that address international affairs.
Asia Neupane, the program director for the European Studies Council, told the News in an email that a graduate student Maksimas Milta GRD ’23 reached out to program faculty about organizing a talk with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. Landsbergis met with Salovey and students on Monday.
After speaking to several members of the department, Milta described the response toward his suggestion as supportive and said that there was “significant effort” put into making his idea a reality.
In general, the European Studies Council makes decisions about events and speakers in collaboration with the chair and faculty directors of specific programs within the council — including the Baltic Studies Program and EU Studies Program. It does not, however, necessarily always consult with the administration.
Staff at the Schwarzman Center also frequently plan arts events around international themes.
Jennifer Newman DRA ’11, the associate artistic director of the Schwarzman Center, told the News that she thinks of Yale as a community that is “global” in nature. Incorporating the arts into Yale’s international strategy can help Yale build relationships with a “global industry” of artists and presenters who serve to “promote culture,” Newman said.
“I could see the Schwarzman Center being a place for international artists who want to come [to the United States] because it allows them to be in conversation with the thinkers and the learners and the makers here on campus,” Newman said.
The center’s latest performer, Toto Kisaku, is a Congolese playwright who wrote a one-man play entitled “Requiem for an Electric Chair” following his persecution in the Congo. His play touches on international themes — including criticism of the Congolese government, who exiled him, after which he received political asylum in the United States in 2018.
Kisaku told the News that Yale has been able to use the arts as an opportunity to raise international issues.
“Yale is [a] platform that can explore those kinds of topics and inform the world about what’s going on [outside] of the US,” Kisaku said.
Approximately 22 percent of the Yale University student body is international.
Correction, 9/23: This article has been updated to reflect that while the Schwarzman Center supports Yale’s academic mission, it is not an entity which contains faculty.