Tim Tai, Photography Editor

The University’s top priorities this year include increasing diversity, equity and inclusion within the Yale community, fundraising and investing in health-related academic initiatives, according to University President Peter Salovey.

Salovey outlined the University’s academic and financial priorities for the 2023 calendar year in an interview with the News. This year’s priorities, he said, are informed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a University-wide push for diversity and a capital campaign now halfway to reaching its $7 billion target. While each of the three priorities is long-term, Salovey and other top administrators anticipate significant progress in the coming year.

“We’re gonna have to double down and work even harder,” Salovey said.

Belonging at Yale

Salovey said that this year, the University will focus on “Belonging at Yale” — the administration’s five-year mission to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at Yale. He told the News that the University will soon measure “the sense of belonging” among faculty, staff and students through comprehensive metrics. 

On the faculty side, he told the News that Yale will soon hire 45 more faculty members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences with greater attention given to “the need for inclusion.”

For students on campus, recruiting a more diverse faculty body is a pressing matter.

“It’s like a two way relationship,” Aranyo Ray ’25 said. “Because you don’t go to classes and lectures just to listen to your professor. You interact with them on a human level, and you build connections. And when you find someone who has a similar face to you or has a similar background, it is much easier for you to make those connections.”

For Daevan Mangalmurti ’24, the professors who are doing exciting new research and building reputations as great academics “tend to be more diverse” than existing and previous faculty at the University. He said that for students, it “can be really empowering to see someone who is like them” in a professor role, especially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Both Ray and Mangalmurti acknowledged that more could be done to improve diversity among University leadership.

Salovey also told the News that the findings of the Yale and Slavery Working Group are set to be published in a book later this year. The group’s initial finding — that the University colluded with New Haven government officials to block the construction of a college for Black men in the city — led Salovey to announce the Pennington Fellowship, which pays for over a dozen New Haven public high school students to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country.

But while students are supportive of the University’s initial efforts, they’re looking for more to be done.

“I think [the Pennington Fellowship’s] something that’s useful and a good place to start,” Simon Debesai ’24 said. However, he added that HBCUs have had issues with funding “for as long as they’ve existed.”

Debesai said that he hoped to see “significant changes” in University funding and financial assistance, and that there would be more being done surrounding the University’s promise to support HBCUs.

Vice President of University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, who spearheads the Belonging at Yale Initiative, told the News that last year’s Belonging at Yale report shows some progress, but that it is a “long-term process.”

“My hope is that we will continue not only to increase the number of diversity of our group [but that] we also retain people, both faculty and staff, because our community can support a really good environment for people to feel like they belong,” Goff-Crews said. “So that’s ultimately the next phase.”

Health Research

Next on Salovey’s agenda was health, especially in the context of academic research.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the “increased … need for public health experts and health care professionals worldwide,” the University announced that it would match up to $150 million of donations to the School of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Public Health.

“Health professionals — including our colleagues from the YSM, YSN, and YSPH — have worked with great fortitude and dedication to save lives; develop COVID vaccines, treatments, and tests; and inform health policy,” the announcement said. “Their expertise will be even more critical as we recover from this pandemic and prepare to face adverse health effects from new and existing infectious and chronic diseases, health care inequities, resource scarcity, and other pressing challenges.”

From an academic point of view, Salovey said, the University is putting particular emphasis on raising research funds for artificial intelligence in health, as well as public health, nursing and medicine. He said that a current gift-matching initiative from endowed funds should “create incentives for additional gifts to go in those directions.” 

Ray, who is a researcher at the Yale School of Medicine, is “excited” to see expanded funding. He explained that much of research funding comes for particular topics or areas, but that with more institutional funding, there would be “less restrictions on researchers” to use them for specific projects they’re interested in pursuing. 

“I think that will definitely encourage a lot of creativity in the kind of studies we see within [campus],” Ray said.

COVID-19 showed how important a strong education that combines a public health perspective and a medical health perspective is, Salovey said. He added that the pandemic revealed challenges over health —  such as those relating to health institutional equity, nursing staff shortages and a lack of medical personnel in rural areas.

Ray feels certain that more funding will help revolutionize the treatment of diseases and create a more positive health movement, especially in the post COVID-19 stage. Yale has been one of the pioneers of these sorts of studies, Ray said, so it is imperative for the institution to increase funding in these areas.

“Yale is one of the few schools that has medicine, nursing and public health schools,” Salovey said. “We should capitalize on the strength of representing the health fields so broadly.”

For Humanity

Salovey’s third named priority was the “For Humanity” capital campaign, which is now in the second year of its public phase.

During the pandemic, more accessible programming and favorable markets led Yale to its best two years of fundraising in University history. Because of recent market downturns, though, fundraising may soon decline from this elevated level.

“We have raised a good bit more than half of what we need toward our goal,” Salovey said. “It’s going well, but it’s important to stay focused on it, particularly as the economy has softened.”

After a half-year delay, Yale launched the campaign on Oct. 2, 2021, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign focuses on the science priorities outlined in the University’s 2016 Science Strategy Committee Report.

The campaign began virtually — events that would have been held on campus before the pandemic were held online, and alumni, parents and benefactors could participate in live events from around the world.

“With the continued easing of restrictions on travel and gatherings in 2023, we are and will continue to hold live, in-person opportunities for engagement through conversations and updates about research, scholarship, and teaching,” Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Joan O’Neill told the News. “President Salovey is hosting regional events for alumni and friends in these areas, which will be live-streamed for the community.”

These events will take place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and London as part of the University’s “For Humanity Illuminated” event series

Evan Gorelick is Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered Woodbridge Hall, with a focus on the University's finances, budget and endowment. He also laid out the weekly print edition of the News as a Production and Design Editor. Originally from Woodbridge, Connecticut, he is a junior in Timothy Dwight College double-majoring in English and economics.
William Porayouw covered Woodbridge Hall for the News and previously reported on international strategy at Yale. Originally from Redlands, California, he is an economics and global affairs major in Davenport College.