Tag Archive: Salovey

  1. Speaking Out

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    “My amazing psychologist knows that she is willfully violating your rules.”

    Caroline Posner ’17, buoyed by members of a nodding audience, challenged a panel of administrators, including Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway. She explained that she had long since passed the 12-session limit imposed by MH&C.

    MH&C Director Lorraine Siggins pushed against the accusation.

    “We do not have an absolute limit of number of sessions,” she said, adding that each case is handled on an individual basis. “When someone comes back from the fall semester and things are still not going well in January, we would not stop treatment.”

    She asked that patients who have been given this misinformation reach out to her.

    Posner then addressed the audience, asking those same misinformed students to raise their hands. Roughly 50 hands shot up.

    Siggins began to explain that the MH&C website doesn’t mention any such limit, when a voice sounded.

    “My therapist told me in every single meeting where we were in our 12 meetings.”

    “Mine too.”

    “Same.”

    “P-Set or Mental Well-Being”

    Eugenia Zhukovsky’s weekend has been a little surreal. She hasn’t been back much on campus since electing to take time off earlier in the semester. She decided she needed to focus full-time on managing her anxiety and depression. Technically a visitor, she has no ID card to access campus buildings.

    Seconds after being guest-swiped into her residential college dining hall, several of her friends materialize, and hug her.

    “How is it, being back in the hellhole?” one asks.

    Zhukovsky squints a little. “Weird.” She says she’s happy with her decision. “But it’s not fun. It sucks.”

    For Zhukovsky, being a Yale student and managing her mental health were mutually exclusive. Panic attacks, medication adjustments, subsequent side effects and bouts of depression — all with little help from relatively infrequent sessions with Yale Mental Health & Counseling — simply took up too much time in an unyielding, rigorous academic environment.

    “No one was explaining how I could do it at Yale,” she said, “We’re not given the ‘our health comes first’ [message] as directly as we have to be.”

    Instead of feeling that her health was of primary concern, she felt like it was another, unsolicited, course or extracurricular. She added that the same has been true for other Yale students; friends have admitted feelings of anxiety to her but added that they “didn’t have time” to see a counselor. Zhukovsky calls this notion absurd.

    Posner and Zhukovsky each described a “P-Set or mental well-being” dilemma: nights when they had to decide between sleep-inducing medication and studying. In other words, they had to choose between missing a deadline and facing the repercussions of a mental illness left untreated.

    In Zhukovsky’s eyes, Yalies are high achieving perfectionists. She likes that: their energy, success and drive drew her to the school to begin with. But that same energy can heighten the effects of anxiety.

    Julie* said that when she arrived on Yale’s campus last fall, she found her brilliant peers inspiring, but that they also caused her high school confidence to shrink. During her freshman fall, she began to doubt herself and started to experience intense anxiety.

    She described her daily routine: class, practice for her varsity sport, and then crying while doing her homework in her single. Meanwhile, she felt that everyone around her was gaining confidence and accolades. Julie felt increasingly inadequate, weak and alone — but she kept her feelings secret.

    Almost all of the students interviewed who have experienced anxiety or depression at Yale said that finding and maintaining a supportive social network was one of the most, if not the very most, important way to cope with mental illness on campus. But several have found that the majority of Yale students seem more focused on their own schedules than on the well-being of their friends.

    Monica Hannush ’16, who has experienced severe depression at Yale, has felt this on a personal level. In moments of profound despair, she has resorted to sending her friends desperate text messages. Those texts, she said, follow less desperate messages. Often, when she texts her friends less urgent messages about feeling sad, she receives ostensibly empathetic but distant responses: “so sorry! writing an essay, sending you hugs.” “About to go on a date, but you’re beautiful!”

    A News survey on mental health resources, completed by 233 students, found that although 61 percent of students have experienced symptoms of depression, anxiety or other psychological conditions, only 28 percent have sought formal treatment, either on campus or elsewhere.

    Julie recalled the moment in her freshman year when she felt like she couldn’t take it anymore. She decided to visit Yale Mental Health & Counseling. On her walk over, she was wracked with paranoia and shame. Afraid of being seen, she kept her head down in the waiting room — but she felt comforted by the presence of other people in nearby chairs. She was not alone.

    Breaking the Stigma

    Once, when Posner went to her chemistry professor to explain why she had been having particular struggles in the class, she ended up in tears. Posner said that when she told him about her severe anxiety and depression, he simply responded, “T.M.I.”

    Although diagnoses have been rising steadily for years — a Harvard study showed that the number of patients in the U.S. increases by about 20 percent each year — many still consider mental illness an uncomfortable, even taboo, subject. While 60 percent of the News survey respondents confirmed that they felt comfortable talking about their own mental health with others at Yale, 27 percent of survey respondents said that they were not at all comfortable with such discussions.

    And that mindset, according to Posner and Zhukovsky, perpetuates a culture of undeserved shame for the suffering. Anxiety disorders affect nearly one out of every five American adults, a 2014 statistic listed by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

    Zhukovsky feels that Yale, specifically, needs to better educate its students.

    “I didn’t really know what depression or anxiety were until I had them,” she said. “There was this time when I felt alone, and like there was nothing I could do about it, and it was the worst time in my life … it’s so important to me to talk about this, and to help people from getting stuck in that place. It can be treated. It can be helped.”

    Following the death of Luchang Wang ’17 in January, members of a shocked and grieving community have resolved to push for the changes they feel are necessary. Concerned students have been speaking up, demanding that Yale reevaluate resources and policies, and that the community take steps to break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

    Many have begun fighting for change on campus — friends like Posner, or like Geoffrey Smith ’15, who co-authored a pledge to boycott the Senior Class Gift along with six other seniors. Smith suggested that alumni and the administration regard participation in the Senior Class Gift as a bellwether for student opinion, and so he called on seniors to abstain from what he sees as an endorsement of University policy. Nearly 97 percent of seniors donated to the Gift in 2014. This year, 78 percent of seniors chose to participate.

    A few days after Wang’s death, Posner, Korbin Richards ’15 and Charlotte Storch ’15 created “Nox Et Veritas,” a Tumblr blog, where they publish stories, sometimes written anonymously, about MH&C, withdrawal and readmission. With this new forum, they hope to bring untold stories of mental illness to light and foster dialogue on campus. Already, seven entries have been posted, and Posner said that the blog has between two and three dozen followers.

    According to Richards, the problem is not that Yalies do not want to talk about mental illness.

    “Once the topic is introduced, everyone wants to join the discussion,” she said.

    Rather, she believes that the problem lies largely with the Yale administration. She feels that the administration has been less open and eager to converse with students. After Wednesday’s forum, she said she was proud of the active and vigorous student participation, but disappointed in the continued administrative distance.

    “If the panel’s job was to not answer questions, then they did exceptionally well,” Richards said.

    Even if students are engaged in the conversation on mental health, Genevieve Simmons ’17 worries the renewed discussion may be short-lived.

    “The prevalence of talking about mental health has been sensationalist — movements when we hear a horrible mistreatment about behind the scenes, or a loss of one of our peers,” she said. “Then the discourse fades into the background.”

    Moments like this have come before. MH&C Director Lorraine Siggins recalled, for instance, student meetings similar to Wednesday’s event that took place in the 1970s. She said that in her more than 40 years of working on campus, she has seen interest in mental health on campus wax and wane.

    To many students, like Zhukovsky, letting this moment of heightened discourse slip away is not an option. She said she could not overstate the importance of creating mental health reform: this, she said, is about quality of life, and life itself.

    Phone Tag

    When Richards was evaluated at MH&C during her freshman year, she only told one lie. She said that she hadn’t been having suicidal thoughts.

    She called this self-defense, as some of her friends had been sent home because they had expressed suicidal thoughts. These stories frightened her  — withdrawal was a financial impossibility for her family, and would worsen her condition. Richards says that the fear of MH&C forcing students to leave campus, or keeping them from returning, prevents those with suicidal thoughts from expressing them. And that, she believes, is dangerous.

    Holloway agrees that the fear surrounding the treatment policies of MH&C is unsafe. Before Wednesday’s panel, he told the News that he worries many public perceptions of treatment at MH&C are incorrect, and that he hoped the event would clarify misconceptions and alleviate unfounded fear.

    Richards told the panel about her lie. She explained that the fear she had felt was pervasive on campus — a statement echoed by the snaps around the room — and asked how the panel planned to address it.

    Siggins responded by pointing out that MH&C sees around 2,500 students each year, and that the vast majority of students who withdraw on medical leave do so voluntarily. Later, she described circumstances that might lead to a forced withdrawal. She said that a patient would need to have a plan for self-harm, as well as the means to execute it — “in other words, if we’re concerned imminently that this person in the next 24 hours may be at great risk.” She added that the individual in question would be hospitalized, and never simply sent home, under such circumstances.

    Zhukovsky, for instance, withdrew without any pressure from Yale administrators or MH&C clinicians. She said that MH&C could not provide her with weekly therapy, which she needed, and so she saw no alternative to leaving. It was not until she withdrew that her mental health began to improve.

    The thought of other students continuing to wade through the support provided by MH&C saddens her.

    “I know that they’re struggling, because I struggled through it, and it wasn’t helping,” Zhukovsky said. “The care I was getting was just okay, and ‘just okay’ is not an option.”

    Others remember experiences of MH&C therapy that were worse than mediocre.

    Richards called her first and only appointment after her initial consultation “one of the worst experiences [she’s] ever had with another person,” recalling how her doctor skipped the handshake in their greeting. “He didn’t shake my hand, didn’t ask about how I was doing. He went straight into ‘Why are you here?’ and then ‘When’s the last time you menstruated?’”

    Julie, initially comforted by the presence of other students in the MH&C waiting room, gave up on MH&C after a couple of unsuccessful visits. She said that the therapist she was assigned to was cold, clinical and impossible to open up to, and so she turned to long-distance communication with a therapist from home.

    Still, others have had positive experiences at MH&C.

    Adriana Miele ’16 has been regularly seeing the same therapist since the beginning of her freshman year, an experience that she said has “kept her afloat in a lot of ways.”

    MH&C also allows patients to request a change in therapist if they are dissatisfied, a process Posner went through at the beginning of this academic year. She’d seen a therapist throughout her freshman year, but found their sessions unproductive, so requested a change. Even though she had to wait for six weeks for MH&C to process her request, Posner said that her new therapist has made a tremendously positive impact on her mental health.

    On Wednesday, when Posner publicly praised her new therapist’s violation of the supposed 12-session protocol, snaps and murmurs of accordance echoed throughout the forum: evidence, perhaps, of her belief that MH&C’s largest problems have less to do with the quality of therapy that most of its practitioners provide than with its difficult bureaucratic system.

    As the MH&C system stands now, according to Posner, students must advocate for themselves in order to obtain quality care. She equated communicating with MH&C to a game of “phone tag,” with constant missed calls and miscommunications. At the forum, when Šimon Podhajskỳ ’16 asked why MH&C does not utilize email communication, students banged their desks in agreement.

    Siggins responded that she “couldn’t agree more” with students that communication between MH&C and patients needs to be improved. She explained that the system currently does not allow email correspondence because MH&C had been concerned about the security of emails, but that it was currently pursuing ways of legally incorporating email communication.

    She and Genecin have announced their commitment to reforms at MH&C. In an attempt to hear student voices, they held a series of “listening sessions” in the residential colleges last spring. Last week, Genecin sent an email to the College with a set of MH&C improvements, including an increased staff size and expediting the period of time between a consultation visit and a first appointment.

    In the News survey, 54 percent said they believed that Yale’s mental health resources are insufficient for those who use them, and 30 percent of students responded that they felt dissatisfied with the reforms described in Genecin’s email. One survey respondent commented that “there were no concrete numbers given to the proposals, which makes me deeply skeptical.”

    Indeed, it appears that students crave more numbers and facts from MH&C. At the forum, multiple students asked the panel for more statistics and greater transparency from administrators.

    Holloway and Genecin emphasized, though, that many specifics cannot be discussed because federal law mandates strict confidentiality. Holloway told the News that his inability to be fully forthcoming is “totally appropriate,” though he added that he is always as transparent as possible.

    For instance, Holloway said that the withdrawal and readmission committee he formed in January cannot disclose information about its discussions until the committee finalizes its recommendations. He expects this to happen in four to six weeks.

    Given such legal constraints, Holloway said that he did not believe assertions that the administration has been silent or unresponsive were fair.

    At Wednesday’s forum, English professor John Rogers, the chair of the committee, mentioned that one of its six members was a student. He also pledged to take seriously the recommendations and complaints that students had expressed to him.

    Zhukovsky worried that administrators would view Wednesday’s event as a way for complaints to be aired, rather than attempt to get to the roots of the grievances. She simultaneously felt that complaints alone would not lead administrators to make changes.

    “I’m all for talking,” she said. “I just think that there has to be more push from students to make a specific change. There’s been a lot of reaction, and a lot of opinion, but there needs also to be initiative.”

    Alternatives, and new options

    Natalie Wolff ’14 suffered from depression between the ages of 13 and 21, and credits her recovery in large part to the care she received at MH&C while she was an undergraduate. At Wednesday’s event, she presented a list of 10 recommendations to streamline MH&C’s system — recommendations that included using the medical program MyChart to schedule appointments, administering screening questionnaires and hiring more secretaries to field more phone calls.

    The panelists expressed gratitude for Wolff’s recommendations, asking for her written list, but Siggins noted that some of the items, such as mandatory follow-up phone calls if a patient misses an appointment, are already MH&C policy. She encouraged students whose therapists have broken MH&C policy by sharing misinformation to contact her. She said that, in those cases, she would remedy the misunderstanding.

    At the same time, several students said that MH&C policy was so obscure that they would not know if their therapist had misrepresented it. Siggins admitted that MH&C has not done an adequate job in the past of educating Yale students on its policies, but she added that administrators are working to increase transparency. She then cited the MH&C advisory committee, a liaison between the department and students convened at the beginning of the spring semester in 2014.

    Corinne Ruth ’15 and Olivia Pollak ’16, currently serving on the committee, seconded Siggins’ view. Pollak recognizes that communication between students and MH&C can often seem “starkly two-sided,” but hopes that both sides can listen to each other.

    “They [MH&C] want students to be happy, they want them to be successful, they want them to come back. The discussion then comes to … how do we best listen to each other?” Ruth said.

    The Mental Health Advisory Committee began at the end of last spring, as part of the Coalition for Mental Health and Well Being, a larger umbrella student organization. The committee members convey to the administration their impressions of campus culture.

    She cites the coalition as key, a way to bring together students in organizations concerned with wellbeing. Last year, the committee updated the YCC resource sheet and the FAQ section of the MH&C website.

    Ruth and Pollak assert that the relationship between MH&C and students is a difficult one to navigate — they echoed Holloway’s comment on confidentiality, as did the forum’s panelists, but asserted that some channels between the administration and students have opened in the past few years.  Ruth cited last year’s listening sessions with Dr. Genecin, which fewer students attended than was expected.

    Ruth and Pollak also pointed to resources outside of MH&C that they feel are underutilized, notably Walden Peer Counseling, the Chaplain’s Office and the Peer Liaisons.

    One day in the fall of 2014, as Natalie Rose Schwartz ’17 wrestled with new symptoms of depression amid long-standing anxiety, her mother told her over the phone that she had to find someone to be with, if she could. Schwartz’s dean, who had been very helpful during regular weekly meetings, was unavailable, so she walked into the Chaplain’s Office. Schwartz knew Sharon Kugler, the University chaplain, from “Cookies and Coloring,” a weekly study break held in the Welch basement.

    “I just went to her office, and she happened to be free, and she immediately took me in, and hugged me, and let me talk,” Schwartz said.

    In the News survey, only nine students reported they had used the Chaplain’s Office as resource, while 72 students had gone to MH&C and 82 had relied on residential college deans, masters and freshman counselors. Twelve students had gone to Walden Peer Counseling as a resource.

    Pollak believes Walden’s minimal visibility on campus is a necessary result of its policy of anonymity. Because confidentiality restricts peer counselors from reaching out and putting a face to their services, students may have misconceptions about the issues that Walden addresses. Pollak worries that students think they shouldn’t call Walden unless they have a very acute problem, although she asserts that this is not the case.

    Zhukovsky, on the other hand, said that while Walden allows students to reach out to peers, peer counselors could not and should not replace mental health professionals. She has suggested that Yale implement a its own version of “Let’s Talk,” a drop-in program started at Cornell University, and that 25 other universities have adopted.

    Like Walden, “Let’s Talk” offers drop-in hours for students to talk or seek advice. Unlike Walden, though, “Let’s Talk” employs certified counselors. This would provide immediate professional advice — on medication, for instance — that Zhukovsky believes MH&C does not currently offer and that a peer counselor cannot give.

    Other students are also considering ways to widen the University’s network of resources. Joseph Cornett ’17 has recently proposed an initiative in a News column to implement mental health fellows in residential colleges. Representatives from MH&C, masters and deans would select upperclassmen to serve as fellows. The main job of a mental health fellow would be to refer students to mental health resources, explaining their nature and functions.

    “The mental health fellows should be someone who everyone knows they can talk to about emotional health.” Cornett said. “It will end up normalizing discussion about mental health and destigmatizing it, much in the way CCE’s have destigmatized discussion about sexual health.”

    At the forum, Wolff proposed a safe space to discuss mental health, in the vein of the Sexual Education Literacy Forum, a suggestion greeted with snaps and applause.

    Ruth and Pollak believe that friends sharing correct information with each other may be the most long-lasting, effective improvement to the current mental health climate.

    Smith believes that while friends can complement professional help, they cannot replace it.

    “Friends will ideally be capable of listening and providing love and kindness, but it is too much to expect them to … provide serious help with a specific condition,” he said.

    ***

    After reading out her ten recommendations at Wednesday’s forum, Wolff turned to the audience.

    “Anyone can be an advocate. You also need to be an advocate for yourself. So when they tell you that it’s going to take two months to switch your therapist, say no,” she said. “Just don’t give up.”

    The applause was deafening.

    But before Wolff’s recommendations, and before the applause, Holloway opened the forum. He explained that he wants to close an information gap between students and the administration, to make sure that students have enough faith in the system to get help when they need it, instead of being afraid.

    “The floor is now yours,” he said. “Raise your hand. Speak loudly.”

  2. Sir Gilbert Levine: Conductor, Mediator, Salovey-enthusiast

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    Renowned conductor Sir Gilbert Levine, known as “The Pope’s Maestro” for his close connection to John Paul II, graduated from the Juilliard School of Music, received an A.B. from Princeton and completed his M.A. here at Yale. Since then, he has strived to foster close connections between composer and conductor, conductor and orchestra, and orchestra and audience. His teachers include the notable Milton Babbitt and Nadia Boulanger, and his dynamic musical career has carried him to international stages from Italy to Krakow. In 1994, Pope John Paul II honored Levine’s efforts to promote common chords of understanding between Judaism and the Catholic Church by deeming him a “Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great.” Inspired by the great cultural figurehead Leonard Bernstein from a young age, Sir Gilbert has also conducted music for millions through public television. February 22 promises to be another winning spectacle as he channels composers Richard Danielpour and Gustav Mahler at the helm of the Yale Symphony Orchestra. The program includes narration from President Peter Salovey, soloists from the Yale Camerata and musicians from the Yale School of Music and Yale Glee Club. Earlier this week, Sir Gilbert serenaded WEEKEND with prescient thoughts on music, the art of conducting and the perks of channeling Mahler.

    Q. How did you come to conduct the upcoming performance?

    A. My son, Gabriel Levine ’14, is the principal bassoonist in the YSO. Toshi [YSO Musical Director Toshiyuki Shimada] asked me whether I would like to conduct the YSO and I said, “With my son in it? Of course.”

    Q. So New Haven is not uncharted territory?

    A. I received my M.A. here at Yale and I’ve been a fellow of Trumbull for many years and have done a number of Master’s Teas. So I’ve really enjoyed my university connection; however, this is the best — getting to conduct my son in the YSO. The program is just an astonishing Yale program because we’re doing a work by Richard Danielpour called “Washington Speaks” on, I believe, Washington’s birthday — which includes the words of Washington on religious tolerance. There is also a fantastic Yale connection to those words because Ezra Stiles, the third president of Yale, was the pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Newport and was present at the inauguration in 1763 of the Touro Synagogue, which was the synagogue to which Washington wrote the letter. So it’s like coming full circle.

    So, this issue of religious liberty at Yale goes back to its founding and certainly to Ezra Stiles. Then you have this incredible arc to Peter Salovey, who comes from a great rabbinic family. The Soloveitchik rabbis are a legendary family of rabbis from White Russia and from Brest-Litovsk. To have as the President of Yale the son of a great rabbinic family and stretching back that tradition to Ezra Stiles, who befriended a rabbi in Newport, and to have Washington write that letter — there’s just a remarkable confluence there.

    Then the Mahler Second Symphony is this gargantuan canvas, and because it’s so large and rich, we have the members of the YSO and we have students at the YSM who are filling out the sections, particularly the brass of the YSO. Then you have the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Camerata (an undergraduate and graduate ensemble) and you have students and a faculty members singing. I love that. That’s just a great Yale event. I’m really looking forward to that aspect of it.

    Q. It seems the music is unifying all of these different parties.

    A. That’s what it’s about and that’s what a lot of my life has been about is music as a unifying force. I did the Mahler Second Symphony at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II and the Chief Rabbi of Rome and the Imam of the Mosque of Rome at the concert called the Papal Concert of Reconciliation with the Pittsburgh Symphony and choruses from Krakow, London, Turkey and Pittsburgh and two German soloists. Again, bringing people together is what music does. So, this is the Yale cast. President Salovey has just been fantastic.

    Q. Do you think these religious themes are particularly relevant today? 

    A. They’re more relevant today than maybe at any time in history if you look at the killing that’s going on around the world in the name of religion. We are a Holocaust family so we lost forty members of our family from racial hatred of the most extreme kind. If you look at what’s going on now in Syria among Muslims — it’s a deep human tragedy that people kill in the name of God. We can use whatever means (and I use music because it’s my art) to bring people together and to remind people of what we have in common: our human characteristics. It’s something which obviously formed the core of my relationship with Pope John Paul II, he being Polish-Catholic, I being of Polish-Jewish heritage (or Jewish with Polish heritage). Finding a bridge, finding a way to use music as a language of at-one-ment is extraordinary. When you have your art serve that purpose with one of the great spiritual leaders of all time, now to be made a saint on April 27, it’s an honor and a responsibility and a privilege as an artist.

    Q. Was there a pivotal moment in your early years when you realized music was your art?

    A. Most people are forced by their parents to practice. I may have been guilty about doing that to our sons a little bit but I was never forced. My family was a very unmusical family. We had a little spinet piano so my mother could play folk songs. I, from a very early age, couldn’t be dragged away from the piano. I’m sure that the sounds I was making were horrendous because I had no training and I was just pounding but there was something mystical about those sounds. They struck a chord with me that was really profound. I remember feeling that way from the earliest possible age, that music had that capacity for me to reach a different level of understanding with the world. It brought me away from the world in a way that was remarkable but also tuned me into the world in a way that was as remarkable. Later, I began studying seriously. It became clear music could be a profession, but at first it was a state of being. I learned I was more proficient at music than I was at language and I was more proficient at expressing myself through music.

    When I encountered symphony orchestras, I guess at eleven or twelve, I said, “My God, somebody can make something sound like that?” It was sure no spinet piano. It was something quite remarkable. The person who did that was Leonard Bernstein. I met him once very late in his life at Tanglewood, but he was a television personality. There were no American conductors before him, so he was the first and I said, “Oh wow, I can actually do that!” He was my inspiration. My mother even wrote a letter to his assistant saying, “What do I do with this crazy kid?” He said to find somebody of impeccable credentials and have him give your son a brutally honest answer as to whether he has talent. So my mother trundled me off without telling me what was going on to audition for this guy and he called her just shortly after my lesson and said, “It’s okay. He’s got the goods.”

    Q. What do you see as the ideal role of the conductor?

    A. My job is first of all to have an idea, to understand a score sufficiently. You are the composer’s representative. And that’s not so simple because it takes a tremendous amount of abnegation of ego to put yourself in the service of composer. It takes endless hours of just trying to understand the creative impetus, the creative core of a piece of music and then to translate that in your own mind. My method of studying, for instance, is that I sit at a table with an open score — no recording, no nothing. I allow the notes to speak with me. I have to come to an understanding of what Brahms or Beethoven or Mahler is trying to say. My conductor’s brain comes in as far as translating that conception to the orchestra. That’s the talent. You have to take the composer’s view as you know it and then make that sum greater than the parts.

    Q. What was your creative process in preparation for conducting Mahler?

    A. When I went back to study Mahler’s Second again for this performance, I found new things that made sense to me. It’s like reading a Shakespeare play. You can read it in every decade of your life and you will understand it differently. Every time I do the Mahler Second Symphony, I learn new things that Mahler or Mahler’s culture imbued and imprinted into that symphony. There are many, many right ways of doing the Mahler Second. There’s only one right way for me right now this week.

    Q. Some of the audience members in Woolsey this Saturday, I imagine, will be Mahler devotees.

    A. But many not. And that’s very important because I conduct for everyone in the hall. If there are Mahler devotees, they’ll compare my performance with the 25 other performances they’ve heard. If they’re hearing it for the first time, that’s even better. You’re introducing them to the colossal masterwork. I am acutely aware that there will be people in the audience who will be very, very well versed and people who really will have nothing of an experience. Or there will be people who are deeply religious and come at it from that point of view and be uplifted by it spiritually. That’s a fascinating thing to see: that spiritual uplift that happens regardless of what you think you believe. I am about music and spirit, and bringing music and spirit together, because I think they are one and the same when they are done properly.

    Q. So that they transcend …

    A. Yes. When I was here getting a Master’s, Leopold Stokowski, a famous British conductor of Polish heritage, came and it was my job to prepare the Yale Philharmonia for his arrival. I prepared them on the stage of Woolsey; it was Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. This limousine pulled up to the stage door of Woolsey and Stokowski got out, aided by an assistant, and I don’t think he knew where he was. He was maybe ninety years old. But when he got on stage, he connected with the audience in an electric way. His spirit and his brain were turned on. He sat down and transformed the Philharmonia and made them come alive with his understanding. He was a genius conductor. That’s what music does — to those who make it and to the orchestra itself.

    Q. And to the audience as well?

    A. Yes! And that’s our goal, to be the medium for the composer to reach the audience with his or her music.

    Q. And for people who are less familiar with Mahler or classical music?

    A. They will be blown out of their chairs! And that is the truth. This piece will literally blow them away! The Mahler is a piece which brings people out of their chairs. It is overwhelming and uplifting in the way the Beethoven Ninth is. There are very few pieces where you walk away saying, “Wow! That was an unbelievable experience!” It is a great experience for somebody who’s never been to a concert. I think the Salovey and “Washington Speaks” element is wonderful as a Yale moment. Woolsey Hall will rock! I think every single person on campus and in the town will find it uplifting. I didn’t do that. Mahler did.

     

    Correction, Feb. 21: a previous version of this article misspelled the name of Leopold Stokowski.

  3. Hey, Big Spender!

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    A couple of minutes before 9:00 a.m. on Sept. 30, an email was sent to nearly 300 Yale employees on the ninth floor of 157 Church St. The email was from their boss, Yale’s Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill. Expect another email shortly, it said, and expect big news.

    At 9:01, University President Peter Salovey sent an email to all of Yale. It announced a $250 million donation. The gift, for the construction of two new residential colleges, came from mutual fund billionaire Charles Johnson ’54. It was the largest in Yale’s history.

    Most of the development staff knew that a large gift was coming in — an approximation of the sum had been billed into last year’s financials. But they did not know the exact amount or name of the donor until the rest of the University did. Knowledge of the donation, which had been in the works since at least last winter, was restricted to a small group of development staff and high-level University administrators.

    In fact, the gift was the project of one man in particular: former University President Richard Levin. Over the course of his tenure, Levin built a strong friendship with Johnson -— in part over their mutual support of the Johnson-owned San Francisco Giants — and helped solidify the billionaire’s commitment to giving to the University. Last Monday’s gift is the result of that relationship.

    As president, Levin worked closely with many of Yale’s most generous donors as he spearheaded a university-wide push to further fill Yale’s coffers. During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the development office brought in  $543,905,260 in gifts — this year’s total, given a $250 million boost, will likely be far higher. Approximately 95 to 99 percent of this money comes from the top group of donors, said O’Neill. This cohort represents one to five percent of all who give.

    Large gifts support some of the most vital aspects of Yale. The Yale Alumni Fund, an unrestricted pool from which the University can draw for whatever it needs, frequently underwrites financial aid, facilities renovation, teaching and research. Other donations, of which Johnson’s is a notable example, are given with specific intent, such as the renovation of Bass Library or the creation of academic programs like Grand Strategy.

    The Levin administration convinced donors to part ways with $1 million, $5 million, or $100 million. But did all that money translate into undue influence?

    Under Levin, the administration developed a strong base of alumni donors, with whom Yale’s senior administrators maintain relationships. In doing so, Yale has aligned donors’ visions to its own. And so, for the last 20 years, the answer was an unequivocal no.

    157 Church, 105 Wall

    Eli Yale. John Sterling. Edward Harkness. Paul Mellon. These names scaffold our lives here: we walk through, under and over them daily.

    “If you think about the history of Yale, it’s always been this way, going back to Eli Yale himself, whether he classifies as a major donor or a principal donor or a cosmic donor” said Professor John Gaddis.  “There’s always been this tradition of giving.”

    Ed and Sid Bass. John and Susan Jackson. Stephen and Denise Adams. Whitney and Betty Macmillan. Edward Evans. Charles Johnson. They have not altered Yale in the way that those four Olympian donors did, when the institution was smaller, less complex and easier to redefine. But these more contemporary names frame our time at Yale as well.

    No gift appears out of thin air — it has to be coaxed and shaped by the university. The development office is ultimately responsible. You can hear O’Neill’s conviction in Yale’s mission when she talks about the 26 years she’s spent at Yale. From her office on the ninth floor of 157 Church Street you can see the names: Harkness tower, chief amongst them.

    O’Neill’s staff seeks to build relationships, the objectives of which are threefold: convince the donor to give as much as possible, convince the donor to put few restrictions on the funds and then convince them to come back, this time with an even larger check.

    The office “tracks” about 300 donors. Most employees are responsible for a set group who give repeatedly and generously. But just how much is generous? The simple answer is $100,000. According to O’Neill, aside from reunion and annual giving, there is little organizational emphasis on seeking out gifts less than that.

    Above that threshold, two major donation groups split the office: “major gifts” — up to $5 million — and “principal gifts” — where the sky’s the limit. Within each cohort, development staff work in geographic regions, although all the staff are based in New Haven. Each regional cohort is also assigned a small part of New York state, the source of a tremendous proportion of Yale’s donations.

    O’Neill says that about 250 of the donors are considered “major” while 60 are “principal,” but the distinction is permeable. If the development staff member does a good job, a donor with enough resources will eventually make the jump from major to principal, in which case the staff member often stays with them.

    “Could you see yourself doing something that would be truly transformational?” O’Neill said the development office asks its donors. “For some people our role is to help them see how they could do that.”

    But for many of Yale’s most important donors, the office they interact with is not at 157 Church Street, but 105 Wall, Woodbridge Hall — the office of the president — Warner House or other administrative buildings across campus.

    It is in relationships between Yale’s most generous donors and senior administrators that most large gifts are born. They originate in conversations over cocktails and dinner at alumni events, phone calls and one-on-one meetings.

    “Typically, Peter or I or Mary talk to them,” Provost Benjamin Polak said. “We always ask what they’re interested in supporting and we’ll say the ideas we have and make it a conversation.”

    But while the administration’s approach appears uniform from the outside, different administrators find themselves at different points on the development learning curve. Polak is a fast-talking Brit and, like Levin, a former chair of the economics department. Still, he admitted that fundraising can be difficult for him.

    “Peter and Mary are both masterful at this and I’m still learning, and Development is teaching me,” Polak said. “They hold my hand a fair amount and teach me how to do things, give me pointers on what I did right and did wrong afterwards.”

    Polak’s worry about this initial insecurity makes sense. In the long run, getting donations has everything to do with personal relationships.

    Music School Dean Robert Blocker got to know Stephen and Denise Adams during his first year at Yale in 1995. In 2005, the couple anonymously gave $100 million to the School of Music, at the time the University’s largest-ever donation. Blocker said the idea for the donation grew slowly and with the help of a series of administrators.

    “I’ve always felt that everyone at an institution is a development officer,” Blocker said. “We all have a stake in this that’s really important.”

    These relationships with donors take place primarily with administrators. Professors, or those directly benefited by the money, work with the administration on what to do with a gift, but don’t know exactly how many shared cocktails it took to get there.

    Professor John Gaddis, the co-director of the University’s Grand Strategy program, which was also supported by a gift from Johnson, couldn’t pin down the details of how exactly Levin got that gift.

    “We only have the barest inkling of the work that goes on in that regard,” he said.

    Did the Grand Strategists have a plan?

    Another Johnson donation, given together with Nicholas Brady ’52, secured Grand Strategy’s future, but the program didn’t always have financial independence.

    When Professor John Gaddis came to Yale in 1997, all he had was a quirky idea. He rallied professors Paul Kennedy and Charles Hill to help him build a class of students competitively culled from every corner of the University to study, and practice, the art of statecraft. It would run January to January and with a summer component.

    Today, the prospect of a penniless Grand Strategy may seem silly. Few programs at Yale can rival the cultish devotion the course receives. No other class has attracted as much sustained national attention or fueled as widespread a copycat spree. Grand Strategy seems as firmly anchored in Yale’s collective psychic life as Freshman Screws and President Salovey’s moustache.

    But what is now the class’s strength was orginally a bar to its continued stability. Grand Strategy is stubbornly interdisciplinary. Gaddis, Kennedy and Hill insisted on a broad focus, and defied the University’s practice of distributing funds by department.

    “When there are ideas [like Grand Strategy] that are not confined to or based in an established department, then they have got to look for money, because the departments aren’t going to fund them,” professor Hill said. “They’re going to have to fund themselves.”

    At first, the program had no endowment. According to professor Gaddis, start-up funds came largely from foundations. But Gaddis didn’t mind that the program started without the administration’s guiding hand.

    Levin, he said, “never had a vision that said, ‘We will create a Grand Strategy program 10 years into my presidency.’ The vision was more to leave room for faculty to experiment, to keep an eye on collaborations that work and, where they have proven they can work, find ways to support them.”

    World events threw that waiting period into fast-forward. Following the tragedy of 9/11, the need for international security and leadership programs like Grand Strategy fell into sharp relief.

    The course instructors had originally planned to run the course every other year. But “the mood of the country, the intellectual scene, was such that we couldn’t not do it every year,” Hill said.

    And, as its profile grew, many alumni began to perceive Grand Strategy as the revival of Old Blue values.

    “We attracted the attention of old Yalies,” Kennedy said. “This had been what they studied in Yale in the thirties and forties, and had disappeared in favor of social studies and history-from-below … They saw this as a kind of resurrection.”

    The program went down especially well with two Yale College alumni. One of them was Charles Johnson. The other, Nicholas Brady, had been Secretary of the Treasury under President Reagan. In 2006, the two made a combined donation of $17.5 million as a “wasting endowment” to finance the program — then in its sixth year — for an estimated 15 years to come.

    The program’s three founders offer slightly different stories of how this gift was finessed. Together, their versions combine into a Russian doll of social connections, a sort of X-knows-Y-knows-Z. If we accept the metaphor, then one thing is clear: President Levin was the doll that held it all together.

    “What happened is that President Levin very carefully watched what we were doing, without saying anything, and once he was satisfied that this had legs, then he began talking to donors without our knowledge,” Gaddis said. “We’d say, ‘Please, Rick, raise some money for us,’ and he’d just smile.”

    Perhaps it’s fitting that, as in real-world diplomacy, the gift negotiations had multiple tracks. Levin may have been the only one talking money, but he wasn’t alone in the conversation. Professor Hill was acquainted with Brady from their time in government under the Reagan administration, when Hill was working in the State Department and Brady was running the Treasury. Hill told Brady about the Grand Strategy program, and Brady pulled in his old friend and golf buddy, Charles Johnson.

    And then there’s another layer: former University Secretary Sam Chauncey ’57, a Yale legend credited with pulling the university through the mayhem of the 1970 New Haven Black Panther trials. Kennedy said it was Chauncey who sat in on the class and later infected Brady with his enthusiasm for the program. Now it is Brady, as one of the program’s benefactors, who sits in on the occasional Grand Strategy class.

    But for all that investment, Hill said Johnson and Brady are “entirely hands off.” And Gaddis confirmed that when Brady handed over the check, he did so with only one condition: “Teach common sense.”

    Courtship and quarrels

    The university’s work bringing in major gifts has created successful programs and buildings, but when the few give so much, it’s easy to imagine them having undue control. It’s up to Yale’s administration to makes sure that gifts align more with Yale’s goals than the desires of potential donors.

    Legal contracts and cocktail conversations aside, O’Neill said out-of-line priorities are unlikely to come up in the first place because most major donors attended Yale, and specifically Yale College, themselves. An alumnus of Yale College is far less likely to want to give $50 million for an undergraduate business program — well outside the university’s liberal arts ethos — than someone who did not spend four years in New Haven, O’Neill said. One with a several-year-long relationship to senior administrators would have an even better idea of what would be relevant.

    “If you have no connection to the University but you’re tremendously wealthy and generous, it may take more time to figure out how Yale works,” O’Neill said. And these connections pay off: “We raise much more money from alumni than a lot of our peers.”

    A more common challenge for the development office is ensuring that gifts conform not only to the University’s current priorities, but also to its future plans. Developing the direction for a gift is a constant back-and-forth — donors often want to see their money fund a particular thing, or aid in a particular university initiative. For Yale, though, the best donations are those with the least of these restrictions.

    In the 19th century, donors endowed research on hot air balloons and professorships that focused on railroad engineering. Those funds, many of which have grown over the years, pose a major challenge to the University: how can a gift legally intended for a thing that is no longer relevant be used now? Polak says that lawyers can be creative — that gift for hot air balloons, for instance, might be used to study space travel.

    An institution with the lifespan of Yale, 312 years this week, has to think about how it will fund itself not just now, but in some distant future. The Yale of 2113 will be fundamentally different, just as the Yales of 1913 or 1713 bear little resemblance to today’s university.

    “We want the indentures to be written as broadly as possible. Suppose someone gave a gift in 1750. We want that gift to still be appropriate in 2013 and we want to describe the gift, particularly if it’s an endowment gift, so it can be relevant forever,” Polak said. “That’s a challenge.”

    The university never wants to be stagnant, which has led to the recent creation of gifts with self-limiting mechanisms. The Brady-Johnson endowment for Grand Strategy, for instance, is wasting, meaning that it will draw down to zero over approximately 17 years. Because of budgeting, though, the fund will likely last for 24, according to Kennedy’s estimates.

    By the time that endowment expires, Kennedy says, Brady, Johnson, Gaddis and himself will most likely be “pushing up daisies.” And, as Gaddis says, “it’s healthy for a program to reconsider itself every few years.”

    By planning this way, the University won’t have to figure out what to do with an irrelevant gift 100 years from now, because the money will have long been spent. But the question of what is relevant sets off heated debate among Yale faculty.

    Despite Levin’s 2000 commitment to invest $1 billion in Yale’s sciences, a large number of the science faculty feel ignored by the development process. Sidney Altman, a Nobel-prize laureate in Chemistry and former dean of Yale College, bemoaned the lack of attention his field receives from donors.

    “Nobody’s raised any money for us for a long long time,” said Altman. He called the situation “hopeless” and believes that Salovey’s presidency will make no difference.

    In an email to the University Monday, Polak announced plans to build a new biology building. But, the email said, he did not expect it to be gift-funded, which means the university must borrow to complete the project.

    Some parts of the University may be wanting for funds, but the administration occasionally turns away gifts that just don’t work.

    In 1995, then-president Levin returned a $20 million gift to Lee Bass, a relative of Ed and Sid Bass, four years after he gave it to Yale. The original intent of the gift had been to create an intensive one-year program in Western civilization, which at the time many compared to Directed Studies. For three years, the program’s creation moved slowly. But in late 1994, it looked as though the program was finally near realization.

    And that’s where Yale and Bass hit a roadblock. Bass wanted to oversee which professors would teach in the program, a condition that then-University director of public information Gary Fryer called “simply unheard of” in the Yale Herald at the time. Discussions quickly broke down, and Levin sent Bass his check back.

    The “Bass fiasco” as it came to be known, was a major embarrassment to the University only two years into Levin’s term, evidencing a failure in the development process. Nearly 20 years later, he says it is his single largest regret from his time at Yale.

    “It worked its way to an endgame in which he made an unreasonable demand on us,” Levin said at the News’ 135th anniversary celebration in Apr. 2013. “I really screwed up there.”

    A new sheriff in town

    Over 20 years, former President Richard Levin built up an astounding series of relationships with donors. Yale has Levin to thank for gifts that expanded financial aid, renovated the University’s facilities and expanded its international presence. And Yale students, regardless of how they feel about the new colleges, can look to Levin as the source of the Johnson donation.

    But University leadership has shifted. Levin, although he still has relations with donors, is now in a volunteer role and transferring his contacts over to Peter Salovey. Polak is now provost, and Dean Mary Miller’s term is nearing completion — whether she will stay on as Yale College Dean is uncertain.

    Salovey has occupied his office in Woodbridge Hall since Jul. 1, but he has been focusing on fundraising since well before then. All of the senior administrators and deans interviewed for this article described the transition to Salovey as smooth. As provost, dean of the graduate school and dean of Yale College, Salovey gradually gained fundraising expertise. Levin groomed him for his new job over the last five years, and he no doubt picked up some of the former president’s talent.

    Right now, O’Neill says, Salovey is spending time getting to know donors — a tough task given his commitment to being more visible on campus. He often leaves on Sunday night — when no one will miss him — for development trips to alumni across the country, returning to campus within a day.

    When Levin came into office 20 years ago, relations with alumni could not have been much worse, and development suffered as a consequence. Over two decades, though, he reshaped University giving, which in turn allowed him to reshape Yale.

    Unlike his predecessor, Salovey will inherit a stable Yale when he dons the President’s Collar on Sunday in Woolsey Hall. In the months and years to come, it seems unlikely that he will act much differently from Levin in the fundraising realm; Salovey is a student of Levin and Levin’s model works.

    The ultimate question, then, is what he will do with all that money.

  4. $250 million gift propels growth of new colleges

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    On Monday morning, Yale moved $250 million closer to breaking ground on two new residential colleges with the announcement of the largest gift in the University’s history.

    The gift comes from Charles Johnson ’54, a longtime donor to the University and former co-chair of the mutual fund Franklin Resources, commonly referred to as Franklin Templeton. Added to previous donations in the last several years, the new gift — which President Peter Salovey announced in an email to the University — sets the construction project only $80 million short of the $500 million threshold required to begin construction. Though the new colleges were originally announced in 2008, the project was put on hold after the onset of the financial downturn until sufficient funds could be raised through donations.

    Recent growth in the endowment, though — which reported a 12.5 percent return last week for the fiscal year that ended June 30 — has allowed Yale to restart some capital project plans. Coupled with the University’s renewed financial stability, Johnson’s gift brings plans for the new colleges significantly closer to fruition.

    “Mr. Johnson is somebody who loves Yale and, as with so many alumni of Yale College, felt the experience changed his life, and knows that we’re now at the point where 30,000 applicants are hoping to have a chance for that kind of an experience, too,” Salovey told the News. “A gift like this puts that goal of offering a Yale College education to a few more students every year within reach.”

    When the new colleges are finally completed in their location behind Grove Street Cemetery, Yale’s enrollment will increase by approximately 15 percent, or 800 students. Applications to Yale have quadrupled over the past 50 years while enrollment has remained constant, a fact that played a major role in the Yale Corporation’s initial consideration of the new colleges. Once completed, the colleges will significantly expand Yale’s physical footprint, placing far more undergraduates in housing close to Science Hill.

    Even with the new gift, the timeline and total cost for building the colleges remain in flux. According to Salovey, the last total estimate of the cost — which includes site preparation, infrastructure and actual construction — still holds steady at approximately $500 million.

    Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, whose firm designed the colleges, said construction does not appear to be in the immediate future. In April 2012, Levin told the News that the construction of the colleges would likely take 30 months from start to finish.

    “Construction work might not start for a year or two,” Stern said. “According to the announcement, they’ll be looking again at the program, seeing how things might evolve, seeing if we have the right mix.”

    Johnson’s gift leaves $80 million in uncovered costs for the project, which thus far has been entirely funded through donor support. Salovey said that although there is still a significant sum to raise, Johnson’s gift is likely to incite a rush of further donations.

    “One of the really important parts of this gift is its potential to inspire other giving, by other generous alumni,” he said. “In fact, within an hour or two of the announcement, a very generous alumnus called me and pledged a $5 million dollar gift toward that $80 million gap.”

    Monday’s $250 million gift is the largest Yale has ever received from a single donor. The last donation of comparable size — $100 million — was given to the School of Music in 2005 by Stephen Adams ’59 and his wife Denise.

    Johnson, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes at around $5.6 billion, inherited Franklin Templeton from his father and led the firm through much of the latter part of the 20th century. He has previously donated to Yale several times, with gifts benefiting projects such as the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy, the Papers of Benjamin Franklin, the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, the renovation of the Yale Bowl in the mid-2000s and the creation of Yale’s first all-season outdoor athletics fields.

    “Yale is unsurpassed in the quality of its undergraduate education, and I strongly support Rick Levin’s and Peter Salovey’s shared goal to make that extraordinary experience available to more students than ever before,” Johnson said in a Monday statement. “I hope my commitment will inspire other alumni, parents and friends to complete the funding for the construction of these colleges.”

    According to Salovey, Johnson’s donation began as a conversation with former President Richard Levin, months before Salovey officially took office this summer.

    Provost Benjamin Polak and Yale College Dean Mary Miller will co-chair a new committee to review the planning for the new colleges.

  5. The Advocate

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    Marta Moret — a Red Sox fan, historic gardener and Yale’s new first lady — seems to have time for everything. The devoted wife of President-elect Peter Salovey is a president herself: She heads Urban Policy Strategies, a research and policy consulting group consisting of African American and Latina women who conduct community-based research and assist underserved populations. Just yesterday Moret was on the road, evaluating a federally funded project supporting three Native American tribes. In fact, traveling is part of Moret’s daily routine — her projects frequently take her to different corners of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. She also mentors student interns at the Southern Connecticut State University and loves reading literary biographies. In an interview with WEEKEND, Moret discussed her daily routine and her 27-year-long relationship with Salovey.

    Q. You told us you are traveling for work! Can you tell us what the purpose of your trip is?

    A. I am now at the Mashantucket Reservation in Ledyard, Conn. I am the evaluator for a federally-funded project that links all three Native American tribes in the area — Mashantucket, Pequot and Mohegan — to community and tribal resources to create a model of community-based, integrated and collaborative mental health services.

    Q. How did your interest in public health develop, to eventually culminate in your involvement with Urban Policy Strategies?

    A. Well, what a good question. After college, I worked for the Connecticut Union of Telephone Workers where I was the director of research and education. I was working with the University of Wisconsin Labor Studies Center to design, administer and analyze a survey on occupational stress among telephone workers. I fell in love with what I call the art of applied science. I had a unique opportunity to study the effects of repetitive work and address it as a negotiable issue at the collective bargaining table.

    When I graduated from Yale, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was spreading into the heterosexual community and Latino and African American families affected by this virus were of keen interest to me. As a Puerto Rican I was also strongly committed to work on maternal health issues for Latina women, and I became the executive director of the Hispanic Health Council in Hartford where we got the first family-oriented HIV/AIDS prevention grant from the State Department of Public Health. Somewhere along the line, I worked with Lowell Weicker on childhood lead poisoning and when he became Governor, I became his deputy commissioner for the Department of Social Services. In the 90s, I formed Urban Policy Strategies, LLC. It is a dream realized. We are a small group of women of color. My partner is Gretchen Chase Vaughn, an alumna of Yale College. We focus on nonprofits serving underserved, low-income children and families of color. And, we are committed to using the rigors of social science and epidemiology to demonstrate that public health interventions run by community groups can work.

    Q. What does Mrs. Marta Moret’s typical day look like?

    A. I get up by 6:30 a.m. and Portia (the dog) and I meet our dog friends at Edgerton Park, have breakfast with Peter and sit down by 8:30 a.m. to do email and get my work going. I work a lot with student interns from the public health school at Southern Connecticut State University where we talk about community-based participative research — a concept that bridges academic and community needs in public health. And, depending on the project, I am off to a different part of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York or some other place. Most evenings, when Peter gets home, I am entering data or writing reports or writing grant proposals.

    Q. What do you and President-elect Salovey enjoy doing in your free time?

    A. Because our days are so full — including weekends — when we have down time, we love reading and taking walks. In the summer, the Red Sox games are a must.

    Q. In what ways do you expect to support President-elect Salovey in his new role?

    A. As you know, I met Peter at Yale and I share his love and commitment to the University. It is our home and nothing pleases us more than being in this position. I very much look forward to being by his side as often as I can.

    Q. What were you doing when you first heard of President-elect Salovey’s appointment to the Yale presidency? What was your initial reaction?

    A. I was at home in my office working on some research issues. When Peter came upstairs and told me the news, I was wildly delighted. You know, even after 27 years of marriage, I am still awed by how amazing Peter is.

    Q. How did you and President-elect Salovey celebrate his appointment to the Yale presidency?

    A. We went for a long, long walk trying to take it all in and dreaming about the wonderful years ahead of us.

    Q. How do you think your life might change now that you and President-elect Salovey are Yale’s new first couple?

    A. We have always been a couple very actively involved in all aspects of Yale. I am just going to enjoy more of it.

    Q. If you had to describe President-elect Salovey in one word, what would it be and why?

    A. Mensch. He is one of the most intelligent men I know. But that intelligence is combined with a generosity of spirit I have seen in few people.

    Q. To what extent do your private and professional lives intersect?

    A. Almost all the time. Yale is our home. We have a number of friends we see both professionally and personally. We relax by going to student functions — sports, music, theater, you name it. We enjoy walking around Yale on those nights we have time, saying hello to students, faculty and staff.

    Q. What is the last book you read? Did you enjoy it?

    A. Don’t ask me why, but I have taken to reading several books at the same time. I love literary biographies so I am finishing Margot Peters biography of May Sarton. I enjoyed it, but then nothing is more interesting to me than the complex human process by which art is created. I also love reading about strong women, and Sotomayor’s “My Beloved World” is wonderful. I am a Bronx-born Puerto Rican and I get to step back into my life through her memories. Finally, for me there is something ingenious about short stories. The notion of encapsulating into a few pages all that is evocative of the novel is pure joy to me. Ron Rash’s “Burning Bright” are short stories set in Appalachia. Peter and I took a memorable trip into Appalachia a couple of summers ago and it left me wanting to know more.

    Q. Could you tell us a little more about your interest in historic gardening? How did that interest develop?

    A. Ah yes. Well, I have always been a gardener. It is my way of relaxing. But, if you remember, I am also a researcher. When I got my master gardener certificate from the University of Connecticut, I got interested in maintaining the historical significance of Connecticut gardens so I started working on a wonderful colonial garden in Haddam — the Thankful Arnold House. I don’t do a lot of collecting of heirloom seeds, but keeping gardens anchored in their heritage and with native plants is what I like to do.

    Q. How did you start working with minority populations in Connecticut?

    A. My interest began long ago. When I was 13 I went to the mountains of Puerto Rico, where much of my family comes from. I was amazed to see children who did not have basic prevention-oriented health care. There was a beautiful little girl with chronic ear infections, but there were few medical resources to address it. Of course, things have changed since those early days of the 60s, but back then I vowed someday I would give back to the people who made me what I am. I’ve never looked back.

    Q. What is your favorite thing about Yale?

    A. Yale produces amazing leaders. Our students jump at the chance to take in all that Yale has to offer. And, then they become artists, writers, politicans, lawyers, athletes; captains of industry and entrepreneurs; community leaders in health, community development. You name it, there are Yalies who are at the forefront of it. And we get to praise them when they come back for reunions. It doesn’t get any better.

    Q. What is one piece of advice you would offer Yale students?

    A. The world, all aspects of it, is changing dramatically. At no time in our world history has the intellect and leadership of Yale students been more important. As Rick Levin says, pick something you are passionate about and go after it.