Yale Bulletin and Calendar

January 13, 2006|Volume 34, Number 15|Two-Week Issue















Thanks to new financial aid policies, even students whose families' incomes are in "the lowest quartile" can come to Yale, says Levin.

Q&A with President Richard C. Levin

It has been more than 12 years since Richard C. Levin was appointed president of Yale, and there have been many changes on campus and in the wider world during that time.

A former Graduate School dean and a Yale faculty member since 1974, Levin is now the longest-serving president in the Ivy League and an acknowledged leader in the field of higher education.

During his tenure, Yale has invested over $2 billion in campus renovations and construction, including several new buildings on Science Hill. The University has strengthened town-gown relations, contributing $100 million directly to improvements in the City of New Haven and developing partnerships to expand the number of local spin-off companies based on Yale research. Under Levin's leadership, it has also launched initiatives aimed at internationalizing the University, such as expanded opportunities for Yale students to study and work abroad and the World Fellows Program, which brings emerging leaders from around the world to campus.

An acclaimed economist, Levin has been an outspoken advocate of the need to promote research at universities and to protect intellectual property rights. He served on Presidential Commissions reviewing the U.S. Postal Service and the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence operations. He also was on the Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics.

Levin recently sat down with the Yale Bulletin & Calendar to talk about current objectives and future goals for the University. The following is an edited version of that discussion.

Five years ago, Yale announced it would invest $500 million in strengthening its science and engineering programs. What strides have been made in that area, and what does the future hold?

We are part way through an effort to build a number of new science buildings and to renovate the balance of our science facilities on Science Hill and the engineering campus. We recently added the Class of 1954 Chemistry Research Building and the Malone Center for biomedical engineering. The next steps are a new building for the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and the renovation of the Sterling Chemistry and Kline Chemistry Labs.

We want to use these new and renovated facilities as an opportunity to recruit outstanding scientists. The new facilities are a major attraction for top scientists, and we want to take this opportunity to strengthen our departments as the new buildings and labs are completed.

You've traveled around the world, developing ties between Yale and other universities and governments in an effort to make the University truly international. Why is this initiative so important?

To prepare for leadership in today's world, it is more necessary than ever before for our students to be knowledgeable about cultures and societies with norms and values other than our own. We're highly interdependent in our economies and in virtually every profession, so for our students to have appropriate awareness of at least one other part of the world will be an important advantage as they pursue their careers.

Toward that end, we are looking to allow opportunities for all Yale College students to go overseas sometime during their four years of study. To make that possible requires a major effort by many staff at Yale, who are helping to identify and launch appropriate study programs, and by alumni all over the world, who are helping us to find suitable job internships for our students.

This impetus to give every Yale student a taste of international education is something that now sets us apart from all of our peer institutions, and we think that it is a very important component of preparation for leadership in the globalized world.

Are there any new curricular initiatives planned to increase students' understanding of the world?

In the fall of 2006, we will initiate a new semester-abroad program in China, with 20 Yale students living and taking classes with 20 Chinese students on the campus of Peking University.

We need to enhance faculty representation in a number of key curricular areas in international studies. We have enormous strength in the study of history and cultures of the world, but we have some surprising gaps in the study of the contemporary world, and that's something that we have to remedy through the work of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies over the next few years.

In another corner of campus, Yale's galleries, theaters and architecture facilities have undergone major renovations, thanks to a $250 million investment in the arts. Why has this been an important area of focus?

Actually, by the time we're finished, the total investment in the arts will be on the order of $500 million. Yale has enormous strength in the arts, both the visual arts and performing arts. It has long had a leadership position among professional schools in the areas of art, architecture, music and drama. We have spectacular collections in our two art museums, and all of these programs were suffering from deficiencies in their facilities when I became president.

We've made enormous progress by opening the new Gilmore Music Library, renovating Leigh Hall, Sprague Hall and the Yale Center for British Art, and creating a new home for the School of Art on Chapel Street. But there's much more to be done: to complete the renovation of the Yale Art Gallery; to construct a new facility for art history adjacent to the Art & Architecture Building, which itself needs renovation (the two buildings combined will house a much expanded and much improved arts library); to complete facilities for the School of Art by creating a new building for the sculpture program downtown; and, finally, to establish, in the years ahead, an entirely new home for the School of Drama containing a theater suitable for the performances there.

You've also committed $500 million to expand and improve the School of Medicine's facilities, particularly its laboratory spaces. How will the school's clinical programs, particularly patient care, benefit from these changes?

We're pursuing a dual agenda in the School of Medicine. One is to continue to support the already very strong basic science enterprise. The medical research taking place at Yale today hardly needs justification: It has made major contributions to the prolonging of human life and the improvement in the quality of human life, and we want Yale to continue to be at the forefront of the basic science discoveries that drive those changes. But we also want the School of Medicine to be in the vanguard of institutions that translate advances in basic science into clinical care -- new therapies, new procedures and new drugs today have close links to basic science.

Yale's School of Medicine needs to build an appropriate infrastructure for clinical research and clinical programs that will be state-of-the-art and best practice. The collaboration with Yale-New Haven Hospital is essential in moving in this direction, and we're heartened by commitments by the hospital to move ahead in this dimension. The proposed Cancer Center, a $430 million state-of-the-art facility, will be an opportunity for both the medical school and the hospital to move to the forefront in that vital area of clinical care.

You've talked extensively about the importance of Yale having a top School of Management. Why is this so important?

I think the reasons for having a strong School of Management are akin to the reasons why the internationalization of Yale is so important. The business sector has been the driver of much of the change that has brought the world together and made it more interdependent. If you look at the forces for reform in countries like India and China, it is the development of globally competitive business enterprises that have propelled these tremendous advances. The developments have had the largest impact on reducing global poverty in human history. So I think that in the 21st century, Yale would be a stronger university if we had a business school of the highest quality. We are well on the way.

Are there any other goals or issues of vital importance to the University?

In the years ahead I would very much like to see Yale deliver even more thoroughly on the promise that we made in the middle of the 1960s when we introduced need-blind admissions and need-blind aid for Yale College.

We draw students from all family backgrounds and we provide very generous financial aid. However, I'm still concerned that the affordability of a Yale education is not understood in all areas of the United States, let alone the rest of the world. I believe that there are many worthy students from low-income families around the nation who simply don't know that Yale -- and some of our Ivy League counterparts -- have such generous financial aid policies, and that it would be possible, for example, for many young people whose family incomes are in the lowest quartile to come to Yale without a parental contribution.

Getting the word out is an essential item on our agenda. We've begun efforts in this dimension by employing our best possible recruiters -- Yale undergraduates -- who are visiting their hometowns and regions in an effort to educate students and their families that Yale is accessible to the most talented, regardless of economic circumstances.


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Campus Notes

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