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Benjamin Polak, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.


Benjamin Polak, the William C. Brainard Professor of Economics, was named provost in January 2013.

Benjamin Polak

As provost he facilitates strategic planning, long-term decision making, and the allocation of resources in order to promote academic excellence in all parts of the university. In addition, he oversees design and implementation of policies affecting faculty and students throughout the university. Mr. Polak holds a B.A. from Cambridge University, an M.A. in history from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

Mr. Polak joined the Yale faculty in 1994 and holds a joint appointment in the Economics Department, where he served as chair from 2010 to 2013, and the School of Management. He also has served as a member of the University Budget Committee, a member of the executive committees of the MacMillan Center and the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center, and a visitor at the Law School. Before coming to Yale, he was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and a visiting professor in the inaugural year of the New Economic School in Moscow. He has also held visiting appointments at the Australian National University, the London School of Economics, New York University, and the University of Melbourne, Australia.

An expert on decision theory and economic history, Mr. Polak teaches a popular course on game theory, which is featured on Yale Online Courses. He has published numerous papers in leading economic journals and has studied topics such as how individuals make decisions when faced with uncertainty and how societies choose when faced with inequality. His work on game theory ranges from foundational theoretical work on common knowledge to applied topics in corporate finance, law, and economics. His earlier research includes the emergence of a capital market in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; property transactions in Ireland from the early eighteenth century to modern times; and past correlations between poverty, policy, and industrialization. Mr. Polak has been honored with three major university teaching prizes: Yale College’s Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences (2006); the Department of Economics’ Graduate Teaching Prize (2005); and the William Clyde DeVane Medal for undergraduate teaching and scholarship at Yale College (2005). He and his wife, Stefanie Markovits, a professor of English at Yale, live in New Haven with their three children.