Report of Yale Alumni Assembly, Nov 8-9 , 2018

Report of Yale Alumni Assembly, Nov 8-9, 2018

In early November, as 1965’s second year class delegate to the AYA, Barb and I were privileged to attend the annual alumni assembly in New Haven along with fellow classmates: Chris Cooke – At-Large Delegate representing Alaska, Mike Hanson – President of the Yale Club of Southwest Florida, and Bob Wiznia – Class Agent for the Alumni Fund.

Each year, members of administration and faculty address representatives from Yale College Classes, the graduate schools, professional schools, and alumni associations, bringing them up to date about a different aspect of the University.

In 2017, the discussion was centered on “Creating Communities at Yale.” This year’s theme was “Science at Yale: Shaping the Future.”

This memo is an attempt to share with you some of the information about Yale presented at the Assembly. I apologize that it is not more timely and concise.

Thursday’s program focused on plans for the future of science education and research at Yale.

In 2016, President Salovey proposed that Yale make a commitment to science and engineering as a top academic priority, with the objective of improving Yale’s international reputation for science and engineering to a level more comparable with Yale’s prestige as a leader in the Humanities and the Arts.

“We want to give our students and faculty the best tools, in the best environment, to pursue ideas that will change the world.”

Several building projects have recently been completed on Science Hill, including: renovation of the 93 year-old Sterling Chemistry Lab, renovation of the Wright Lab (formerly the home of Yale’s pioneering “atom smasher” and now a center for collaborative neutrino research), completion of the Greenberg Engineering Concourse underneath Becton Plaza, linking the Engineering and Applied Science Center, the Dunham engineering laboratory, and the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID). The concourse provides six new student labs for use by all the engineering disciplines, highlighting the importance of hands-on experience. In 2019, the new 280,000 square-foot Yale Science Building for the Biological Sciences will be completed.

As part of this initiative, President Salovey appointed a University Science Strategy Committee charged with developing a strategic plan for the next decade, identifying needed changes in organizational structure and recommending a prioritized set of “big ideas” for additional investment by the University.

The committee report, issued on June 8, 2018, noted that there are many areas of excellent research going on at Yale. After studying hundreds of proposals, five priority ideas were agreed on. Feasibility and current impact were major criteria in the selection process. An alternative set of five priority concepts are also included in the report. Changes to organizational structure were advised that will allow Yale to better realize its current and future scientific initiatives.

The five priority investments recommended are:

1.) Creation of a University-wide Institute for Integrative Data Science and its Mathematical Foundations to develop algorithms, machine learning techniques, and innovative mathematical models to enable new understanding of data streams and predictive power.

2.) Expansion of the Yale Quantum Institute into a University-wide initiative with construction of a new building for the physical sciences with Quantum Science, Engineering and Materials as its major focus.

3.) Establishment of an Integrated Neuroscience Institute across the School of Medicine and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, seeking new fundamental insights into the function of the mind, the development of the brain, and the etiology and treatment of neural disease.

4.) Creation of a new Institute of Inflammation Science to focus on the inflammatory basis of both homeostasis and disease.

5.) Creation of an Institute of Environmental and Evolutionary Science to model environmental change and understand how organisms respond to a rapidly changing earth.

The Strategic committee advised that the School of Engineering and Applied Science needed to be more fully integrated into the fabric of the University across all three of Yale’s campuses to facilitate research efforts.

On Thursday afternoon, there were 18 varied scientific breakout sessions, led by faculty from the 10 areas suggested for priority investment. Alternatively, interested delegates had the options of attending a panel discussion “Addressing Sexual Misconduct at Yale: a conversation about current issues and initiatives” or taking guided tours of the new science facilities.

Friday morning started off with practical workshops for delegates based on their alumni constituency. We attended a session on class communication, platforms, governance, and class websites. It appears at some point in the future, 1965’s present listserv format will likely no longer be technically supported and the class will have to transition to some other messaging format.

The highlight of Friday morning was President Salovey’s wide-ranging university update.

The former Hall of Graduate Studies on York Street is currently being renovated and repurposed into a new central hub for the Humanities, bringing together several hundred faculty currently isolated from one another, with offices in various separate buildings around campus. President Salovey hopes that a new humanities community will result from this opportunity, for increased interactions and cross-communication around the new humanities quadrangle and forging new relationships with each other and with the campus. He discussed concerns about how to more fully integrate the faculty of what he termed the conservatory model schools: Art, Architecture, Music, and Drama, with the Humanities developing interdisciplinary courses and joint teaching collaborations between the Arts and the Humanities. Renovations are scheduled to be completed in 2020.

President Salovey talked about the future growth of Social Sciences at Yale and the need for substantial data-driven empirical research, as opposed to anecdotal ideological argument, in discussing critical social issues. Yale has embraced the future of data-based research, creating a revised Department of Statistics and Data Science that offers an undergraduate major. Faculty members work collaboratively across traditional departmental boundaries throughout the university. Recognizing the need for evidence-based research to drive public policy, Yale has appointed economist Steven Berry as the first faculty director of the new Tobin Center for Economic Policy, which will draw upon the broad resources of the University for domestic policy analysis. Salovey expressed his hope that Yale might bring “light and truth to real world problems.”

Speaking about the new initiatives in Science and Engineering,. Salovey remarked, “Yale wants to be a leader in pushing progress. We want to be a leading global research university that puts students at its center, teaching rational and scientific thought and approach… We are not waiting for buildings to be built before starting new programs… Over 1000 students have been involved with the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking, whose building will open in 2020… The new science building on the hill is on time and on budget… Yale has the largest quantum computing group in the world and is a leader in quantum science advancing theoretical work, experimental work, and commercial applications.”

In closing, Salovey expressed concern that “…while past generations valued colleges, today there is a distrust of expertise and a loss of confidence in colleges and universities by large segments of the American public… At the same time, the whole world looks with admiration at the American university system… Consider the power of your cell phone. That phone represents the research of universities transformed by industry that drives our economy, shapes our lives, and improves the future… Yale is a place of optimism and enthusiasm… As alumni, please promote Yale. Share your experience and knowledge. Spread the word. Build community and come back to campus.”

Friday afternoon, Barb and I slipped away to St Thomas More, where we had a cup of coffee with Father Karl Davis, who is one of the chaplains there. We became friends last summer, when Karl officiated at a wedding we attended of a young couple who are both alumni of Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Karl gave us an impressive tour of the 30,000 sq. ft. Thomas Golden Center, built in 2006, which houses a library, dining facilities, social areas, a meditation center and seminar rooms, plus the original chapel, built in 1938 and renovated in 2008.

We lucked out with our last session of the day led by Andrew Lipka, director of “Yale For Life.” Now in its ninth year this program offers alumni week-long on-campus summer seminars featuring top faculty. These very popular programs reportedly sell out in a matter of hours. Reading lists are distributed months in advance. Participants live and dine together for a week while enjoying full access to all campus resources and athletic facilities. Many participants remain in touch with one another after their course. Three offerings are scheduled for the summer of 2019: China: Present to Past, A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Era Made a New America, and Yale: An Eclectic History. The unannounced presence at this session of Akhil Reed Amar, Yale’s dynamic constitutional scholar, offered a taste of what alumni can anticipate experiencing in the Civil War seminar this summer, by engaging us in a lengthy discussion of the 14th Amendment – ratified in 1868 and granting citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves. There were some thirty enthusiastic, electrified listeners on the edge of their Harkness Hall seats, ready to sign up for the summer course. Understandingly, the session ran a little late.

Friday evening we attended the Yale Medal Awards dinner in the grand ball room at the Omni Hotel (the Commons is currently unavailable, undergoing transformation into the Schwartzman Center). Our lively table included Chris Cooke, Bob Wiznia, and Rody Salas ‘63, who represents the Yale Club of Cleveland. Barb and I had enjoyed meeting Rody at last year’s assembly and were happy to see him again. Mike Hansen reportedly opted out of the dinner for the Yale Harvard hockey game (a 3-3 tie). During the presentation of Yale Medals to five outstanding graduates, about 40 -50 football alums – who I believe were there to attend a memorial to the late Coach Carmen Cozza scheduled on Sat before the Yale Princeton game – stood up as a group around their tables performing a full-throated rousing rendition of “Bulldog!” as Greg Hall ’77, a tight end on the championship team of ‘76 , received his award for extensive contributions to alumni activities including mentoring “scores” of athletes and non athletes over the years, raising funds for the renovation of the Yale Bowl, and serving as an alumni fund class agent . The evening ended in napkins unfurled, with the traditional singing of “Bright College Years.”

Barb and I came home refreshed, intellectually stimulated, and with renewed enthusiasm and appreciation for the aspirations and the enormity of the Yale enterprise.

Bob Hammond ‘65

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