New Deans outline vision

May 23, 2014

On July 1, all five senior-most members of the Yale administration will have stepped into their roles within the past 18 months.

With the announcement of Jonathan Holloway as Yale College dean, Lynn Cooley as Graduate School dean and Tamar Gendler as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Wednesday, the makeup of the University’s leadership is poised to undergo a major shift. On Thursday, the three new deans — who will be responsible for overseeing and leading the bulk of the University’s students and faculty for the next five years — expressed visions for their tenures.

The jobs will come with substantial challenges.

Holloway will be tasked with overseeing the first major expansion in the Yale College student body in decades. Cooley will take over the graduate school at a time when a challenging academic job market has caused many to question the value of graduate education — particularly in the humanities. She will also step into her role amidst a renewed push for unionization on the part of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO), the unrecognized graduate student union. All three will also face a challenging budget climate, as the University continues to grapple with how to erase a substantial budget deficit.

Still, all three new deans expressed optimism about the potential for their roles.

Holloway said his vision for his tenure is driven by what he called the “central challenge” of the next five years: “how to accommodate change — the two new colleges — while not compromising the Yale experience at any level.”

That, he said, includes ensuring that the curriculum, pedagogy and extracurriculars do not suffer due to the influx of new students.

“I know I’m not alone in making this a … top priority, but I think it will mainly fall to me to make sure that the two new colleges only enhance Yale,” Holloway said. “It’s going to be a fascinating challenge.”

Holloway added that in addition to the expansion of the college, he hopes to work with Salovey and Polak to make Yale more transparent.

Part of that, he said, includes reducing competition between different areas of the University.

“If I can help Yale continue on a path towards openness and camaraderie instead of internal competition between fiefdoms then I will have made a major contribution,” Holloway said.

Cooley, meanwhile, said that her highest priority is ensuring that graduate students have the resources and guidance required for “outstanding scholarship during their time at Yale.”

She added that she is also eager to help graduate students better transition from Yale to their lives after graduation.

“Though we want students to focus on their research while in here, it is also important to start early laying plans for life after graduate school,” Cooley said.

Cooley said she plans to more fully engage alumni and work closely with the Graduate Career Services office. A related goal, she said, is providing students with the best possible resources to train them to become good teachers.

Gendler, for her part, is taking on a role with no precedent at Yale. Her new position will draw responsibilities from the Yale College dean, the Graduate School dean and the University provost.

Specifically, she will be responsible for faculty appointments and promotions, as well as the managements of the budget of the FAS.

She noted, however, that while a dean of the FAS is new to Yale, it is commonplace at several of Yale’s peers.

“This is a fairly traditional structure for other universities,” Gendler said. “The delicate bit will be to put a new piece into the system without disrupting what’s been traditionally excellent about Yale.”

Earlier this term, several faculty criticized the introduction of the FAS dean as an unnecessary expansion of the Yale administration, which traditionally has remained small in comparison to the size of the University.

Gendler said one of her goals will be avoiding the impression that her position introduced additional administrative hurdles for faculty.

“The key will be for me to serve as a dean of the FAS without in any way screening off the access of faculty within the FAS to the president and the provost,” Gendler said.

At a broader level, Gendler has outlined six main areas of interest — following the first six letters of the alphabet — for her tenure as dean: a conception of what the arts and sciences is, bridges between disciplines and schools, connections across the University, diversity, excellence and faculty.

“I think the biggest challenge is making the institution a place where every single one of the … faculty in the FAS feel like they are supported intellectually and given the resources, both intellectual and otherwise, to flourish in their research and teaching,” Gendler said, adding that she plans to devote substantial efforts to non-ladder, as well as ladder faculty.

Gendler said she plans to meet with faculty in every department — with particular emphasis on those outside her traditional realm of humanities — during the summer.

The three to-be deans emphasized the importance of collaboration between the roles, echoing statements made by Salovey earlier this term, when he suggested that the three deans would spend much of their time working together.

Cooley said that because graduate and undergraduate students are entwined in a variety of ways — such as in classrooms where graduate students teach and labs where graduate students mentor undergraduates — she plans to work extensively with Holloway.

“It makes perfect sense that the three new deans can work as a team,” Cooley said. “We will be exploring ways to take advantage of this new triad in the coming months.”

In its report earlier this term, the ad hoc committee on decanal structures recommended that the offices of all three deans be co-located, with the intention of increasing communication between the deans and the staffs.

Gendler said the administration has not determined where the FAS dean’s office will be housed during the 2014-2015 academic year. However, she added that by the end of the three new deans’ terms, which are slated to last five years, she hopes that the three offices will be in the same place. She referred to the office as an “FAS administrative center.”

The committee’s report also suggested that the University create three to five deans, reporting to the FAS dean, to oversee broad academic areas, such as humanities and natural sciences. Gendler said the current role of divisional director — for at least the next year — will expand, involving approximately half-time administrative work.

The departing deans of Yale College and the Graduate School — Mary Miller and Thomas Pollard — took office in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

Correction: May 25

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the exact description of the enhanced roles of divisional directors for the coming year.
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