Yale is building on faculty diversity and excellence through $50 million initiative

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During an orientation program for new faculty members, Provost Benjamin Polak welcomes them to campus. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Provost Ben Polak and Professor Richard Bribiescas, deputy provost for faculty development and diversity, have updated the faculty on Yale’s ongoing $50 million initiative to build on the excellence and diversity of the faculty throughout the university.

The Provost’s Faculty Development Fund, which was announced last fall, provides up to half the salary for three years to support the appointment of faculty who enrich diversity or contribute on another dimension of strategic importance to Yale. In its inaugural year, the initiative committed resources to support 26 ladder faculty.

“We have been impressed by the enthusiastic participation in the initiative across the schools and departments,” Polak and Bribiescas wrote in a Sept. 7 email to the faculty. “In the first year, every school that submitted a request for funding received support, including the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Schools of Divinity, Drama, Engineering & Applied Science, Forestry & Environmental Studies, Law, Medicine, Music, Nursing, and Public Health.”

President Peter Salovey said, “I am delighted that the initiative is off to a good start — but there is more work to be done. We must recruit and retain the best faculty, and ensure that all of them feel welcome and valued.”

A number of Yale’s deans said the initiative had contributed significantly to their capacity to recruit outstanding faculty to the University this year.

“This initiative has allowed departments to think broadly and creatively about faculty excellence and has allowed us to hire a number of spectacular scholars and teachers who might otherwise have been beyond our reach to attract,” said Dean Tamar Gendler of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

“Yale’s initiative is important not only for recruiting, but also for developing our own faculty with a range of diverse characteristics and expertise,” said Dean Ann Kurth of the School of Nursing (YSN). “It has already been a helpful tool at YSN to grow our own diversity. Access to the matching funds played a critical role in recruitment and has factored heavily into our faculty hire planning for the upcoming year. At YSN we believe strongly that a diverse, inclusive faculty is essential because it leads to a stronger, more productive culture at the school and ultimately, a healthier society.”

Dean Greg Sterling of the School of Divinity said the initiative allowed his school to recruit new scholars aggressively.

“We had an exceptionally deep pool of applicants, the best pool that I have experienced in 15 years as a dean at two institutions,” Sterling said. “The fact that we could apply for assistance and that we were confident that Provost Polak and President Salovey were serious about the funding emboldened us. The results promise to be transformative for the Divinity School, and I am deeply grateful for the program.”

Dean James Bundy of the School of Drama also credited the initiative for positively affecting the hiring of outstanding faculty at his school.

“Yale School of Drama has recruited extraordinary practitioners who are field leaders and who make our faculty community more inclusive and representative of the wider world, “ Bundy said. “Our successful searches were made possible with support from the Provost.”

In addition to supporting appointments to the ladder faculty ranks at Yale, the development fund also supports Presidential Visiting Professors who, Polak and Bribiescas said, are distinguished scholars and practitioners from across the world who bring unique research, practice and teaching to Yale. There are 13 inaugural Presidential Visiting Fellows this year.

“We must also expand and develop the pool of young scholars who will contribute to the excellence and diversity of future generations of faculty,” Polak and Bribiescas wrote, noting that the initiative also supports the Dean’s Emerging Scholars Program. That program, in collaboration with Dean Lynn Cooley of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, helps attract and graduate the best Ph.D. students who will enhance the diversity and excellence of the academy in the future. Fifteen incoming Ph.D. students were admitted as Dean’s Emerging Scholars fellows, and 10 Ph.D. students will be awarded Dean’s Emerging Scholars research awards. 

The Provost’s Faculty Development Fund also provided resources to expand Yale’s post-baccalaureate programs that help promising students transition to graduate school and academic careers.

Polak and Bribiescas said Yale must invest in current faculty by providing development opportunities and supporting an inclusive climate.

The Office of the Provost is partnering with the Center for Teaching and Learning to offer teaching academies for new faculty, with an emphasis on inclusive teaching, and to launch a Diversity & Education Series: Inclusive Pedagogy in Action.

“We have expanded our workshops and resources on inclusive excellence and recognizing and avoiding implicit bias,” they stated. “They are offered university-wide for committees conducting faculty searches, dean searches, and tenure and promotion reviews.”

A new website, faculty.yale.edu, centralizes information and resources of particular interest to faculty, such as best practices in faculty searches.

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