Yale President Peter Salovey to return to faculty full time in 2024
Peter Salovey announced today that this academic year will be his last as Yale’s 23rd president, and that he will return to the faculty full time after 11 transformative years as head of the university. Since he took office in 2013, Yale has made significant strides toward the vision he articulated upon his appointment as president — a vision he has continually reinforced of “a more unified Yale, a more accessible Yale, a more innovative Yale, and an even more excellent Yale.”
In his 2013 inaugural address, Salovey ’86 Ph.D. set the context and tone for the work that was to come. “We are living in a world that will test our university, and we must remain rooted in our principles and focused on our founding mission,” he said. “We must be clear-eyed about our strengths and weaknesses, and ambitious in fulfilling our promise.”
The years since have been marked by sustained progress in service of these aspirations.
In a message to the Yale community today, Josh Bekenstein ’80, senior trustee of Yale’s board of trustees, known formally as the Yale Corporation, praised Salovey’s leadership in advancing the university’s educational and research mission, improving its infrastructure, and nurturing a growing culture of innovation. The university has also expanded the student body while achieving greater affordability for undergraduate, graduate, and many professional school students, he said.
During Salovey’s presidency — which has followed his service as provost, dean of Yale College, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and chair of the Department of Psychology — Yale has added 2.2 million square feet of teaching and research space and raised $7.2 billion to support Yale’s academic mission and impact on the world. It has undertaken a thorough, university-wide effort to sustain a thriving educational environment in which faculty, students, staff, and alumni can do their best work, and it has launched a project to shed light on Yale’s historical ties to slavery.
“On behalf of the board of trustees, I can attest to our admiration of President Salovey’s bold vision for Yale, collaborative leadership style, and commitment to creating a culture that celebrates our diversity and fosters belonging and inclusion,” Bekenstein wrote. “We respect his decision and applaud him for choosing a time for leadership transition when the university is in such a strong position financially, academically, and strategically.”
In his announcement, Salovey, who is also the Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, said there is “no perfect moment” for a president to step down, but that “the best time to search for a new leader is when things are going well.”
He continued: “I hope you share my view that we emerged from the COVID era a stronger university, and over the past decade, one that has made serious and meaningful strides to be even more preeminent in teaching and research, in addressing pressing global challenges, and in preparing the next generation to serve and lead worldwide.”
The transformations Salovey ushered in over the past decade are evident across the university and, through strengthened research and educational collaborations, worldwide. Yale’s financial footing is stronger as well. The university’s endowment grew from $20.8 billion in June of 2013 to $41.4 billion in June of 2022, and Yale’s current capital campaign, “For Humanity,” has raised more than $5 billion toward its $7 billion goal.
“With President Salovey’s leadership, our university has made remarkable progress,” said Provost Scott Strobel. “This progress is no accident. It reflects our considerable efforts to recruit, retain, and empower the very best faculty, students, and staff, as well as our community’s deep commitment to advancing our mission to improve the world through research and education. I am proud to work at an institution and alongside colleagues who embody this commitment day in and day out. President Salovey and our community have set a strong trajectory for Yale, and I’m excited about the positive impact of our work in the years to come.”
Throughout the 2023-24 academic year, a series of Yale News articles will explore the university’s evolution since 2013, its momentum and continued progress, and Salovey’s enduring commitment to the university and city that have been his home since he arrived as a Yale graduate student in psychology in 1981. This first installment presents some of the highlights of a presidency that has helped Yale extend the frontier of knowledge, address serious and urgent problems facing humanity, and become a stronger community.
Arts and humanities: Exploring, understanding, and improving the human experience
Since 2013, Yale’s preeminence in the arts and humanities has found expression, alongside faculty expansion, in a series of striking projects and initiatives that foster unity and community in service of scholarship and teaching, and others that have created opportunity for a greater variety of people to study and train at Yale.
A dramatic reinvention and renovation of the iconic 14-story collegiate Gothic building at 320 York St., formerly a dormitory and office complex known as the Hall of Graduate Studies, opened in 2021 as the Humanities Quadrangle (HQ). The breathtaking project brought together previously dispersed faculty members and graduate students from across most of Yale’s humanities disciplines, promoting interaction among scholars who, as Salovey has said, help us understand “the most difficult things we face as individuals and as citizens.”
Two years ago, as theaters everywhere, including those on Yale’s campus, were poised to reopen after prolonged pandemic-related closures, Yale shared news that sent joy through the theater world: its celebrated drama school would no longer require students to pay tuition.
The school, which was renamed the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University, became the only institution of its kind to eliminate tuition, removing financial barriers to access and allowing a greater number of gifted artists from all backgrounds to enroll.
The 2021 opening of the spectacular Yale Schwarzman Center, Yale’s first center for student life and the arts, has meanwhile introduced new performance venues and an abundance of premier cultural programming at a marquee campus crossroads designed to foster interaction among students from all parts of Yale.
And a multi-phase renovation of the Louis Kahn-designed Yale Center for British Art is now underway, following a widely heralded renovation and expansion of the Yale University Art Gallery.
Read more about Yale’s progress and ambitions in the arts and humanities.
Multidisciplinary social science: Addressing pressing national and global challenges
Salovey oversaw a historic development in the social sciences that was also a historic event in the evolution of the university — the opening of the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs, Yale’s first new professional school in nearly half a century. The school, located on Hillhouse Avenue and formally opened in 2022, unites scholars and public policy practitioners to educate future leaders who are equipped to address challenging global problems.
Yale has further expanded its scholarly footprint in the social sciences by establishing a variety of new institutes and centers, with an associated expansion in data science. Among the new centers is the Tobin Center for Economic Policy, which offers data-informed solutions to issues in health care, education, tax policy, environmental economics, and other matters affecting the daily lives and well-being of millions of people.
Data science — integral to the practice of cutting-edge social science and other quantitative disciplines — is thriving at Yale, which has taken a leadership role in the field. In 2017, when the university transformed its Department of Statistics into the Department of Statistics and Data Science, Yale became one of the first institutions of higher learning with a department explicitly focused on data science research and education. The department’s faculty members have joined others from many other parts of Yale — including computer science, mathematics, biostatistics, and medical informatics — in a multi-disciplinary data science community.
Across campus, social scientists are benefitting from the new Data-Intensive Social Science Center (DISSC), a campus hub for research that uses advanced computing to analyze large and complex datasets.
Explore Yale’s recent progress and ambitions in the social sciences.
Science and engineering: Advancing research and discovery to improve lives
Yale under Salovey has invested heavily in the sciences and engineering, focusing on areas in which it is positioned to have an outsized impact on the world, including planetary solutions, neuroscience, inflammation, quantum science and engineering, and data science.
A sampling of major achievements includes:
- the launch of the Planetary Solutions Project, a university-wide effort to seek novel solutions to environmental problems, including climate change and biodiversity loss;
- creation of the Wu Tsai Institute, which, through a historic gift, is assembling researchers from many disciplines to study human cognition;
- establishment of the Yale Quantum Institute, which has become a leading center for transformative research in quantum science and engineering;
- completion of the new Yale Science Building and renovation of Kline Tower; and
- launch of the interdisciplinary Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture with a gift from FedEx and additional funding from Boeing Corporation and Southwest Airlines.
Further, Yale has established the School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS) as an independent and growing faculty, announcing recently that, in the decade ahead, it will have a dramatically enhanced presence in the heart of campus, with new hubs for robotics, artificial intelligence, and computational and mathematical modeling.
Similarly, a major financial commitment by the university will transition the School of Public Health into a self-supporting, independent professional school, part of a broader effort to support the development of future leaders in medicine, nursing, and public health.
Planning is well underway for one of the largest facilities projects in Yale history, the Physical Sciences and Engineering Building (PSEB). It will be home to initiatives that include quantum computing, quantum engineering, and materials science, benefiting multidisciplinary research within both SEAS and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
The planned PSEB and the renovated Kline Tower — home to a new hub for computational, mathematical, and statistical research — are two symbols of the university’s deepened commitment to cross-disciplinary research and the blending of people and strengths, hallmarks of the Salovey presidency, representing his vision of a more unified Yale.
In addition to harnessing Yale’s intellectual firepower to study and seek solutions to the threat of climate change, the university has taken measures to minimize its own impact on the planet.
Yale — which in 2017 became the first university to impose a carbon charge on itself — has announced a sweeping plan to achieve “zero-carbon” status on campus, created new ethical investment principles to guide decisions about companies producing fossil fuels, and made planetary solutions a focus area for Yale Ventures, an enterprise created to foster a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem on campus and in greater New Haven. By 2020, Yale had reduced its net emissions by 43% below 2005 numbers, with additional net reductions since 2020.
Yale has also reinvented its beloved and biggest science museum: Next semester, the Yale Peabody Museum is scheduled to complete its first comprehensive renovation in 90 years. The multi-year project will result in a museum for the 21st century, further establishing it as a home for premier research, exceptional education, and inspiring exhibitions. When the Peabody reopens, public access will be free.
“Part of what is magical about Yale right now — thanks to President Salovey’s vision — is that it’s able to marry the depth of its historic strength in the humanities and arts with its amazing foundation in a number of STEM areas,” said Nancy Better ’84, a co-chair of Yale’s “For Humanity” campaign, chair of the Yale University Library Council, and a member of both the Yale School of Music Board of Advisors and the Yale Alumni Schools Committee. “People always say you don’t have to choose between the two, and of course you don’t. Yale is fundamentally a human enterprise and exists to improve the human experience and catalyze human progress.”
Read more about Yale’s progress and ambitions in science and engineering.
Educational excellence, innovation, and access: Creating an enriching environment for preparing future leaders
Today, Yale is more accessible and more affordable for more students, supporting Salovey’s vision that Yale should offer an education to the most talented students from every corner of the globe regardless of the resources of their families or neighborhoods.
Making the Geffen School of Drama tuition-free for all students was a major achievement in broadening access and affordability. Several other Yale schools have also taken strides in providing greater financial support for students, including Yale Law School, which expanded a scholarship program enabling students with significant debt to attend tuition free, and the Yale School of Medicine, which substantially reduced the expected indebtedness of its graduates.
In Yale College, a string of developments has made an undergraduate education possible for significantly more students. The 2017 opening of two long-planned new residential colleges, Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin, enabled Yale to increase enrollment by 15%.
Over the last 10 years, Yale has also dramatically increased the number of undergraduates from lower-income families.
Between 2013 and 2023, the number of Pell-eligible students in the first-year class — students with the greatest financial need — more than doubled. The recently arrived Yale College Class of 2027 includes 22% who are eligible for a Pell Grant and 21% who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college. There are approximately 500 more first-generation students in Yale College today than in 2013.
Along the way, Yale has raised the threshold for its “zero parent share” grant awards, assuring that families with a total gross annual income of less than $75,000 would not be expected to make any financial contribution toward their child’s undergraduate education. A national alliance of leading colleges and universities has in recent years twice recognized Yale for its rapid increase in enrollment of the least affluent students.
Today, 86% of Yale College students graduate debt-free.
“President Salovey has made improving access to higher education a major priority,” said Randy Nelson, ’85, co-chair of Yale’s “For Humanity” campaign. “Yale has tremendously expanded accessibility, not only in terms of getting students to New Haven, but also setting them up to succeed once they get here.”
Inclusion and excellence: Fostering a diverse and exceptional learning community
It has been a defining priority of the Salovey presidency to ensure that members of the community — students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike — feel Yale is a place where they belong, can participate fully, and can thrive.
In October 2020, Salovey announced a plan to promote a community-wide sense of belonging, an endeavor supported by the Belonging at Yale initiative, which aims to foster a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.
In the years since, Yale has made steady advances, enhancing the leadership skills of a diverse group of future university leaders through a training program, supporting alumni as mentors to current students, and ensuring that every school and major administrative unit has developed its own local action plan.
Belonging initiative programs also support the faculty — its diversity and its engagement with the world through outstanding research, teaching, preservation, and practice. The Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative (FEDI) program, for example, promotes excellence, diversity, and inclusion among faculty across campus. Through FEDI, Yale has made 140 ladder faculty appointments and supported 60 Presidential Visiting Fellows.
Over the past decade, university-wide, the percentage of newly hired ladder faculty from underrepresented backgrounds has risen significantly, from 8% in 2013 to 20% last year.
“Thanks to President Salovey’s leadership, our faculty has grown in size and breadth, our community is increasingly diverse and unified, our campus has expanded with beautiful new functional spaces, and a Yale education is more inclusive and accessible to the world’s best students,” said Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis.
The work to create a genuine sense of belonging has also meant scrutinizing and directly addressing Yale’s own past, and Salovey has supported an unflinching examination of it.
In 2020, he formed the Yale and Slavery Working Group, chaired by Sterling Professor of History and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Blight. The group has been researching Yale’s historical associations with slavery, the slave trade, and abolition. Blight is writing a book about its findings that will be published in early 2024.
Based on the working group’s initial discoveries, Yale has taken steps to begin redressing its historical shortcomings. It has established the Pennington Fellowship, which provides Yale-funded scholarships for New Haven high school students who choose to attend certain historically Black colleges and universities. It has formed the Yale Committee for Art Recognizing Enslavement, which is working with members of the campus and New Haven communities to commission works of art and related programming to address the legacy of Yale’s historical associations with slavery. And Yale has conferred degrees on two men, the Reverend James W. C. Pennington and the Reverend Alexander Crummell, who both studied at Yale in the 19th-century but were denied the opportunity to receive degrees because they were Black. Yale will honor them at a campus ceremony next month.
“The working group’s research has made our past vivid and concrete. And its scholarship will continue to inform our diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts to create a stronger Yale,” Salovey wrote to the Yale community in December. “Our responsibility to discover light and truth compels us to reckon with our past.”
Yale and New Haven: Forging stronger partnerships with Yale’s home city and state
Over the last decade, Yale has intensified its commitment to the city and people of New Haven and of Connecticut, growing its direct financial investment in the city, providing job and educational opportunities, and facilitating business formation.
In November 2021, Salovey and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker ’10 M.E.M./M.B.A. announced that Yale would significantly increase its voluntary financial contributions to New Haven, create an academic center focused on local economic development, minimize the city’s burden when buildings leave the tax rolls, and help reinvent a campus stretch of High Street as a pedestrian zone for the general public. Yale, which was already making the highest payment by any American university to its host city, now makes $24 million in annual voluntary payments to New Haven.
These efforts dovetail with other Yale programs, such as the New Haven Hiring Initiative, established in 2013 to create Yale employment opportunities for city residents; New Haven Promise, which provides scholarships to public school students from the city who attend two- and four-year public colleges and universities in Connecticut; and the new Pennington Fellowships.
“It is a pleasure to work with President Salovey on lifting the entire New Haven community through inclusive growth,” Elicker said. “It has been encouraging to see Yale increase its investments in the Elm City under his leadership — with the university nearly doubling its annual contribution to the city in 2021 and with the recent announcements about the search for the Center for Inclusive Growth’s inaugural executive director and initial programming. Our partnership will continue to expand opportunities for members of the Yale and New Haven communities.”
In and beyond the city, Salovey has prioritized Yale’s efforts to nourish Connecticut’s economy.
Scores of startups born of Yale research have taken root in New Haven over the past decade. Seventy Yale startups have raised over $5.4 billion in capital over the last seven years. And the 2022 creation of Yale Ventures, the entrepreneurship enterprise, is bringing a new degree of energy and organization to innovation and economic development. The university is participating in a major downtown project at 101 College Street that will be a home for life sciences firms, a startup incubator, and Yale Ventures itself.
“President Salovey has been an advocate for students and scholars, a champion of education and innovation, and a great friend to New Haven and Connecticut,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, ’80 M.B.A. “He understands the role universities like Yale can play in generating opportunities for young people, strengthening the local economy, and bringing research to market to improve lives. I am grateful to him for what he has done for Yale and for all those who benefit from Yale’s new ventures and collaborations. Even though I’m a Harvard College alum, I’m always proud to sit on the Yale side of The Game with President Salovey.”
A more global Yale: Enhancing collaborative research, teaching, and learning worldwide
As Yale has invested in New Haven and Connecticut, it has also sought to increase its impact globally, in part through projects in China and, through the Yale Africa Initiative and the Yale Young African Scholars Program, a heightened focus on Africa.
The overall goal of the Africa Initiative is to bring more of Africa to Yale — and Yale to Africa — through mutually beneficial partnerships. Over the last decade, Yale has deepened longstanding relationships and developed fresh collaborations on the continent, promoting opportunity across Africa and in New Haven.
More than 2,300 secondary school students in Africa who aspire to a university education have benefited from the Young African Scholars Program, an intensive academic enrichment, leadership, and college access program.
Reinforcing the university’s commitment to engage with African universities, scholars, institutions, alumni, and friends, Salovey has traveled as president to Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, and Yale has welcomed to campus heads of state from Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.
Yale’s bright future
A new semester is now underway at Yale, and the ambitious work of the university continues apace — as does Salovey’s. In addition to the initiatives he will advance in his final year as president, he will remain afterward an engaged member of the Yale community as scholar and educator, pursuing the opportunity to, in his words, “renew my love of research, teaching, and working with students.” He also will continue fundraising until the campaign is completed.
In his announcement, the president expressed gratitude to the trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni for their commitment to Yale and for their efforts to advance the university’s mission, and to the members of his senior leadership team, past and present. He also thanked his wife, Marta Elisa Moret ’84 M.P.H., whom he met as a fellow Yale graduate student, for being “a marvelous partner on behalf of the university, hosting events, speaking at gatherings, and advising scores of undergraduates interested in public health. I feel her support every day.”
He concluded: “To each of you in the Yale community: thank you. You have made these years as president deeply rewarding. I look forward to the work we will do together in the next 10 months and beyond.”
Bekenstein, the senior trustee, said the year ahead would afford the opportunity to celebrate Salovey’s “immense service to our university,” and he asked the community to join the trustees in thanking the president and Marta for “making Yale more unified as a community working for the common good, more accessible to individuals from every neighborhood around the world, more innovative in contributing knowledge and solutions to humanity’s most vexing challenges, and more excellent in its core mission of teaching, scholarship, and research.”