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A More Global Yale?
Commerce and culture no longer stop at national borders, and neither does the influence of a world-class university. At the most recent AYA Assembly, delegates from around the world talked with Yale officials and students about bringing the world to Yale—and Yale to the world.

Lest we think the current talk about “globalization” is a new idea for the American university, two Yale professors helped put the matter in perspective during the Association of Yale Alumni’s most recent Assembly, titled “The Internationalization of Yale.” On the first day of the gathering, on October 22, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead reminded delegates that universities “have always provided a place where people were in contact across international lines. That is one of the defining and constant features of universities.” That evening, DeVane Professor of History Gaddis Smith traced Yale’s growing international consciousness to 1898, when the United States became a player on the world stage in the Spanish-American War. Smith told of how U.S. involvement in Asia led to the admission of students from the Phillipines and the founding of the influential Yale-in-China program. President Arthur Twining Hadley even proposed founding a “School of Colonial Administration” at the graduate level to train leaders for the outposts of the American empire.


Who will Yale’s future students be? What will they learn? Where will they learn?

But while attention to the wider world has been a fact of Yale life for most of its existence, revolutions in communication and transportation have made global contact more common—and, some say, more critical. The Assembly, which drew 300 delegates plus another 30 invited alumni who live outside the United States, was designed to address three questions about how Yale should respond to increasing global exchange: Who will Yale’s future students be? What will they learn? and Where will they learn?

The first question proved the most contentious. In a variation on previous disputes about admissions, it was the alumni who pressed the case for expanding the number of foreign students, while representatives of the administration defended the University’s decision to remain “an American university.” As Provost Alison Richard put it: “I see that as different from saying this is an international university with representation from around the world. We do not aspire to that.”

Still, Richard said, the percentage of international students has risen from 4 percent in 1993 to 7.5 percent this year (including Canadians, who account for 2 percent of the student body but are treated the same as U.S. students in admissions and financial aid), and she suggested that the number could go somewhat higher, though she said that “15 percent sounds too high to me.”

But on several occasions during the three days of panels and discussions, alumni delegates stood up to call for a higher percentage, or for no limits on international students (and, concurrently, the institution of need-blind admissions to insure that more international students could come to Yale). While Corporation member David Gergen endorsed “moving toward” need-blind admissions for foreign students, he also said the Corporation “thinks it would be a mistake” to put domestic and international students on equal footing in admissions. “It would change the nature of Yale,” he said.

Undergraduates who were invited to breakfast with delegates said they felt that having foreign nationals as their fellow students enriched their Yale experience."The value is in the perspective they provide,” said Erika Greenfest, a Pierson junior. “When we’re learning about some other country, it’s terrific to have someone here from that country.” As for boosting international enrollment, Morse junior Bailey Hand said, “I think it would be great to have more foreigners. But I’m not sure I’d want to give up my place.”

In a session on alumni roles in Yale’s internationalization, panelist Alexander Macridis '84, a native of Greece who returned to his homeland and founded a Yale Club there, said Yale’s financial aid policy toward international students, while improved recently, makes it hard to recruit students. “There is always the fear that there won’t be the resources for the person to attend,” he said. “You’re afraid to sell Yale too much for fear they’ll be disappointed. Need-blind admissions should be done across the board. We’re losing kids to MIT and Harvard, which are need-blind, and that drives me nuts.”

As for where Yale students learn, most of the discussion centered on the question of undergraduates taking their junior year abroad or participating in other foreign-study programs. While Yale students do travel to foreign countries, especially in summers, to do academic research, the number who study abroad in lieu of time spent at Yale is small, Richard said. Ninety students took their junior year abroad last year, up from 64 in 1994–95. “Yale students really love being at Yale,” said Richard, so it’s a problem for them to go away.” Students added that it is hard to find foreign programs—other than Yale’s own in London—for which Yale will grant academic credit, and that even a semester away from Yale can make it difficult to fulfill the requirements of some majors.

Richard emphasized changes in the University’s financial-aid policy that relieve students of the need to earn money in the summer so that they may use that time for travel and research. Gustav Ranis, who directs Yale’s Center for International and Area Studies, added that the Center provides $1 million in grants annually to assist graduate and undergraduate students who want to do research for dissertations and senior essays abroad.

Ranis and YCIAS also figured in the discussion of what students will learn, internationally speaking. The Center, founded in 1983, has become the locus for an international and interdisciplinary approach to education. “The distinction between domestic and international is becoming outmoded,” said Ranis. “Departments are like fortresses. The future lies in the edges of disciplines, where they touch each other. We need more joint appointments between departments and schools.”

More interest in other nations and cultures is also leading Yale to an expansion of its use of foreign languages in the classroom, said Nina Garrett, who was appointed this fall as Yale’s director of foreign language study, a newly created post. Already, language departments are offering classes that go beyond their traditional focus on literature, and Garrett raised the possibility of bringing to Yale a concept known as “foreign language across the curriculum,” in which foreign-language sections of some courses would be available. “We hope to develop the technological basis to work in any combination of language X and discipline Y,” said Garrett.

The power of technology to promote international dialogue was demonstrated most convincingly at the session on the role of alumni abroad. While two of the three panelists were physically present for the meeting, the third, Caroline Drees ’93, was in the United Arab Emirates, where she is a senior correspondent for Reuters. Drees appeared larger than life on a Davies Auditorium projection screen via video teleconferencing, an achievement that left delegates with no doubt that the world is getting smaller.  the end


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