Committee advises converting Jackson Institute into school of global affairs

Yale’s Jackson Institute should become a school of global affairs featuring a robust, faculty-driven research program dedicated to solving real-world problems and shaping a better future for humanity, according to a vision described in an advisory committee report released Nov. 14.

Founded in 2010 largely as a teaching enterprise through a generous gift from John Jackson ’67 and Susan Jackson, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs currently houses a thriving educational program that serves hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students each year. In 2017, Provost Benjamin Polak convened an advisory committee of eight senior faculty members to consider the institute’s future and assess whether Jackson should be transformed into an independent professional school.

The committee’s report (PDF) recommends converting Jackson into an intentionally small school of global affairs that is deeply academically grounded and governed by a ladder faculty.

“A half-century from now, Jackson should stand as one of the world’s leading centers for research and teaching on policy issues of maximum global importance,” the committee stated. “These issues include both international problems requiring global solutions and problems that span the globe but require local solutions — topics ranging from trade to war to international law, from economic and political development to ethnic conflict, from the movement of peoples to health and climate change. Jackson should set the agenda for how to address these issues.”

In a Nov. 14 email message to Yale faculty, President Peter Salovey and Polak shared the committee’s report and solicited feedback.

“The committee envisions a future School of Global Affairs that will stand as one of the world’s leading centers for research and teaching on policy issues of maximum international importance,” they said, adding that the report offers “an exciting blueprint for the future of global affairs at Yale.”

Town hall meetings with students, faculty, and staff are being planned for January, according to Salovey and Polak. They anticipate that the Board of Trustees will consider the proposal during the first half of 2019.

“The committee spent a lot of time studying Jackson, the university, and our peer institutions,” said Judith Chevalier, the William S. Beinecke Professor of Management and chair of the advisory committee. “Jackson has been very successful since its founding. However, we believe that Yale can contribute even more substantially to the conversation on policy issues of global importance and that Jackson can contribute even more effectively to the university’s research and teaching missions. The recommendations in the report, particularly the recommendation of a jointly appointed research-oriented faculty, provide the best foundation to move Jackson forward to fulfilling those ambitions.”

While the Jackson Institute currently has a roster of affiliated faculty members, non-ladder faculty teach most of its courses. The committee advises creating a permanent, ladder faculty (tenured and tenure-track professors) to drive the new school’s research mission and governance. It recommends that ladder faculty members be jointly appointed with other units at Yale — a model it concludes is conducive to developing a multidisciplinary faculty that is fully integrated into Yale’s scholarly community. Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs operates on a similar model. 

The committee found that the Jackson Institute’s master’s program, undergraduate major, and popular undergraduate elective courses have substantially improved the university’s educational offerings concerning global affairs.  It asserts that more fully embracing Yale’s research mission will strengthen Jackson’s overall program by providing students exposure to cutting-edge research methods and a broad range of ideas and perspectives.  

“As one of the world’s great universities, Yale should educate global citizens and conduct significant research on matters of global import,” said Pericles Lewis, vice president for global strategy and deputy provost for international affairs. “The committee’s vision for a future school of global affairs fits well into the strategic priorities that President Salovey has outlined for Yale. It will allow us to continue strengthening research on international challenges and to shape generations of future leaders.”

The committee proposes that Jackson’s permanent faculty — in coordination with a school’s dean, instead of a director — have the authority to choose and evaluate faculty members, design curriculum, and develop the school’s culture of scholarship and education. It envisions the new school being deeply interconnected with the broader university community to foster multidisciplinary collaboration.

The committee recommends that Jackson remain focused on global affairs and not become a school of publicly policy. It notes that the Jackson Institute has had “resounding success” in convening the university around global affairs, which was one of its primary original goals. Jackson’s intimacy and targeted focus have been key to this success, and the committee suggests that its relatively small scale would present a disadvantage to a school of public policy, which would require a faculty with a wider array of specializations.

Maintaining Jackson’s small scale will allow it to “value quality over quantity” in recruiting students and appointing faculty, and give it greater ability to integrate with the rest of campus than would be possible in a larger school, the committee advises. 

Since its founding, the Jackson Institute has attracted a roster of noted senior fellows — experienced practitioners, including diplomats, military leaders, journalists, and policymakers — who provide students with real-world perspectives on global affairs. Last year, the institute named former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’66 as Yale’s first-ever Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs and worked with him to establish the Kerry Initiative, an interdisciplinary program that addresses pressing global challenges through teaching, research, and international dialogue.

The institute also administers the Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program, which attracts mid-career professionals from across the globe to Yale for a four-month, full-time residential program. The fellows host events, invite speakers to campus, and mentor students.

Practitioners should have limited terms and their roster should be refreshed regularly to expose students and faculty to new perspectives from individuals with recent experience in public service, the committee recommends.   

The committee estimates that the transition into a school, if sufficiently funded, could be completed within three to five years. It advises the university’s administration to undertake a rigorous review of the school five years after it is established.

The committee’s full report is available online (PDF).

The advisory committee was composed of Chevalier; Michelle Bell, the Mary E. Pinchot Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Steven T. Berry, the David Swensen Professor of Economics; Alan S. Gerber, dean of the Social Science Division and the Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Political Science; Pinelopi K. Goldberg, the Elihu Professor of Economics; Timothy Snyder, the Richard C. Levin Professor of History; Steven Wilkinson, the Nilekani Professor of Political Science; and John Fabian Witt, the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law.