Saturday, March 5, 2016

Holloway: Civic Engagement at Yale

Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway '95 Ph.D. talked to alumni in Rye Brook, Mar. 2, about campus events and about the Yale Civic Leadership Conference (YWAA photos)
Events on the campus at Yale last fall attracted national attention and could have reached a combustion point, as factions of students fought to get their voices heard. Fortunately they didn't. Speaking to an alumni group from YWAA and Yale Greenwich, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway '95 Ph.D. didn't avoid addressing what was surely on the minds of many alumni. He welcomed and handled questions with ease and candor.

But he insisted on highlighting a promising new program on campus regarding civic engagement. Thanks in part to time and leadership of alumnus Eric Liu '90, CEO of Citizen University, the Yale Civic Leadership Initiative was formed last year to give students a forum to address civic and community issues and learn how to become effective leaders in the community.

What started as an idea and a discussion by Liu and Holloway has taken off.  In January, the Initiative held its second conference of workshops, idea sharing, and leadership, open to Yale undergraduates.  On a Saturday for a whole day, when most would have preferred to sleep in, 120 students arrived early in the morning to take buses to West Campus to participate. 

Impressed by the students' resolve to commit to something new and important, Holloway said students sacrificed the day to devote to discussions and planning to improve civic engagement and agree to disagree in a civil way. They seized the day and proved students from different backgrounds and political interests could find common ground for the common good.

After a fall semester remembered for flared emotions and national media chronicling high-pitched dialogue among professors, deans, and student groups, Holloway said sessions like that of Civic Leadership Conference prove students want the best for all. So engaged have many become that students gladly accepted Holloway's challenge to assume greater roles in the Initiative in the periods to come.

Detroit city official Richard Tao '10,  film producer Lynn Novick '83, and former student leader and New Haven activist Caroline Smith '14 were Yale alumni speakers at the Conference.

The national media  have wandered away from Cross Campus, and Holloway and President Peter Salovey '86 Ph.D have been attentive to follow-up and have returned to the business of managing complex university affairs. Other institutions, he acknowledged, have invited him and Yale officials to speak to understand how Yale wound up last fall on an upbeat note.

Prominent on the New Haven agenda these days, Holloway said, is preparing for the opening of the two new residential colleges in 2017, the names for which will be announced in the weeks to come.  New colleges mean hiring new staff and even luring some off-campus students back to campus by allowing them to live in an elegant new setting, which promises attractive amenities.

Holloway's agenda is crammed, he admitted, far more than he thought when he accepted the Yale College post. Often the events of the moment or a crisis of the week sets his schedule each day.

The "core of Yale" is still there, he assured Westchester and Greenwich alums.  What makes Yale Yale is still there.  But a more diverse Yale with global roots and community-engaged students makes Yale better.

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