Karen Seto Succeeds David Skelly as
Associate Dean & Doctoral Studies Director

Karen Seto, a professor of geography and urbanization at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), has been named the School’s next Associate Dean for Research and Director of Doctoral Studies.
 
She succeeds David Skelly, an F&ES professor of ecology who was appointed as the new director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History beginning July 1.
 
For Seto, who has been at Yale for six years, the new position offers a chance to reassess how the School prepares its students for a changing academic world — and to continue the work started by Skelly to integrate the realms of research and doctoral studies at F&ES.
It’s not just about publishing papers and doing research, but making sure [the students] are well-rounded and able to be flexible in their careers.
— Karen Seto
“It’s an exciting opportunity to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the doctoral program and ask, ‘How can we best prepare our doctoral students for the kind of research and academic or consulting careers they might seek?’” Seto said. “It’s not just about publishing papers and doing research, but making sure [the students] are well-rounded and able to be flexible in their careers. I think that’s really important.”
 
The combined oversight of the doctoral studies program and research was a relatively new development when Skelly took the position in 2009. Since then, he has overseen an expansion of the research department’s staff and services, and emphasized a more active level of support for doctoral students throughout the award process.
 
“We expect a lot from our students and I believe they deliver quite well,” he said. “In most cases, we expect them to develop their own research programs. And they’re successful at that — and at getting that work funded. And I think that emerges a bit out of the structure we have for the program. I certainly feel that during my time those associations have continued to evolve and all aspects of the program have gotten better.”
In most cases, we expect [our doctoral students] to develop their own research programs. And they’re successful at that — and at getting that work funded.
— David Skelly
Other achievements during Skelly’s tenure include establishing a weekly seminar series that is open to the entire F&ES community, regular post-seminar discussions between the speakers and the doctoral students, and the creation of the F. Herbert Bormann Prize honoring students who epitomize the legacy of the iconic F&ES professor.
 
“We are deeply grateful for the superb leadership that David Skelly has provided as Associate Dean for Research over the past five years,” said F&ES Dean Peter Crane. “During his tenure every aspect of support for research at F&ES has been strengthened. We wish him the greatest success in his new role as Director of the Peabody Museum.
 
“We are also fortunate that Karen Seto has agreed to step into the role of Associate Dean for Research,” Dean Crane added. “She will continue to provide the support and encouragement that our research efforts need in order to remain on a strong upward trajectory. Karen brings great experience to this new role. In addition to being a distinguished researcher herself, and global authority in the field of urbanization, she is also a superb teacher and valued mentor to our students.”
 
Since arriving at Yale, Karen Seto says she has watched F&ES undergo significant transformation, from its faculty makeup to its ability to secure research grants.
 
But she says there remain opportunities to make the School stronger, particularly in the face of more academic competitors and an increasingly global world that demands new academic and professional skills.
 
In her new role, she will explore strategies to further integrate doctoral students and post-docs into the graduate-school experience, enhance the School’s role as an environmental leader, and increase its global profile. She also wants to add training opportunities to improve the ability of students to communicate their work in a technology driven, connected world.
 
“We should make sure that the students are not only first-rate scientists and researchers, but also first-rate at communicating their work to the public, policymakers and stakeholders they're going to engage,” she said. “I think that’s a pretty critical part of graduate training in the 21st century.”
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842
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PUBLISHED: June 6, 2014
 

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