Message from Dean Indy Burke

In the spring of 2018, our entire community engaged in a difficult but important conversation about race and identity, about structural impediments that have made it challenging to achieve diversity at our School and in the greater environmental field, and about how we can all do better.

Underlying the discussion, and others taking place across the country, is the question of who we are, as a School and as a community, and how we can energetically engage in enhancing our diversity and our culture — key elements of our strategic plan — and by so doing, lead the field of environmental scholars and practitioners. 

We are committed to continuing conversations about our own diversity, culture, cross-cultural awareness, as well as deepening our curricula in related scholarly areas. As a first step we have created this website which will be administered by our office of Community and Inclusion. We hope this website will become a vital and living document of that conversation — a platform where we can share new strategies and opportunities, identify emerging challenges, and invite feedback. On this page you can see what the School is doing and what it aspires to do. It will also be a conduit for all those in the community who want to be involved.

We take issues of diversity and inclusion very seriously. Increasing the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff was identified as the first goal of the strategic plan we initiated upon my arrival in the fall of 2016. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but there is still much work to do. We must take the opportunity to engage all members of our community as we evaluate the myriad dimensions of our legacy as a School, articulate what we want to be, and engage in environmental scholarship that embraces social justice in the most inclusive way possible.

We have made some early progress on these issues:
  • We made significant changes to the orientation training offered this summer for all incoming students, including two days of training on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • We're addressing these critical issues throughout the curriculum, including a new course on environmental justice, taught by Professors Michelle Bell and Amity Doolittle, and a new “perspectives” course offered to all incoming MEM students. We also hired Marianne Engelman-Lado to teach two additional capstone courses on environmental justice this academic year — and to help us flesh out a more comprehensive plan for the future.
  • Earlier this month, we announced the appointment of Dr. Narasimha Rao as Assistant Professor in Energy Systems Analysis. In his work he explores, among many important topics, the links between energy and poverty, as well as the relationship between energy policy and income inequality. (He’s already expressed an interest in teaching a course on climate change ethics and energy justice.)
  • We're also conducting a separate faculty search that places particular emphasis on recruiting leading scholars from under-represented groups.
  • Our Community and Inclusion office, led by our new Assistant Dean Thomas Easley, has created new programming and events that will continue to promote conversations that honor diverse perspectives and foster an inclusive culture. These events will feature leaders from across campus and from outside Yale. Additionally, the EQUID (Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity) committee — which includes YSE faculty, staff, and students — will continue to serve as an important liaison to the community, convening important programming and promoting improved communication across the school. This month we also hired an assistant director of strategic initiatives, who will help lead these new efforts.

Both I and leaders from across the School are committed to achieving meaningful change, but we can’t do it alone. We hope that every individual at the School, in every role, is committed to building a diverse and inclusive community with a culture of open discussion. 

I am really proud to be at a School where we can have these critical discussions — and where our students continually push us to learn and grow. They truly are catalysts for change and their passion fills me with optimism. I hope that we can all work together to effect change that is worthy of our important — and evolving — mission.

Indy Burke, Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean

September 2018