Yale To Expand Applied Sciences

The announcement comes less than a year after Harvard established its own SEAS

Following in the footsteps of universities including Harvard, Yale University will create a School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), Yale President Richard C. Levin announced Monday.

This announcement aims to reunite the departments into a cohesive SEAS, led by Dean of Engineering T. Kyle Vanderlick, who joined Yale at the beginning of the calendar year as the chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering.

“Engineering is more than a collection of individual departments,” Vanderlick said.

She compared specialization in engineering to chosing a particular field of study in medical school.

“There are subdisciplines within medicine but they have a common purpose, a common mission, a common language, and a like-mindedness,” Vanderlick said. “And that’s also true in engineering.”

She also emphasized that it is valuable to study engineering within the context of a liberal arts education.

“I think in many ways when people think about engineering, they don’t always think about doing it in the Ivy League context,” she said.

But, she said, Harvard, Yale and their peer schools are “ideal places to study engineering because you get to study in the context of a much broader liberal arts education.”

The new school marks the second time Yale has attempted to establish a separate engineering school. In 1932, Yale created a School of Engineering, but between the 1960s and the early 1990s, individual engineering departments were established within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In 2007, Harvard showed its commitment to engineering by establishing its own School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the University has already announced plans to add a third concentration for engineering students in the new school.

“The reasons why Harvard elevated this odd unit which was called a Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences to a School of Engineering and Applied Sciences were to raise its visibility and stature at a time when it’s going through pretty significant growth,” said computer science professor Harry R. Lewis ’68, a member of the SEAS.

He said that by creating a separate school, the SEAS has become “more autonomous administratively and financially.”

Vanderlick asserted that Yale’s decision was independent of Harvard’s transition last year, but noted that both indicate a commitment to engineering.

“It’s important to Harvard obviously because [Harvard] did it,” she said. “And it’s important to us as well.”

The decision to unify the engineering departments has been in the works for some time, Vanderlick said.

In 2003, Yale launched a one billion-dollar initiative dedicated to improving science, engineering, and medicine at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

According to Yale spokeswoman Janet R. Emanuel, the new SEAS is one part of that initiative, which also aims to expand faculty by 10 percent and create a new building.

While the engineering school will remain as a part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the transition to school status will afford Yale’s SEAS more opportunities to work with other departments and schools within the university.

“Engineers are the people that interface between science and society,” Vanderlick said.

—Staff writer Alexandra Perloff-Giles can be reached at