Yale University

Working at Yale

Staff and faculty ‘pioneers’ are settling in and building a community at Yale’s West Campus

Click image for larger view

Among West Campus's 100 staff and faculty are those making new discoveries in research institutes.

The first time that Lisa Maloney, operations manager for West Campus, visited the new 1.6 million-square-foot campus on the Orange/West Haven town line, it was shortly after Yale had purchased the property from Bayer Pharmaceuticals in 2007. She marveled at the state-of-the-art labs, conference rooms, extensive warehouse space and 136 acres of green that includes nature trails along the Oyster River, but she also noted “a quiet so eerie it was as if the former employees had left the buildings just moments ago.”

Fast forward to April 9, 2010: The campus was abuzz with the events surrounding the Yale Corporation meeting, as well as the activities of the over 100 staff and faculty “pioneers” who have settled to work in the new section of campus, and the growing engagement of other faculty and staff throughout the University. 

Some pioneers are members of three core research support facilities (the High Throughput Cell Biology Center, the Small Molecule Discovery Center and the Yale Center for Genome Analysis) that have already helped shed light on the genetic basis of autism, tracked key molecular pathways in inflammatory diseases and discovered a new cancer drug. Others work in the new interdisciplinary research institutes, such as the Microbial Diversity and Systems Biology Institutes, or as members of teams from the Yale Peabody Museum and Yale University Art Gallery that are moving, conserving and digitizing Yale collections. Still other staff from Business Operations, Dining Services, Facilities, Grounds Maintenance and Security support the daily operations. 

As Michael Donoghue and Stephanie Spangler, vice president and associate vice president respectively for West Campus planning and program development, agree, the complex promises to impact science and the arts at Yale in a way that can only be described as “transformative.”

President Richard C. Levin has noted that such a transformation in scientific research “is very hard to do on the existing campus … what we’re trying to do is to build break-through, interdisciplinary institutes that will advance research in a collaborative way.” According to Levin, the potential for clinical work and the arts is “only limited by one’s imagination.”

The West Campus experience is perhaps best illustrated in a newly designed website that debuted on April 28th: www.yale.edu/westcampus. On the site, visitors can learn about the three new research support cores and the shared preservation and conservation facilities under development for the arts. They can also view video shorts in which 42 “pioneers” discuss their roles in this newly emerging community.

In one video vignette, Gunter Wagner, chair of the faculty committee that is developing the Yale Systems Biology Institute, speaks of the possibility of new interactions among the sciences because they are “sharing the same environment, using the same technologies and asking similar questions.” In another vignette, Donoghue points to  the communal effect of storing art collections from the Peabody, Yale Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art together in the immense spaces available. “[I]t allows them to be studied side by side, fostering collaboration and demonstrating the strength of Yale’s collections as an aggregate whole,” he notes.

Maloney and her team are actively cultivating a sense of community among the new residents at West Campus and with neighbors in Orange and West Haven.

She is one of seven members of the Pioneer Council, chaired by Jane Merkel (also director of the Small Molecule Discovery Center), which is tasked with, among other things, generating new ideas about how to stimulate social interactions and develop best practices for this new and growing community. The campus now conducts an eight-week yoga class, sponsored by Yale WorkLife. Yale Dining has begun providing sandwiches, salads, healthy snacks, cold drinks and cookies at a “grab and go center” on Wednesdays in the Lobby of WB-25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Bright Horizons center offers working parents on-site child care.

Plans are also in the works by Peabody naturalist and West Campus education coordinator Tom Parlapiano to expand the nature trails, which have existed since the Bayer days. Working out of the Community Education Center, Parlapiano offers educational programs and workshops for community organizations and students in grades K-12 in West Haven and Orange, including partnerships with the West Haven High School’s Honors Biology program to monitor the health of the Oyster River and the West Haven Tree Commission to train tree inventory teams. 

Bird watching has taken hold on West Campus with resident birders Sue Hochgraf and Lynn Jones of the Peabody Museum leading the way and even blogging at http://birdingwestcampus.blogspot.com.

In January hundreds of migrating crows created a spectacle as they roosted communally in the trees, bringing many staff to their office windows. Maloney remembers watching at sunset from hers: “I saw hundreds of crows flying in a west-to-east pattern by my office window, lasting about 45 minutes with a constant stream of birds. I was pretty awed and deemed it yet another reason to love West Campus.”

To find out more about the services and community outreach at West Campus including monthly tours for staff, the new shuttle schedule, childcare services, conference facilities and more, visit www.yale.edu/westcampus.  To see more pictures of West Campus, click here.

Read about West Campus sustainability practices by Len Malonis and his grounds maintenance team in Who's News. Find out a little bit more about West Campus's Sustainability Summit award winner Matt Goldstein in "Staff honored for their sustainability initiatives."

--Liane Membis '12 assisted on article