Yale’s West Campus marks ten years, with more to come

Photographs: Harold Shapiro, Jon Atherton, Lisa Maloney

Over 200 members of the Yale community gathered October 26th for a symposium and reception marking the 10-year anniversary of Yale’s West Campus. The campus was purchased in 2007 from Bayer Pharmaceuticals and today is home to the Yale School of Nursing, seven research institutes, and numerous partners from across Yale. This short firm charts progress since 2007, from an empty industrial site, to a university campus expanding the horizons of science at Yale.

“We want to recognize the work of the faculty, students and staff who have given so much to shape a vision for the West Campus in such a short time,” said Scott Strobel, Vice President for West Campus Planning and Program Development.

The symposium featured talks on cancer biology, energy science, chemical biology, cultural heritage, nursing, microbial science, systems biology and nanobiology, spanning the breadth of Yale’s scientific focus on the challenges of human sustainability.

Introducing the symposium, former Yale President Richard Levin recalled the early negotiations on what was referred to as the ‘deal of the century.’

“It was like Yale’s Louisiana Purchase,” he said of the decision to add a third to Yale’s real estate outside of New Haven. “We knew it was an incredible investment in Yale’s future, and to see what has happened already is incredible.”

Strobel recalled the “massive emptiness” of the campus before the first Vice President, Michael Donahue, convened thought leaders from across Yale to brainstorm ideas to put the space to use, including the concept of creating institutes and supporting Yale’s collections.

A Pioneer Council was convened in 2008, with Janie Merkel (Yale Center for Molecular Discovery), Shrikant Mane (Yale Center for Genome Analysis), Tim White (Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History) and Carol DeNatale (Yale University Art Gallery) and others driven to make the new space work by the growing needs of their own programs.

Through the constancy of key staff such as Kelly Locke, Chris Incarvito, Amy Mulholland and Keith Draghi, and with the Yale Dining team of Donna Hall, Chris Jamilkowski, Lisa Hopkins and Tiffany Moore anchoring the Conference Center as a central gathering space, West Campus Administration set to hiring faculty and transforming the former pharmaceutical facility into open plan science and art conservation space.

The West Campus Institutes today connect 41 faculty laboratories with attendant graduate students and post-docs across health science, cultural heritage, and energy science.

The August 2013 “tipping point” for the campus was the relocation of the entire Yale School of Nursing from New Haven, almost doubling the campus population. “Nursing is a STEM science, and also a STEAM science. We know that work is going on right here at West Campus, across the Institutes and at the School, where we have the opportunity to take that to the next level,” said Dean Ann Kurth.

In 2016, the Yale Landscape Lab was created to open up the total 136 acres of campus to connect scholars from across Yale for sustainability-related research and learning. 

A community of almost 1700 people now occupies the 17 buildings that make up Yale’s West Campus. “I want to thank everyone for making the West Campus a success,” concluded Scott Strobel. “We’re not done yet. Some buildings are still empty.  We still have room to grow and programs to build, to imagine what is possible in addressing the world’s biggest challenges.”