09/07/2012 12:52 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Will Hillary Clinton Do from 2012 to 2016?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
By Noah Chestnut, Director of Digital at Hamilton Place Strategies

Hillary Clinton will be the next President of Yale University.

Why not Wellesley?

Secretary Clinton received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley college, but Wellesley's most recent President started in 2007 and is well liked. I do not expect the school to change course.

Why Yale?

Secretary Clinton went to Yale Law. Yale's current President Richard C. Levin took the job in 1993. The 2012/2013 academic year will be President Levin's last at Yale. Yale Corp. is starting their search to replace Levin's historic twenty year run. See this ABC News report for details:

Who better to hand the baton off to in 2013/2014 than the former Secretary of State, Senator from New York, First Lady, and Yale Law alum? There is a strong history of politicians going to run universities, most recently with former Indiana Governor (and possible 2016 candidate) Mitch Daniels accepting the Presidency at Purdue.

According to recent discussions on campus, Yale Corp. is seeking a higher profile candidate, possibly from someone outside the academic world, to follow Levin. The Yale Daily News' Yishai Schwartz writes:

In the last few days, students' Facebook threads have been littered with links to a website,, run by a group of students and alumni concerned about the Yale presidential search process. This group claims to be concerned by the overly corporate makeup of the Yale presidential search committee ...

Secretary Clinton is an interesting choice to placate both students and the increasingly corporate makeup of the power brokers at Yale. Students are concerned about a former C.E.O. taking the position. A former Secretary of State and proud alum is a different story.

Why Would Clinton Say Yes?

This is a high profile political position allowing Secretary Clinton to continue her global travel, confront discrimination against women, remain networked with fundraisers, be involved with any and all policy discussions, and help grow one of the most prestigious global academic institutions.

The work is appealing. Higher education is at the intersection of many of the most pressing questions facing America. As President of Yale, Secretary Clinton would be able to lead on the following:

  • How much should an undergraduate education cost?
  • What is the government's role in providing affordable access to higher education? What does this mean for student loan reform?
  • How will leading academic institutions, ranging from Yale to Stanford, help democratize knowledge by providing cheaper or free online courses? How will education evolve in light of new communication tools?

She would be the first official female president of Yale. Harvard has had Drew Gilpin Faust. Princeton was led by Shirley Tilghman. Brown appointed the first African-American female President in Ruth Simmons. MIT's Susan Hockfield is blazing new trails (h/t Angelina Clarke). Hanna Gray was acting president of Yale for one year, but Yale has never committed to a women President. The Atlantic's Nicole Allan discusses Yale's lack of women leaders and problems with sexual harassment on campus Secretary Clinton's appointment would be historic.

The numbers add up. Yale's annual operating budget is roughly $3 billion. Richard Levin was the highest paid Ivy League president ($1.6 million in total compensation Secretary Clinton would be taking a pre-eminent executive job. This is not a step-down and would maintain her prestige.

Most importantly, Secretary Clinton would maintain flexibility. If she decides to run in 2016, this is a great job to hold in-between serving the Obama administration and running for the White House. If she chooses to retire from politics, running Yale is a plum job that will be intellectually stimulating and rewarding.

There is an argument that Secretary Clinton will need an additional year between Levin's retirement and when she would be ready to start. There is a recent historical precedent for this. During 1992/1993, Howard R. Lamar took a one year position as Yale's acting President between Benno C. Schmidt, Jr. and Levin. If Yale wants her, they will make it work. Provost Peter Salovey would be a great candidate for acting President.

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