The task of building a diverse community in the Graduate School does not end with recruiting and admission. ODEO exists both to provide specific measures of support to diverse students as they move through their degree programs and to create a space in which they can share their particular concerns and encounters regarding the challenges of graduate education.
The ODEO Director, staff and graduate fellows meet individually with domestic and international students of color, members of the LGBTQ community, women and other diverse students to learn about their experiences in adjusting to life as a graduate student, life in Yale’s academic environment, and life in an unfamiliar city. They offer a compassionate ear, practical advice and advocacy for students as they transition through the various stages of their degree programs.
The academic year begins with a welcome reception in September for first-year students of color and ends each May with the Evening of Scholars honoring the accomplishments of Yale PREP Scholars, graduating master’s and doctoral students, and faculty who have made outstanding contributions to diversity at Yale.
ODEO sponsors events throughout the academic year to gather and connect the Graduate School’s increasingly diverse community. Some events, such as the Bouchet Seminar Series, focus on scholarship. Named after an alumnus of the Graduate School from 1876 who was the first African American to receive the doctoral degree in the United States, this monthly gathering provides diverse students from all disciplines with an opportunity to share the successes and challenges they have encountered in conducting research. Other events focus on mentoring, such as the Women in Graduate School reception and the Women in Science at Yale seminars, which gather women faculty, post-docs and graduate students to discuss their experiences in research environments, exchange strategies for negotiating a productive work-life balance, and provide role-models for those just beginning their careers. There are occasions for rigorously practical discussions, like the Surviving at Yale series led by faculty who talk with students about incorporating their unique cultural background within their development as scholars, navigating the academic system at Yale, and establishing appropriate priorities at each stage of their graduate programs. There are also occasions to socialize, such as the Holiday Ball in December and the GLBTQ Prom on Valentine’s Day weekend.
In addition to creating its own sense of community, ODEO contributes to the University’s broader efforts to build programming around national celebrations of diversity, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and Black History Month.
There are many good reasons for students to attempt to secure funding from agencies outside of the Graduate School, not the least of which is supplementing the standard aid package that Yale provides. Drafting fellowship and grant proposals is an opportunity to develop a clear and concise statement of one’s research interests for a non-specialized audience, which is an especially important exercise for students entering the job market. Receiving such fellowships and grants provides graduate students with validation from the broader academic community of the importance and relevance of their particular research. From the standpoint of professional development, writing grants is often central to a graduate student’s future role as a faculty member. ODEO assists graduate students with their grant applications and funding proposals both on an individual basis and through workshops that offer students an overview of the typical fellowship application process and a detailed review of the variety of fellowship opportunities available for diverse students.
In addition to the space that ODEO provides for interaction among diverse students within the Graduate School, there are a number of cultural centers and student organizations that bring together students of specific ethnicities, genders and other underrepresented experiences.
The Asian-American Cultural Center, Afro-American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural and Native American Cultural Center sponsor scholarly lectures, social events, dinners and excursions that put diverse students in touch with each other, introduce them to Yale’s vast array of intellectual resources, facilitate the sharing of research and provide mentoring. In addition to benefiting from events sponsored by the Lesbian and Gay Studies program at Yale, graduate students from the GLBTQ community participate along with faculty and administrators on ODEO’s LGBTQ advisory committee. Beginning each fall with the Women in Graduate School reception, ODEO sponsors a number of events that explore the lives of women in academe, often in collaboration with the Women Faculty Forum, the Women’s and Gender Studies program, Women in Science at Yale and the Office for Women in Medicine.
The ODEO Director and graduate fellows meet regularly with counterparts from peer institutions to learn about resources and programs for diverse students that are in development elsewhere. ODEO is committed to sharing this knowledge with graduate students by adopting successful programs and directing students to materials maintained by other institutions, such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the American Council on Education and the American Association of University Women.