The newest cohort of graduate students — nearly 600 strong — entered the Graduate School in late August, joining approximately 2,100 returning students.
They were chosen from an extraordinarily large and competitive pool of 10,778 applicants from around the world. Most (437) are pursuing PhDs; the remaining 162 are in master’s degree programs. They range in age from 20 years old (Geology & Geophysics) to 62 (Spanish & Portuguese) and hail from dozens of countries, including three from Nigeria, two from Serbia, and one each from Nepal, Cyprus, and Iran. More than half come from the US, while the largest single international cohort comes from China (86) and the second largest from India (20).
Hundreds of undergraduate institutions are represented in the incoming class. UC Berkeley sent 15 of its alumni; both Yale and Peking University tied for second place with 13. Eleven come from the University of Chicago and ten each from Boston University, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania. The most populous PhD programs are Engineering & Applied Science, with 45 matriculants, and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, with 35. Physics and Political Science each have 23 new students, and Chemistry and History have 21 apiece. With 37 new students enrolled, International Relations is the largest master’s degree program.
Getting oriented. A week of formal and informal events introduced entering graduate students to New Haven, the University, and the Graduate School, coordinated by Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Lisa Brandes. “This year, I wanted to put more resources online early, to provide 24/7 access to information and to build community before newcomers even arrived at Yale,” she says. “We created a Facebook GSAS new student group, which enabled people to find roommates and meet up in their home cities before coming to New Haven. The new GS Orientation site on the Classesv2 server has been a great resource, hosting some fun and informative chats.” The orientation module was designed by McDougal Fellow Conor Frailey (Mathematics).
The annual scavenger hunt sent teams of newcomers racing around campus and downtown New Haven, answering questions and collecting specific items. In a new twist this year, the teams communicated via smart phones with the McDougal Student Life Fellows to document their activities instead of using disposable digital cameras as in recent years. Over 60 newcomers participated, visiting Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the New Haven Green, the Yale Repertory Theatre, the Chaplain’s office and more, while learning about their new city and school, bonding with teammates and forming friendships.
An information fair followed that same afternoon, introducing students to community- and campus-based services and vendors, such as the transit system and local banks. On another afternoon, the Grad Involvement Fair hosted representatives of student organizations and volunteer groups (clubs, ethnic-affinity groups, religious associations, student government, and public service opportunities).
International students convened for a special session to learn about filing taxes, how to manage their immigration status, and other legal matters. They also learned where to find English language programs at Yale and were coached on the idiosyncrasies of academic life in the US.
Throughout the week, the McDougal Fellows organized presentations on safety and wellness and tours of the Yale Health Center and Payne Whitney Gymnasium, along with social events and outings.
Matriculation Day. On August 25, incoming students were officially welcomed at a formal Matriculation Ceremony in Sprague Hall by President Richard C. Levin and Dean Thomas Pollard.
Dean Pollard noted, “On this occasion we celebrate the achievements and new responsibilities of each entering student. You bring new energy to the campus. Your enthusiasm and optimism give us all a lift. Your diverse backgrounds broaden our perspectives. Your fresh ideas and willingness to take risks stir up the intellectual ferment that makes Yale a top research university.”
Pollard said that “to create new knowledge” is the goal of graduate education: “You want to be the first person on earth to make a key observation or connect the dots in a novel way that provides insights about a question that matters to your field. Your discovery might emerge from creative experiments in the lab, from thinking deeply about a problem in mathematics or philosophy or from studying materials in a library or in the field. Often an individual has the key insight, but great ideas may also emerge from discussions and debates with colleagues. So use both strategies.”
He then spoke about the publication of a report titled “Improving Graduate Education at Yale,” outlining its goals and recommendations for enhancing the already strong programs the Graduate School offers.
The Citations, the Graduate School’s co-ed a capella chorus, performed "Ain’t Misbehavin’" (Fats Waller, arr. Chuck Casey), "I’ll Be Seeing You" (Sammy Faye, arr. Darmon Meader), and an energizing version of “Change in My Life” (John Pagano) that had Provost Peter Salovey, President Levin, and others tapping their feet and smiling broadly.
Following the ceremony, students, faculty, and administrators gathered for a reception at the President’s House and then a picnic lunch at HGS. The afternoon featured “Graduate School 101: GSAS Resources for Academic and Personal Success,” a series of division-specific talks hosted by Graduate School staff describing the many offices that provide professional and personal support to students, including the academic deans, Graduate Career Services, Financial Aid, the Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Graduate Student Life, the Graduate Teaching Center, and the Graduate Writing Center.
Classes began on August 31.