The Graduate School was the focus of this fall’s AYA Assembly, with a day-long celebration marking the 150th anniversary of the first PhD degrees ever granted in North America, conferred at the Yale Commencement in 1861.
Those first doctorates marked the beginning of a remarkable legacy of educating world leaders who have made their mark in every academic discipline, both within the university setting and beyond. The AYA Assembly brought over 400 alumni leaders to campus, representing regional Yale clubs, college classes, graduate and professional school alumni, and interest groups. AYA Board and Assembly Chair Michael Madison (Yale College Class of 1983) hosted the meeting.
A Brief History of the PhD at Yale
Originally called the “Department of Philosophy and the Arts,” the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was established by an act of the Yale Corporation in August 1847 and enrolled eleven students. Fourteen years later Yale awarded the first PhD degrees in North America.
An Investment in the Future
To introduce the celebration, former Dean Jon Butler chaired an opening plenary session, giving an overview of the mission of the Graduate School, followed by a panel of faculty from each division that discussed issues of importance to the future of graduate education.
Breakout Sessions Feature Current Students’ Research
Between the opening and closing panel discussions, delegates attended talks offered by 29 current students demonstrating the rich variety of cutting-edge research being carried out across the academic disciplines at Yale.
Alumni Panel: “Doctorates without Borders”
Moderated by Provost Peter Salovey (PhD 1986, Psychology), the closing panel featured spectacularly successful alumni who spoke about the ways graduate education at Yale had influenced their lives and launched their careers. Dean Thomas Pollard discussed his recent report on graduate education at Yale and discussed plans for an internship program to diversify the professional experiences of graduate students.