One gloriously sunny, crisp Saturday in mid-November, a group of graduate students left the lab and library and went outdoors to participate in the “Second Saturday of Service,” a monthly volunteer program sponsored by the Graduate Student Life program at the McDougal Center.
Working with West Campus Education Coordinator Tom Parlapiano, the students walked the Oyster River nature trail, raking leaves and laying down mulch. They moved tree limbs that Hurricane Irene had brought down and cleaned up one of the gardens alongside the trail. Participants included students studying pathology, biomedical and electrical engineering, molecular biology, and immunology.
“The Peabody Museum Community Education Center is a really wonderful resource at Yale, and it was great to be able to work with them for a day,” says Deirdre Shannon (European and Russian Studies), who organized the outing with Jeremy Willsey (Genetics) in their role as McDougal Center Public Service Fellows. “We were able to take a tour of the nature trail beforehand led by Mr. Parlapiano, and we learned a lot about the different plants that make up the trail. Also, it was great to work outside on a beautiful, if a bit chilly day in November.”
Deirdre chooses to volunteer for community service activities because, “I've been given a lot of opportunities at Yale and in my community, and it means a lot to me to give back when I can.” She and Jeremy coordinated the Graduate School's participation in the Yale-wide Day of Service in October, which attracted over 100 volunteers. They held a baking event with the St. Thomas More Soup Kitchen in November, “adopted” a New Haven family for the holidays, and will run a college application workshop for students at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in early December.
Deirdre will graduate this May from her master's degree program with a thesis on the impact of the financial crisis on attitudes toward a common European identity. She plans to have a career in public service, “doing the kind of work I enjoy as a McDougal Center fellow,” she says.
Jeremy is a second-year PhD student who is interested in identifying and characterizing genes and genetic mechanisms involved in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, particularly autism. He plans on pursuing a career in academia, but intends to continue to engage in public service in his spare time. He hopes that his involvement in service will strengthen the relationship between Yale and the greater New Haven community, while fostering interaction among graduate students.