The Graduate School welcomed 637 new students to campus this fall, selected from an extraordinarily competitive pool of close to 11,300 applicants.
Incoming students hail from colleges and universities across America and around the world. At the annual Matriculation ceremony in Sprague Hall, President Richard C. Levin welcomed them, noting, “You have come from 294 colleges and universities in forty countries, and for the first time we have a match for every letter of the alphabet. You have come from Berkeley and Beijing, from Florida State and Fudan – well, you get the idea.”
About 360 of the entering students come from the United States, but others have joined the Graduate School from as far away as New Zealand and Singapore, with the largest international cohort – numbering 102 – from the People’s Republic of China. Canada, India, and South Korea sent 19 students each. About 490 of the new students are pursuing PhD degrees; the remaining matriculants are enrolled in master’s degree programs.
In his welcoming remarks, Dean Thomas Pollard asked the students to reflect on why they had chosen to undertake graduate education, and then expressed his hope that, “You are here above all to discover something important that advances your field. As a scholar your goal is to create new knowledge. You want to have the thrill of being the first person to make a key observation or connect the dots in a novel way. Ideally your discovery will have growth potential, so you can use it to build your career and drive knowledge in your field to a higher level.”
The Dean called attention to the fact that Yale provides doctoral students with five years of full financial support and outstanding benefits. Most of the Graduate School’s $80 million budget is spent on stipends and healthcare, he noted, and only $2 million of the budget is spent running the school, including “the fabulous services provided by our McDougal Center.”
He urged the students to consider the sources of the generous support. “Where does this money come from? The largest share is income from the University’s endowment, for which we have to thank the generosity of so many individuals and the skillful management of endowment funds, which has brought dramatic growth over recent decades.”
He singled out “some special donors, who have made lasting impacts. Fifteen years ago Yale College graduate Fred McDougal and his wife Nancy Lauter donated endowed funds that now support the activities of our extraordinary McDougal Center, including Student Life, the Graduate Teaching Center, the Writing Center, Career Services and our Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity. Just last year Patricia and Peter Gruber gave the largest donation in the history of the Graduate School to support fellowships in perpetuity for fifty graduate students in the sciences… It is thrilling to consider that this gift will be supporting Gruber Fellows at the turn of the next century and far beyond. Another generous donation came from Laura Bornholdt, a Yale History PhD. She had an illustrious career in higher education, including leadership positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence, Wellesley, the Danforth Foundation, and the Lilly Endowment. Donations of several million dollars during her life and recently from her will support graduate student fellowships.” Since a lot of funding comes from the federal government in the form of research and training grants, “We also owe thanks to the US taxpayers... for their support of our students,” he said.
Dean Pollard told the incoming students about efforts to strengthen graduate education at Yale and to promote “best practices” that include strong mentoring by faculty advisers, opportunities for students to engage in independent research early in their graduate careers, careful monitoring of student progress “scheduled early enough for students to judge their readiness for dissertation research... and annual conferences for students to present their work” to their peers. He asked students for their help “working with faculty and administrators in your department, to apply and discover metrics for solid improvement in our programs.”
He encouraged the newcomers to take full advantage of Yale's “academic richness outside your discipline” and extraordinary cultural offerings. “To cite just one example, we are sitting in one of the best small music halls in the world. Yale offers 350 classical music concerts each year, which means that several are going on daily. I urge you to explore the piano recital series, the chamber music series and other concert programs including faculty and student recitals. You have the opportunity to hear the best professionals in the world along with fellow students.”
One highlight of the Matriculation was a performance by the Citations, the Graduate School's only co-ed a capella singing group.
President Levin hosted a reception for the new students and their guests on the lawn of his house following the ceremony, and after lunch in the courtyard of HGS, the matriculants attended orientation programs whimsically called “Graduate School 101.”