A torrential downpour, accompanied by thunder and lightning, did nothing to dampen the joy of the 595 new students on Matriculation Day, August 22.
Chosen from approximately 10,000 applicants and hailing from every continent but Antarctica, they joined 2,136 continuing students. Many returning students stayed in New Haven over the summer to pursue research. Others came back to campus over the past few weeks to resume their studies. Throughout August, McDougal Graduate Student Life provided activities for new and continuing students that ranged from shopping trips to walking tours to information sessions on health and safety. The Graduate Club & Public Service Fair enabled community groups and student organizations, including the Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, to present themselves and recruit participants.
The Graduate School provided academic orientation programs, and every new student attended a session on professional ethics. The Yale Teaching Center held Teaching at Yale Day on August 26 to help prepare new teaching fellows to lead a section, class or lab. Participants learned about policies and guidelines for teaching in Yale College, received tips from experienced teaching fellows and faculty, heard from Yale undergraduates, and were given information about the resources available to assist them all through the semester.
This year’s cohort of new students studied at many undergraduate institutions: 23 earned bachelor’s degrees from Yale, 15 from the University of California, Berkeley; 12 each from Brown and Peking universities; 10 from Tsinghua; and 8 from Harvard, Barnard, and the University of Chicago. One hundred and thirty are pursuing master’s degrees. The remaining 465 have entered doctoral programs. A geographically and culturally diverse group, 336 come from the United States, 98 from China, 21 from India, 15 from Canada, 14 from Germany, 13 from South Korea, and the rest from countries all over the globe. The oldest new student is 50, studying the History of Art; the youngest, 18, is enrolled in the Department of Engineering & Applied Science.
The Graduate School welcomed its incoming students with a formal academic ceremony in Sprague Hall. Yale President Peter Salovey (PhD 1986, Psychology) greeted them, their friends, and families, recalling his own emotions on arriving at Yale in 1981 to begin graduate studies. “I had no idea how deeply Yale would shape my life,” he said. He urged the students to “remember that the whole campus is yours to experience.”
Dean Thomas Pollard asked the matriculants to consider why they had come to graduate school, and to share their thoughts with someone sitting next to them. After a beat of silence, the hall erupted in a wave of laughter and talk.
Once the audience quieted down, Pollard acknowledged that there were many answers: “Our new Master’s students are here for professional training in engineering, computer science, global affairs, and other fields that will help them build their careers. I hope that each doctoral student is here to discover something important to advance your field, because the goal of the professional scholar is to create new knowledge. I want you to have the thrill of being the first person to make a key observation or connect the dots in your field in a novel way.” The first step is to “Ask the right question. Take a chance and ask a big question,” he urged.
The Dean encouraged students to “Be grateful to those who have provided financial support to create this great university for all of us and to those special donors whose generosity supports our doctoral students”; to connect to their colleagues, both fellow-students and faculty; to find ways to improve the graduate school experience; to take advantage of Yale’s extraordinary musical and artistic offerings; and finally, to “Be happy. These will be exciting times for each of you as you expand your knowledge, hone your skills and have the thrill of discovery. But don’t forget to have fun and absorb some of Yale’s culture outside your field. One way to be happy is to smile and say hello to everyone you pass on campus. You will surprise lots of people with a cheery hello. Of course, this means that you will have to look up from your cellphone, but do so, smile, and say ‘Hi.’ I look forward to seeing you and your smile around campus.”