Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Graduate School News and Events

Lots of Good Reasons and Great Places to Volunteer in New Haven

Choosing a place to volunteer in New Haven is easy, says McDougal Graduate Student Life Public Service Fellow Edward (Ted) Schmid (Immunobiology). “There are wonderful opportunities for volunteering on or near campus that are particularly well suited for graduate students,” he says.

Michelle Legaspi and Ted Schmid

Public Service Fellows Michelle Legaspi (Chemistry) and Ted Schmid (Immunobiology) jump for joy at the very thought of encouraging other graduate students to volunteer in New Haven.

“With a branch located just one block from Yale, New Haven Reads is an outstanding agency that is always in need of dedicated mentors for after-school tutoring of children of all ages. The Yale Farm, part of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, is a phenomenal campus resource that is largely driven by volunteers. Work hours take place both during the week and on the weekend throughout the year, providing flexibility for the demanding schedules of graduate students.”

One of the key goals of McDougal public service events is to give students a taste of volunteering so they’ll want to return regularly to help organizations that are the right fit for them, Ted says. At the beginning of the academic year, he and the other Public Service Fellow, Michelle Legaspi (Chemistry), organized a “Call Out for Public Service!” dinner, at which they discussed service opportunities and spoke individually with students about places to volunteer. After dinner, the group went to the Service and Advocacy Bazaar at Dwight Hall. All through the year, Ted and Michelle send out bimonthly Public Service Tips in the McDougal Graduate Student Life Notes and monthly Public Service Notes to inform students of volunteer opportunities.

Ted says, “Yale offers unparalleled resources for service, both locally and abroad.” As chair of the Service Committee of STAY (Students and Alumni of Yale), he works closely with the Association of Yale Alumni on the international Yale Day of Service that takes place every May, and he is “continually impressed by the breadth of involvement around the world,” as well as on campus. “Yale is a truly inspirational place!”

Ted has been involved in public service ever since becoming a Cub Scout in the first grade. Of course he wanted to join the Scouts for the sake of the fun outdoor activities, but also for the “countless opportunities for community engagement. At a very young age we led food drives, collected donations for disaster relief, volunteered at nursing homes, and helped blaze trails at local parks. These experiences helped cement a lifelong passion for public service,” he says.

Ted’s Cub Scout years were spent in Minnesota. As a teenager, he lived in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and France, and went to college at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he majored in both Biology and French. Every place he lived, he sought out volunteer opportunities.

The McDougal Public Service and Sports & Recreation Fellows teamed up to organize the second annual “Yoga for a Cause.” More than 100 graduate students signed up for a session in Payne Whitney Gym. The funds they donated were given to the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven.

“Some of my most gratifying experiences in service have come from working at the 14th & Chestnut Community Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. The center runs a community food pantry as well as summer and after-school programs for local children from low-income neighborhoods. As co-counselor of the kindergarten-to-second-grade age group, I felt like I made a direct contribution to providing a welcoming and safe learning environment at the center. It was an extremely rewarding experience.”

Ted is now a graduate student in Carla Rothlin’s lab, doing research that he hopes “will someday contribute to the development of new therapies to improve human health,” he says. He studies a group of molecules that suppress inflammation and promote tissue repair. Of the 90 identified tyrosine kinase genes in the human genome, 58 encode receptor tyrosine kinase proteins. A sub-family of these receptor tyrosine kinases is called the TAMs, and they are key regulators of cellular processes. Ted investigates these receptors in the context of viral infection.

Helping understand the workings of the body to fight disease is his long-term goal. In the short term, he finds that “Volunteering allows me to feel an immediate and direct connection to helping others.”

Why should busy graduate students set aside time to serve their community? Ted says it’s good for the city, but also for the students: “By doing public service, graduate students can become better connected to the New Haven community while taking a meaningful (and justifiable!) break from their studies. After volunteering, you feel a sense of accomplishment and can return to your studies refreshed, with a clear mind. Whether helping a single organization regularly or sampling opportunities through days of service, volunteers provide critical support to the community. Whenever I volunteer, I learn more about my community and even about myself.”