Alumni summer programs expand

Over the holidays, Directed Studies for Life alum Andrew Lipka '78 sent out the above card, featuring a photo of the DSers taken during the program.
Over the holidays, Directed Studies for Life alum Andrew Lipka '78 sent out the above card, featuring a photo of the DSers taken during the program. Photo by Norma Thompson.

After last summer’s Directed Studies program garnered enthusiastic reviews from alumni participants, Yale will also offer summer courses in Grand Strategy and Shakespeare for alumni, their spouses and parents of Yale students.

All 18 spots in Grand Strategy have been filled since registration opened in December, and more than half of the 15 participants who took last summer’s Directed Studies course have signed up for one of the new courses, said Pamela Schirmeister, director of the programs and an associate dean for Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Schirmeister added that Yale may continue to expand its summer educational opportunities for alumni depending on alumni and faculty interest and the availability of space on campus.

“The whole idea of this is to expose alumni to what’s being taught at Yale,” said John Gaddis, a history professor who teaches Grand Strategy and will lead sessions during the summer.

The “Grand Strategy for Life” and “Shakespeare for Life” seminars will meet from May 27 to June 2 and each cost $4,800, while “Directed Studies for Life” will run from June 3 to June 15 at a cost of $6,500. After full days of class, participants in the courses will also be treated to evening activities and entertainments, such as a gala opening reception and cocktails on the Quinnipiac schooner on Long Island Sound, according to the Yale for Life program website.

The Grand Strategy summer program will cover about one-third of the academic year syllabus, which spans two semesters, and include classic works by Thucydides, Virgil, Machiavelli, Kant and Clausewitz, said Charles Hill, a diplomat-in-residence who co-teaches Grand Strategy with Gaddis and will also teach the course with him this summer.

Schirmeister called the alumni response to the new Grand Strategy offering “immediate and overwhelming,” which she attributed to its name recognition among multiple generations of alumni.

“The idea was to try to offer courses that alumni would recognize and think, ‘Oh, I wish I’d taken that,’” Schirmeister said.

While the Directed Studies and Grand Strategy summer seminars mirror courses already offered at Yale, Schirmeister said, the Shakespeare course will be designed specifically for alumni. The seminar will examine both literary and theatrical elements of Shakespeare’s plays, she said. David Kastan, an English professor who will co-teach the course, said that participants will be able to supplement their study by viewing exhibits remaining from this spring’s Shakespeare at Yale festival, which showcases the University’s Shakespeare collections.

Professors slated to lead the summer seminars said teaching alumni is exciting since people of varied ages can bring fresh perspectives to discussions.

Jane Levin GRD ’75, who oversees the undergraduate Directed Studies program and taught the literature seminar to alumni last summer, said she was struck by how alumni drew on their life experiences to form interpretations much different from those of college freshmen.

“The frustration of the meaning of life, one of the central questions to many of these works, has a particular kind of urgency when you are older,” she said.

Schirmeister added that for alumni, many of whom have “high-powered jobs,” summer courses provide a unique opportunity to return to the classroom and ponder “big ideas.”

“[Alumni] may eke out the time to read, or even to occasionally write something, but what they probably don’t have is an opportunity to talk about what they’re reading and thinking,” she said.

Andrew Lipka ’78 and John Boardman ’64, who both attended Directed Studies last summer and will return for the Grand Strategy course, said the intensity of the program and the continuous nature of discussion helped them rediscover the thrills of classroom learning. Lipka maintains an active online discussion group for former students and faculty in the program, he said.

As of last Thursday, 24 people had registered for one of this summer’s three courses.

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