When Mayor-elect Toni Harp ARC ’78 and President Peter Salovey begin their partnership in January, the two will look to continue a trend that began over the past two decade under their predecessors. Over the past two decades an increasing number of Yale students have been choosing to work in the Elm City after graduation.
Although Undergraduate Career Services did not track the occupations and residence of Yale graduates before last year, all nine administrators and students interviewed said that they have seen a gradual pattern of more students leaving Yale but not New Haven.
According to data compiled by UCS for the postgraduate plans of the Class of 2013, 78 students of the 1,066 who responded to the first annual UCS survey of the senior class are still working in New Haven.
“What we’re seeing is that increasingly students are wanting to stay in New Haven and contribute to what has become their home away from home,” said UCS Director Jeanine Dames. “New Haven is becoming a very attractive destination for our students because of its affordability and the culture it offers.”
Though Dames said that 30 of the 78 students who remained in New Haven are working at Yale, she has also noticed that recently more students are working for companies in New Haven that are unaffiliated with the University. The University is the largest employer of Yale graduates, ahead of other popular destinations such as Teach For America, JP Morgan, and McKinsey & Company, according to UCS data. Dames said that because the University provides a diverse variety of jobs from work in the Admissions Office to research opportunities in many disciplines, Yale graduates of any major can find employment opportunities within the University.
October inaugural address, President Salovey said that he hopes to do more to “nurture student entrepreneurs from every school and department and encourage them to contribute to the local idea economy.”
Director of University Properties Abigail Rider and Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65 both cited the expansion of Higher One, a financial services company founded in 2000 by Yale students, as an example of successful student entrepreneurship in the city.
“Keeping some of this intellectual talent, who come to be educated at Yale and other institutions of higher learning, is a great thing for New Haven because it improves the economy and the prosperity of the region,” Alexander said.
Mayor-elect Harp said that her administration will try to improve the affordability of housing and transportation within New Haven, in order to make the city more appealing to potential workers.
Drew Morrison ’14 is one current student said he is likely to continue living in New Haven after graduation. Morrison, who was a prominent activist for Justin Elicker’s SOM ’10 FES ’10 mayoral campaign, said that working for a non-profit or economic think-tank would allow him to utilize the knowledge he acquired at Yale to do substantive policy work that would improve a community he deeply cares about.
Christian Vazquez ’13, a Woodbridge Fellow who works in the Office of Administration, said that Yale’s spirit of public service and the extensive role community service plays in the lives of many students at Yale encourages recent graduates to continue contributing to New Haven. Vazquez said that in the four years he has been at Yale, he has observed more and more students choosing to work in non-profits or municipal government after their time at Yale College is over.
Students and administrators interviewed said that recent improvements in town-gown relations have contributed significantly to the uptick in number of Yale students who consider working in New Haven after college.
The process of making New Haven an attractive destination for Yale graduates has been gradual. In 1995, Yale launched the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, a liaison between the University and the City that is charged with fostering better town-gown relations.
One major initiative the office undertook was the establishment of University Properties in 1996, which has helped expand the city’s tax base since, in contrast to Yale’s academic buildings, UP pays city taxes.
UP’s revitalization of Broadway and Chapel streets with restaurants, bars and shops has made the city more comfortable and appealing to young people, Alexander said. He added that creating a city that offers a high quality of life is essential to attracting more residents.
Several alumni cited this recent revamping of the downtown district as a potential factor in the increase of Yale alumni who have decided to stay in New Haven.
When Peter Crumlish DIV ’09, the current director of Dwight Hall, moved to New Haven in 2007 to attend Yale’s Divinity School, he was surprised that a city the size of New Haven had so many quality restaurants, especially considering the lack of downtown development that his friends who attended Yale 20 years earlier had talked about.
“I just remember walking from the train station to campus and it feeling kind of like a wasteland and that’s not the feeling you get now,” Crumlish said.
David Kahn ’09, a native of New Haven who entered Yale as a freshman in 1998, also speculated that the city’s economic development — largely through Yale’s investments in the city — has made it more attractive to alumni. Kahn said that when he came to Yale as a freshman Kahn said he was “in some ways proud of New Haven,” but that the attitude that his peers had about the city began to affect his own perception of his hometown.
“I knew a lot of people who thought anything on the other side of the green was terra incognita.”
After freshman year, Kahn took a six and a half year hiatus in California, where he worked for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. When he returned to New Haven in 2006, he noticed a shift in the way Yale students approached the city.
He added that town-gown frictions had significantly decreased to the point where students are now more willing to do internships in the city and consider staying post-graduation.
When Crumlish graduated from Cornell in 1990, there was a wave of young people wanting to move into New York City to work in the financial sector, he said. But now, with a growing urban movement, people are drawn to cities like New Haven.
“It’s this new movement where you want to live in the city not because you want to work in the finance center and make tons of money,” Crumlish said. “It’s because you want to be a part of a compact environment where you can walk and bike.”
Vazquez said that he could not imagine having the same quality of life in any other city because of New Haven’s unique combination of affordable housing, a vibrant cultural scene and its sense of community.
Though New Haven is becoming increasingly attractive to Yale graduates, Morrison is disappointed that few existing private firms in New Haven try to attract Yale students. Dames said that UCS continually reaches out to local firms with the hope that more businesses will attend career fairs or advertise job openings for Yale students.
Of the 78 students from the Class of 2013 who told UCS that they were working in New Haven, 34 were working for a non-profit, 29 are working for a for-profit organization, 8 are working for either the local, state, or federal government, and 2 are self-employed.
Correction: Nov. 18
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Christian Vazquez ’13.