Hundreds of students from each of Yale’s graduate and professional schools sat in crowded Edward P. Evans Hall on Thursday as 16 professors showcased their research and fields of study.
The event, “Inspiring Yale,” was created and sponsored by the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, and drew together some of the University’s top professors to deliver speeches of roughly seven minutes each. The speakers were elected by vote of the students in each school and spoke on topics ranging from “Linguistics and Architecture” to “Nursing and Medicine.” GPSS leaders said they hoped Inspiring Yale, which grew out of student demand for more cross-disciplinary conversations, would become an annual event that unites and showcases the work of the University.
“[Inspiring Yale] is a way to get the movers and the shakers of Yale into one room and give the students access to them,” said Steve Reilly GRD ’15, Inspiring Yale co-chair and former GPSS president. “Students often feel siloed by what’s going on at all the other professional schools. This is a great way to find a mentor outside your discipline.”
The 600 tickets available for the event at the School of Management sold out within 12 hours, said Elizabeth Mo GRD ’18, Inspiring Yale co-chair.
The speeches were brief but offered each professor the chance to describe the nature of his or her work.
“I’ve been at Yale for 33 years, and this has never yet happened,” said Robert Shiller, economics professor and Nobel Laureate, during his talk on economic bubbles. “We all give insights to the same sorts of problems.”
Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of organizational behavior at the SOM, began the event by discussing her research into the motivations behind professional work. Her study of university hospital cleaning crews found that about half of all the cleaners at an unnamed university hospital deviated daily from their job descriptions by caring for patients and saw their work as highly skilled and emotionally fulfilling.
Students in attendance said they were impressed by the quality and diversity of the speakers.
The professors were humble about their accomplishments, but shared their inspiration with the audience, said Hilde Dahmer SOM ’16.
The GPSS plans to host the event in the future with renewed efforts to draw more speakers and increase the size of the space to offer more tickets, which are free of charge.
“It’s nice to put yourself into perspective with the rest of what everyone else is doing,” said Trisha Blake MED ’16, a student in Yale’s Physician Associate Program. “I think it would be a shame if it didn’t become an annual, cornerstone, end-of-the-semester event.”
Professors at the Yale School of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing shared how their scientific research had been influenced or shaped by other disciplines.
Robert Camp, associate research scientist in pathology at the Yale School of Medicine, criticized the use of PowerPoint slides in classrooms and showed how more group-centric teaching styles could increase student satisfaction with pathology courses.
“What I propose is that we start teaching students how to solve problems, not memorize facts,” Camp said.
Yale Law School professor Amy Chua discussed how contractual agreements are often exploitative and noted that there is widespread disagreement on the conditions under which it is permissible to break a contract. Chua suggested that the law is only ever as good as the society that produces it.
Although the topics of each talk were different, the common thread of an interdisciplinary approach ran through the entire event.
“If you take different views of the same problem, you have a much better chance of solving your issues,” said William Stewart, surgery professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “Look outside of your own discipline for ideas and collaboration.”