Though they finished their Yale course requirements years ago, about 300 alumni spent the weekend poring through the Blue Book to select 36 classes to take.
The exercise was part of this weekend’s Association of Yale Alumni assembly, which focused on Yale’s undergraduate curriculum. About 300 alumni delegates, each representing his or her Yale club or graduating class, attended the AYA’s biannual meeting to discuss Yale’s ongoing curriculum review.
Throughout the weekend, alumni discussed advising, science courses and ways to make themselves more available to students.
In the Blue Book exercise, alumni were asked to pick 36 classes they would take if they could do their Yale years over again with courses offered now.
“It’s an opportunity to think more deeply about the curriculum and course,” said Frank Melhorn ’57, one of the delegates. “It was an excellent exercise.”
The event also included club committee meetings, discussions of the undergraduate curriculum and a town meeting with Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead, who is heading the review, and a panel from the curriculum review committee.
AYA Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel said Yale chose the topic of discussion soon after the announcement of the review last fall.
Assembly Chair Marc Lockhart ’84 said this assembly was unlike typical meetings because alumni were not learning about a report that had already been prepared.
“In this case we have input into the process. They’re baking the cake — we get to come in at the end and lick all the icing,” he said. “I think there were very deeply thought-through analyses.”
Brodhead told assembly members at the alumni town meeting that he was happy to consult former “users” of the curriculum.
At the town meeting, delegates asked questions about minors, advising and the course catalog, and also asked why classes such as citizenship and rhetoric were not offered. Panel members said many times that they thought advising was one of their main focuses in the review.
“We really have been paying a lot of attention to how to beef up freshman and sophomore advising, particularly in the big majors,” said Ian Shapiro, the faculty representative on the panel.
Brodhead said he thought having more advisors was not necessarily the answer.
“They [students] get information from 19 sources and then do what their roommate tells them to do,” he said.
Alumni said they found the weekend informative and learned more about the efforts of the committee to balance science and the liberal arts.
Alex Miller ’90 had a suggestion for the AYA: He said he wished there was a way for students to get in touch with alumni who could reassure them that, for example, even if they major in English they could still enter the business world.
“I think it would be great if there was a way to just meet alumni,” he said. “Alumni are really interested in talking to undergraduates.”
At a meeting that followed the panel discussion of the curriculum review, Brenzel said the AYA will create a Web site where alumni can make themselves available to students for that purpose. Brenzel said the project will be completed this spring.
“Students can query the system and it will turn up useful mentors and contacts,” he said.
Brenzel said a similar program was implemented at Stanford this year; its site gets 300 hits from students and alumni a week.