When Justin Zaremby ’03 GRD ’09 came back to Yale for graduate school, he knew that he wanted to return not just to Yale but to Calhoun College, where he had spent his undergraduate years.
“It was a no-brainer that if I really wanted to get the most out of the second half of my Yale education, that I have to have a strong connection with a college, and I was lucky enough to come back to my own college,” Zaremby said. “There’s no question that at Yale the life of the place is in the colleges.”
So Zaremby joined with the graduate affiliate program, a program that links graduate students with the residential colleges. The program allows graduate students to participate in residential college life and at the same time gives undergraduates the opportunity to interact with students from Yale’s graduate and professional schools. But although all affiliates eat in their colleges’ dining halls, many undergraduates, especially underclassmen, remain unfamiliar with the program and cannot name their college’s affiliates.
Eight of Yale’s residential colleges — all except for Morse, Ezra Stiles, Timothy Dwight and Silliman — currently work with the graduate affiliate program. Although the program has been in place for many years, the role of graduate affiliates is still in many ways “evolving,” Zaremby said.
Graduate affiliates eat three meals a week within their college and are responsible for organizing one activity per semester, Erin Walsh FES ’05, graduate affiliate coordinator with Jonathan Edwards College, said. Activities run by affiliates range from study breaks and graduate school information sessions to more social events such as music recitals or trips to theater productions.
“Our purpose is to select graduate students who are representative of the different graduate schools at Yale — people who have eclectic and diverse interests who can really add something different to residential college life,” said Melanie Rogers SOM ’05, an affiliate with Calhoun.
Many graduate affiliates, however, said they often have trouble getting out information about who they are and what they can do for students in the colleges.
Berkeley resident Eleanor Liu ’08 said she has eaten with one or two affiliates in her dining hall but has not interacted with them otherwise.
“I just met [the affiliates], but I don’t really know much about them at all,” she said.
Other undergraduates said that while they had heard of graduate-organized activities, they had been unable to attend and so had never met their affiliates.
Rogers said that communicating effectively with students is “an ongoing challenge.”
“Calhoun is relatively small, so getting the word out might not be as difficult, but I still think that there are a lot of students out there who do not know that there are graduate affiliates,” she said.
Rogers, who lives in the attic of the Calhoun Master’s House, is one of a few affiliates who choose to live in their residential college.
In the beginning of the year, Rogers and the other Calhoun affiliates introduced themselves in an e-mail to the college and let students know how they could be contacted. The affiliates generally become better known as the year progresses and they have spent more time in the college, especially during meals, she said. Some affiliates, like Rogers, play with their college’s intramural teams, while others work with students using pottery studios or printing presses.
The effectiveness of the program depends largely upon the dedication and enthusiasm of the coordinators, Calhoun Master William Sledge said.
“The success this year really goes to the coordinators,” Sledge said. “The program is most effective when it’s well-presented and well-organized, but that doesn’t happen just naturally. — [It requires] a lot of hard work on the part of the affiliate coordinators.”
The coordinators within Jonathan Edwards have been brainstorming ways to improve the program’s effectiveness, Walsh said. One of their current proposals involves changing the way that the application process works, so that affiliates apply for the fall semester during the previous spring semester. Currently, affiliates apply in the beginning of September, and consequently do not begin working with the college until the middle of the autumn.
Walsh added, though, that the coordinators are aware of the possibility that earlier applications would create problems as well as solve them. New graduate students, for example, might not be able to join the program.
Zaremby said that in Calhoun, too, affiliates have held many conversations about how to make graduate affiliates a more real presence in the college.
“A lot of it just rests on the shoulders of the graduate affiliate to spend time — getting to know the people in the college,” he said.
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