When Molly Clark-Barol ’08 decided last May to take the job as Post-Graduate Associate at the Yale Women Faculty Forum, she didn’t really know what to expect. She did know she was ready to stop weighing her options, graduate and get on with her life. And, you know, go have a hell of a time at Myrtle.
But after graduation she found herself back in New Haven as a resident and employee in a city she had only begun to explore as a student. For Clark-Barol, life at Yale after Yale is a constant balance of enjoying the comforts of a familiar place and trying to step out on her own.
“When I took the job, it was definitely sort of ‘in spite of’ it being in New Haven,” she said. “I knew the fact that the social environment was so within my previously established comfort zone was going to be an issue for me, but it’s something I’m dealing with.”
Clark-Barol’s job coordinating female faculty and researching their place at the University is fairly removed from undergraduate life. In fact, seeing and influencing the inner workings of an institution she experienced as a student is one of the main draws of the position for her, especially given that she sees herself possibly working in academia in the future. Day-to-day work consists of organizing meetings and events, coordinating with WFF co-chairs and overseeing the research of three of WFF’s working groups. The think tank-style groups of faculty and administrators that Clark-Barol works with look at Yale’s policies on Sexual Harassment and Misogyny, Institutional Change and Gender and Globalization.
A lot of what WFF co-chair and Professor of Diagnostic Radiology Shirley McCarthy called the “executive experience” of managing such a large, dispersed organization boils down to what Clark-Barol called “bitch work,” but she’s quick to point out there are probably an equal number of phone calls and follow-ups in any entry level job. The unique thing about the position at WFF, McCarthy and Clark-Barol both agreed, is the opportunity to interact with smart, interesting women and tap into Yale’s resources.
“There are so many cool freaking women in this university, and I get to work with them,” Clark-Barol said. “[The women at WFF] are smart and passionate and a couple of them are pissed. It’s awesome to get to work with them generating very substantive suggestions for how to improve things for women at Yale.”
The position is typically a one-year post, something for which Clark-Barol is grateful — she’s already “getting itchy.” McCarthy pointed out that the temporary nature of the job makes it a good transition year for graduates who want to nurture their inner feminist while taking time to assess their next steps. Some recent Post-Graduate Associates have gone on to graduate or professional schools while others have served in the Peace Corps. After a year in the Have, Clark-Barol said a key component to her as-yet-undetermined plans for next year is “adventure” — maybe applying for a grant to do activist-anthropological research overseas or pursuing a Ph.D. in Anthropology.
While the position offers a nice break between college and whatever comes next, the transition can also be a little awkward. With the income of a Yale employee and the privileges of a Yale graduate student (karaoke at Gypsy), Clark-Barol’s relationship to the University falls into a weird gray zone. Walking to work each morning, Clark-Barol runs the risk of bumping into former classmates and professors who tend to look at her with what she interprets as varying degrees of bewilderment, bemusement, disdain and excitement. In a city where old friends still abound and much of the social scene for educated 20-somethings revolves around the University, it can be hard to prove to herself that she is a “grown-up.”
For Clark-Barol, often the best way to address a potentially awkward situation is humor. Clark-Barol’s co-worker at WFF, Arun Storrs ’08, explained the two like to jokingly award themselves “adult points” for mature activities (for example, listening to NPR), and revoke points for any regression to undergrad behavior. Clark-Barol described her social life as “a constant negotiation” as she tries to avoid being “that guy,” the former frat brother, lurking around the house, looking for one last keg stand.
“There’s this growing spectrum of ‘approp’ and ‘inapprop,’” she explained. Things she listed as ‘approp’ included, in descending order of suitability: going out for drinks after work, hanging out in her apartment with current Yalies or in-town alumni and going to an undergraduate friend’s off campus pad. Setting foot in a residential college, on the other hand? Totally inapprop.