Although at times Yale may seem a self-contained “universe,” the Yale experience should extend beyond the campus, astronomy and physics professor Charles Bailyn ’81 told the class of 2016 Tuesday afternoon.
Bailyn, who will serve as the inaugural dean of faculty for Yale-NUS College in Singapore, delivered keynote address of this year’s freshman orientation in Woolsey Hall. Recounting his own experience as a Yale undergraduate, Bailyn encouraged the incoming freshmen to venture beyond the “Yale Bubble” by exploring New Haven and opportunities abroad, and to preserve their “sense of excitement and potential” for the remainder of their college years.
“Just because Yale has so much going on inside does not mean the outside world has ceased to exist,” Bailyn said.
Bailyn is only the third person to deliver a keynote speech during Freshman Orientation. Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who chairs the Freshman Orientation Committee said that the idea of having a keynote address was proposed in 2010 by the committee as a new way to bring the freshman class together and offer inspiration and advice.
Gentry said in selecting each year’s speaker, the committee looks for a faculty member who graduated from Yale College. Since the two prior speakers, Akhil Amar ’80 GRD ’84 and Elizabeth Alexander ’84 GRD ’87, were from the humanities, Gentry said the committee wanted to invite a professor from the sciences this year, leading to the selection of Bailyn, and Gentry added that each speaker is given the freedom to impart his or her own wisdom upon the freshmen.
“Having the freshman class come together for the keynote address serves as the very first time that the entire freshman class is together as a class, so it’s a special occasion,” Gentry said.
At the conclusion of the address, the Yale Glee Club led the freshmen class in a traditional rendition of “Bright College Years,” complete with Yale handkerchiefs that Gentry provided. Following the assembly, the freshmen returned to their residential colleges for a special dinner and reception.
Eight freshmen interviewed said they enjoyed Bailyn’s address and thought the advice would be valuable for their Yale experience.
“He talked about topics that were very relevant for us,” Tlalli Moya-Smith ’16 said. “He emphasized things that would create a well-rounded Yale experience.”
Connie Wang ’16 and Laura Peng ’16 said the assembly introduced them to new Yale traditions and made them excited for the school year to begin. They added they hoped to follow his advice and reach beyond the “Yale bubble.”
For Nikolas Laskaris ’16, the assembly fostered a sense of kinship with his new peers.
“I loved being around everyone from my class,” he said. “It really sets the tone for the whole semester.”
A full video of the keynote address will be posted on the Yale Freshman Affairs website.