This weekend, more than 100 prospective students were invited to campus for the sixth annual Yale Engineering and Science Weekend, a three-day event showcasing Yale’s STEM offerings. This year, female students attended YES-W in greater numbers than ever before and made up a majority of the total attendees for the first time, said Hannah Mendlowitz ’12, director of STEM recruitment for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
YES-W kicked off Saturday evening with a welcome dinner for attendees, all of whom received “likely letters” of admission from the University after applying regular decision. The event runs until Monday and features forums about STEM at Yale, tours of Yale’s STEM resources and master classes taught by Yale professors. Attendees are staying with current students in the residential colleges and, in addition to classes and panels, are invited to non-academic events like Bluebooking sessions in residential college butteries and an “entertainment extravaganza” in the Crescent Underground Theater exhibiting undergraduate student performing arts groups.
“To get an invitation to this weekend, you really have to be incredible,” said Debra Fischer, an astronomy professor who has given lectures at YES-W for the past four years. This year, Fischer is giving master classes on her field of expertise, the detection of exoplanets — planets found outside of the solar system.
Meg Urry, a physics professor and president of the American Astronomical Society, will give the culminating master’s tea on Monday afternoon. Mendlowitz said Urry is a good example of a leading scholar in her field who is also an accessible undergraduate teacher and champion for women in the sciences.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the biggest change to the structure of the program this year was the date, which was pushed back two weeks from when it has traditionally been held over President’s Day weekend. However, this did not impact attendance; Quinlan said almost every student who was invited was able to attend. In the past two years, he added, bad winter weather has created challenges for student travel, but this year there were no such issues. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions also provides a travel stipend for students coming from far away, said Claire Mallon ’17, a student coordinator for the weekend.
This year’s program has an increased focus on entrepreneurship, with the introduction of an “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” panel hosted by representatives from the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and Wellinks, a recent YEI venture that creates wearable health technology.
Mendlowitz said over 50 STEM faculty members volunteered to teach master classes, sit on panels, have lunch with attendees or have visiting students sit in on their regular classes. In addition, she said, another 50-plus students volunteered their time to help run the program.
Fischer said the weekend is part of an institutional effort over the past decade to draw the strongest STEM students to Yale. She added that while Yale might not be as famous for its STEM offerings as some of its rival institutions are, she thought Yale’s liberal arts curriculum exposes students to other subjects that are necessary to be a leader in the scientific community.
Lea Sparkman, a prospective from California who attended Fischer’s master class on Sunday called “The Search for 100 Earths,” said she was impressed by the number of research opportunities available to undergraduates in astronomy. Sparkman added that she was interested in studying astronomy or computer science in college.
Mallon and Tobias Holden ’17, head of the YES-W student planning team, said high school students can benefit from interacting with Yale students when making their college decision. Mallon, a YES-W alum, noted that for her, YES-W contributed to her eventually choosing to attend Yale.
Raj Warman, an prospective student from Florida, said YES-W is a good way to give the attendees firsthand exposure to Yale, as experiencing life on campus offers a perspective that could not be found in admissions brochures. A hopeful applied math major, Warman attended the “Numbers Have Shapes” master class taught by Miriam Logan on Sunday.
YES-W attendees, along with the rest of the students admitted to the class of 2020, are invited back to campus for Bulldog Days, which will be held this year from April 25 to 27.