This coming weekend, about 50 sophomores will participate in YaleCONNECT, an eight-week training course in building and maintaining relationships designed to make up for the lack of structured guidance programs available for students after their freshman years.
Drawing inspiration from Yale alum Keith Ferrazzi’s ’88 bestselling business books “Never Eat Alone” and “Who’s Got Your Back?” the program aims to empower sophomores with tools and skills to establish connections in both private and professional life, as well as to identify personal goals.
YaleCONNECT is open only to second-year students, who often receive less structured mentorship compared to freshmen year and can experience the “sophomore slump,” a sense of ennui that accompanies the second year of college. YaleCONNECT helps to fill the gap, said Cameron Yick ’17, who participated in the program two years ago and will lead the training sessions as a coach this year.
The hands-on networking workshop was previously sponsored by former Head of Timothy Dwight College and former dean of admissions Jeffrey Brenzel ’75.
“I gained so much from it as a participant and as a coach,” said Lisa Tang ’17, who joined YaleCONNECT her sophomore year and returned as a coach in her junior year. “In all honesty, some of the things that we practiced — accountability, vulnerability, candor —are still skills that I try to practice today.”
Tang and Julien Ham-Ying ’17 serve as co-directors for YaleCONNECT this year.
Participants interviewed agreed that there is a significant drop in the amount of guidance and counsel they receive from freshman year to sophomore year.
YaleCONNECT divides students into groups of four or five and assigns a coach to each group, typically an upperclassman who has participated in the program in the past. Every student is assigned a new task each week, which in the past included reaching out to at least three people they admire and openly communicating the difficulties they are facing. The groups convene on a weekly basis to discuss the challenges and successes of their tasks from the previous week.
According to the program’s website, YaleCONNECT also brings guest speakers from a variety of fields to share how networking has influenced their lives. For example, past speakers include Michael Ellsberg, a New York Times and Forbes Magazine contributor, and Amory Lovins, a famous American physicist.
Past participants in YaleCONNECT said it provided them an opportunity to learn more about themselves and their own personal goals in life.
Stephen Le Breton ’17, a former participant and coach, said YaleCONNECT taught him how to work on long-term goals.
“It was a great tool to learn how to both push yourself to explore and to network effectively,” Le Breton said.
Yick said the program gave him the confidence to reach out to other people and access job opportunities that he otherwise would not have tried for without new connections.
Tang expressed her excitement and hopes for the program and its 50 participants this year.
“We’re really trying to cultivate this vision that the interpersonal skills the program is based on are important not only for networking and building professional relationships, but also just in friendships and non-professional relationships,” Tang said.