The Yale College Council created a new executive board position this fall to improve its student outreach within — and outside of — Yale.
The position, student outreach director, was created in an effort to bridge Yale and New Haven, better understand student needs and increase student input and involvement in YCC projects. The newly appointed director, Diksha Brahmbhatt ’18, has already worked with student groups and Elm City initiatives on multiple projects, including the first annual New Haven Fair, which brought together representatives from local nonprofits and businesses to Yale’s campus.
“[Brahmbhatt’s] position does not have the explicit directive of interacting more with New Haven. Strengthening connections with the city is something that [Brahmbhatt] is personally passionate about,” said YCC President Peter Huang ’18. “During the process of organizing any event with New Haven, [Brahmbhatt] makes sure to consult any appropriate student groups to take their perspectives and ideas into account throughout the planning process.”
As part of the YCC’s student relations initiative, Brahmbhatt, who served as one of Berkeley College’s YCC representatives last year, focuses on connecting student groups to YCC projects. For the YCC’s ongoing faculty diversity project, for example, Brahmbhatt said she has already listed potential contacts, including the four cultural centers, students who are involved in advocating for an Asian American Studies program and student advisory committees in different academic departments. Those advisory committees regularly provide feedback on various majors, which may include experiences with faculty and therefore provide insight for the YCC project, Brahmbhatt said in an email.
Abigayle Troy ’18, Dwight Hall institutional services coordinator, praised Brahmbhatt for playing an instrumental role in organizing the inaugural New Haven Fair in September.
“I connected [Brahmbhatt] to groups interested in coming, and we advocated on behalf of YCC and Dwight Hall. She was the main force behind this event,” Troy said.
Troy noted that there is some overlap between the two groups as they both attempt to work with Yale students and the local community. Although the New Haven Fair is the only project YCC and Dwight Hall have collaborated on so far, Troy said it has set “a good precedent for the rest of the year in terms of Dwight Hall and YCC Collaboration.”
Brahmbhatt has worked with organizers of the Collaboratory, the newly created series of events that brings together New Haven residents, students, entrepreneurs and activists to solve community problems, in an effort to build connection between the YCC and New Haven community. The YCC is the only Yale-affiliated group among the organizations featured in the Collaboratory series this fall.
The Collaboratory chose YCC because of Brahmbhatt’s work, said Caroline Smith ’14, one of the Collaboratory’s organizers.
“[Brahmbhatt] has been a champion for a healthy Yale-New Haven relationship, and has worked on the challenges for YCC to present at the actual collab along with [Huang],” Smith said. “We had two pilots of the Collaboratory over the summer and she provided a really helpful student perspective. She even booked the space for the Whalley Collab, which will be held in Phelps Hall.”
YCC’s Collab on Nov. 9 will be held at the Whalley Edgewood Beaver Hills Substation, the regular meeting location of the Whalley Edgewood Beaver Hills (WEB) Community Management Team. WEB’s Nov. 2 Collab will be held in Phelps Hall, where the YCC regularly meets.
Brahmbhatt said the YCC’s involvement in the Collaboratory is part of an effort to better understand its role in solving problems that exist in both Yale and the city.
In addition to the Collaboratory, Brahmbhatt has been engaging in outreach with the Long Wharf Theatre, a Tony Award-winning regional theatre in New Haven. The theater works to make shows accessible to all, said Long Wharf Theatre Community Engagement Manager Elizabeth Nearing. Nearing said the plays use narrative and storytelling to forge connections with the city, and that the simultaneous artistic and civic manner in which it operates provides an empathetic platform to discuss community issues.
Nearing said she was very excited about student efforts to get engaged in New Haven, adding that she recognizes a disconnect between Yalies and New Haven. One big question, Nearing said, is how do Yale students build long-term relationships when their time in the city is “inherently transient.”
“In talking about citywide relationships in New Haven, it’s hard to do so without addressing the deep divide between Yale and New Haven,” said Nearing. “Any kind of divide is about building relationships. [Brahmbhatt] is building those relationships.”
Brahmbhatt’s other responsibilities include holding hourlong focus group discussions about YCC projects. Although these discussions are still in the early stages, Brahmbhatt said the goal is offer student representatives handling the projects “robust opinions” on the issue at hand and allow them to investigate the topic further.