Xander de Vries

Yale College Council President Sal Rao ’20 has convened an undergraduate group that will brainstorm ideas for next school year’s celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of Yale College becoming coeducational.

Next year marks not only the anniversary of coeducation at Yale College, but also the 150th anniversary of coeducation at the University. The University is currently in the process of planning a yearlong series of events that will span all Yale schools and will include a host of lectures, exhibitions and performances. The celebration, which is being called 50 Women at Yale 150, is guided by a steering committee principally made up of faculty and alumnae.

However, Rao, who sits on the committee, is hoping to give current Yale College women and gender non-conforming students a greater say in the planning of the celebration. On Friday, Rao and Eve Rice ’73 — a Yale Corporation trustee who chairs the steering committee that is organizing the event series — convened a focus group of undergraduate women and gender non-conforming students to share their thoughts on the celebration.

“We have been meeting independently … to come up with different ways through which we can engage Yale College,” Rao said, speaking about her work with Rice. “Obviously, I have a vested interest in making sure that the celebration at the college level is as good, and as inclusive, and as engaging as it can possibly be.”

The focus group, which is comprised of 13 students, has representatives from a wide variety of backgrounds and extracurricular interests, such as the Yale Symphony Orchestra, Dramat and Women in STEM.

The group’s aim is “to brainstorm programming for next year’s celebration that would appeal to Yale College students and the Yale community,” according to the email which invited selected students to participate in the committee.

Rice, who attended the focus group meeting, told the News that they discussed how undergraduate student organizations like the YSO, the Yale Political Union and the Dramat might choose to be “intentional” next year about planning “programming to bring women speakers to campus, highlight women’s accomplishments in their area of interest or plan programming around themes related to women.”

“If there is interest among students, the anniversaries might be a wonderful opportunity to foster intergenerational conversations between current students and alumnae,” she said.

In December, Rao told the News that there were only two current Yale students — including herself and Savannah Thais GRD ’20 — involved in planning the festivities. By working with Rice, former Vice President for Global and Strategic Initiative Linda Lorimer LAW ’77 and Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar, Rao said she hopes to create “programming which [engages] current college students.”

Kirsten Nergaard ’20, a forward on the women’s hockey team who represents the Yale Student Athlete Advisory Committee in Rao’s group, told the News that she was “extremely excited and honored” about working with the group. She suggested hosting an event that would invite female athletes — past and present — to come to campus for a panel discussion.

“I think it would be wonderful to get alumnae who were successful in their sport … to come in and speak about their experiences as female athletes at Yale and explain how they transitioned from athletic success to success in other fields using the lessons they learned as athletes,” she said. “I think it would also be worthwhile to have current students on that panel to share their experiences and [the] things [that] have changed — or not — since the alumnae were on campus as undergraduates.”

Yale’s first female students matriculated at the Yale School of Fine Arts in 1869.

Skakel McCooey | skakel.mccooey@yale.edu