Ryan Chiao

Kyle Mazer ’22 already knew he wanted to be an English major when he walked into the Branford/Saybrook Room on Oct. 9.

Still, as he took his seat, he still had questions about the major. Over the next hour, these would be answered at the annual director of undergraduate studies dinner series.

The dinner Mazer attended is one of 14 such events being put on by the Sophomore Class Council for its dinner series with DUSs, according to Reilly Johnson ’22, the council’s president. The series was initiated two years ago in an effort to connect sophomores to both relevant administrators and prospective students within their potential majors. She added that two of these dinners have already occurred, and the others are scheduled to continue throughout the rest of the semester.

“It was really free, really open and really casual,” Mazer said. “We were able to dip our toes into what the English major would be like in a very communal way.”

Johnson said that while over 200 sophomores signed up for one of these dinners, a limit of 20 students per dinner is in place in order to facilitate a productive discussion. Each dinner is led by the DUS of a specific major. With the large number of sign-ups this year, three dinners — those led by the DUSs of global affairs, history and psychology — were overbooked, forcing the Sophomore Class Council to use a lottery system to narrow down the participants. In total, the dinners are expected to have roughly 180 attendees.

One of the motivating factors for beginning these events, according to Johnson, was that the Sophomore Class Council had noticed a culture in the sophomore class of “freaking out” about selecting a major, especially when it can seem as though many students already have a plan. Their goal, she said, is to make the process “less scary.”

“I feel like there’s always a need for this kind of event,” Johnson said. “We want to help sophomores make the most informed decision possible about a pretty big decision in the course of their Yale career.”

Director of Undergraduate Studies for Global Affairs Sigríður Benediktsdóttir said she was looking forward to having a more personal forum for distributing information. Having attended the dinners for the past two years, she said she usually spends about 45 minutes fielding questions from students, with topics ranging from requirements, course selection and career options upon graduation.

Benediktsdóttir also noted the dinners are in some aspects more valuable than the standard information sessions or one-on-one meetings she holds with students. The group of peers often acts as a sounding board to get the answers students need, Benediktsdóttir said. In her mind, the dinners are both productive and necessary, she said.

“I always enjoy the students,” Benediktsdóttir said. “I’m able to get feedback on what students like about the major and what they think is potentially lacking.”

Jutta Joormann, director of undergraduate studies for psychology, agreed with Benediktsdóttir’s endorsement of the program, and likened the dinner to an open forum. She also said she appreciates the opportunity to be able to talk to students about how they can use their majors in ways that may not be as widely known or publicized.

For Mazer, the dinner was an overwhelmingly positive experience. Choosing a major can seem daunting, he said, but the dinner served to not only ease students’ concerns, but simplified the task and made the major significantly more approachable.

“I think every student should do it,” Mazer said when asked if he would recommend the dinners to future sophomores. “There’s no negative. A DUS, their job is to help undergraduate students. [With the dinners] it stops [them from] being someone with a scary title at the head of a scary department. It’s just people wanting to help other people.”

The next dinner in the series will focus on the chemistry major with Director of Undergraduate Studies Nilay Hazari and will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Amy Zhou contributed reporting.

Thomas Birmingham | thomas.birmingham@yale.edu