Jack Devlin

Saybrook College ended Davenport’s four-year-long claim of the Sheffield Society House Prize — a title given to the residential college with the highest standing in scholarship in courses in science, mathematics and engineering.

On Nov. 8, Saybrook Dean Ferentz Lafargue emailed the Saybrook community to tell them that their college was the recipient of the 2018–19 Sheffield Society House Prize. Saybrook Head of College Thomas Near wrote in an email to the News that he hopes this year’s Sheffield win is the first in a long line for the college.

“Our winning the Sheffield is due to the learning environment we foster at Saybrook, the growing number of STEM majors, but most importantly the fact that ‘our group of randomly selected students are better than yours,’” Near wrote.

This year marks the first in which Saybrook has won the Sheffield Society House Prize, which has been administered by the University for the last twenty years. The Sheffield Prize is based on the grade-point average of students across all four classes. Near said that because the award takes into account every Saybrook student’s GPA, all Saybrugians have a role in winning the honor.

In the November email, Lafargue shared his congratulations on behalf of Near and himself with the Saybrook community. He also expressed gratitude to numerous members of the Saybrook College community, including Saybrook writing tutor Whitney Rakich, as well as the college’s mathematics and science tutor Elizabeth Stone “for their efforts on behalf of student success in Saybrook.”

Each year the winning college has its name engraved on a sterling cup, which will be housed in the college for the remainder of the year. A student in the college will be designated as the “Sheffield Society Research Fellow” for the year and will receive funding for a summer research internship relating to the sciences.

In advising students, Near likes to use the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” According to Near, this saying is designed to encourage students to take a balanced approach to their academic workload. He added that this can be done by distributing coursework across the semester, as opposed to waiting until deadlines are close.

“It’s very meaningful that Saybrook students’ hard work is being recognized,” said Saybrook resident Ying Ying Koh ’20. She noted that a colorful sign now sits in the Saybrook Dining Hall, congratulating students for their prize-winning efforts.

Both Near and Lafargue are scholars who emphasize that all students in Saybrook engage heavily in their coursework.

With regard to his own scholarship, Near said he faces “deadlines for manuscripts, editorial reviews, etc.” much like his students. According to Near, he “[shares] much of the same pressures as the students in Saybrook,” so he tries to facilitate open conversation workloads in academia.

“It is not always joyful, much of learning is repetitive, mechanical, and I dare say athletic; however, the intellectual calisthenics put us in positions to have incredible breakthroughs and make new discoveries,” Near said. Near compared the work environment of Yale to a pressure cooker. He said work comes “fast and heavy,” but students opted into this “culture of excellence” when they decided to come to the University.

Lafargue said in the email that he and Professor Near look forward to maintaining an environment that ensures this is not the last time Saybrook wins this prize, and to continuing to foster student success more generally.

Professor Near said that the Sheffield Society House Prize is not the only award Saybrugians have to be proud of. Saybrook is currently in the lead for a third consecutive win of the Tyng Cup. This award, founded in 1933, recognizes the residential college with the greatest number of points from intramural sports by the end of the academic year.

Professor Near also said he believes this will not be the last time Saybrook wins the Sheffield prize. Near notes that there are a growing number of students majoring in STEM fields such as math, statistics and data science and computer science in Saybrook.

“We are evolving a STEM culture at Saybrook,” Near wrote. “I am a scientist scholar and I consistently share the challenges and joys of a life of learning with the Saybrook community.”

Saybrook College was founded in 1933.

Brooke Alviar | brooke.alviar@yale.edu