Graduate students navigate cultural center opportunities
Graduate students have found opportunities to interact with the cultural houses on campus, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Geographical distance from campus and COVID-19 restrictions can make it difficult for graduate students to engage with the Yale community. But the University’s cultural centers are open to everyone, bringing together undergraduate and graduate students alike.
Although many undergraduate students may consider cultural houses to be predominantly populated by undergraduates, all cultural house opportunities are open to Yale’s graduate students as well. However, because of the physical distance between the graduate school buildings and the cultural centers, graduate students sometimes find it difficult to attend various events, and COVID-19 restrictions make it tougher to find the right time and space to attend. The cultural houses are therefore working toward promoting each cultural house community to graduate students.
“Often, grad students feel a sense of alienation from the rest of campus,” Adi Kumar GRD’25, a graduate assistant for the AACC, told the News. “They don’t really know what the climate is like. … [Cultural house] events are a great way for people to start getting into that sort of community.”
Each cultural center has at least one graduate assistant or graduate affiliate, who works to connect graduate students to the cultural centers and make known the various events at their respective centers. These figures also undertake projects of their own for the centers.
Kumar said that being a graduate assistant has been one of the most important ways to create and be in a community here at Yale.
Kayla Cabrera MUS ’23 is a graduate affiliate for the Native American Cultural Center. Cabrera wrote to the News that graduate students are always welcome at the NACC during events and open hours. All students have swipe access to the center and are “encouraged to stop by whenever they like.”
Cabrera also runs a group called the Indigenous Graduate Network, where she helps host events and create a community for Indigenous-identifying graduate students.
Each cultural house has various affiliate organizations that create additional ways for graduate students to get involved. The Indigenous Graduate Network is one of such groups and others include the Native American Law Students Association, the Asian Graduate Network, the South Asian Graduate Association, the Yale Divinity Latinx Association, the Latin Leadership Association, the Black Graduate Network and the Yale African Graduate and Professional Students’ Association.
The AACC has run events specifically for graduate students last semester, including a brunch event with around 50 students in attendance, capped because of Yale’s COVID-19 policies.
Kumar said that those in attendance were appreciative of the event and the opportunity to connect with students from other graduate schools. He also added that most AACC events are open to all students, whether undergraduate or graduate.
Some graduate students mentioned finding community specifically in graduate student organizations. Seiyoung Kim MUS ’23, who was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the United States when he was 18 years old, told the News that while he has not yet attended any events put on by the AACC, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has attended several events by the Korean Graduate Student Association.