Yale college

School Notes: Yale College
November/December 2007

New roles on Old Campus

"Everything at Yale is such an old tradition that it has been a fun opportunity to be part of something so new," says Tahia Reynaga (BR ’98), an Old Campus Fellow and a member of Yale's development staff. "I remember when I was a freshman in 1994 -- the first time I moved into Vanderbilt Hall -- and now, living here again, I find it is an exciting challenge to balance 1,100 exuberant freshmen and blend that with Yale's culture of civility in residential life." This year is Reynaga's second as an Old Campus Fellow. "I guess that makes me a sophomore," she quips.

Reynaga was one of the first two Old Campus Fellows. Two more positions were added this year, "to provide additional eyes and ears on the Old Campus, and to play a role in expanding programs for freshmen at Yale College," says Dean of Freshman Affairs George Levesque. The four Old Campus Fellows are also assigned to two or three residential colleges and provide extra support for the residential college deans and masters by helping to keep track of the freshmen who do not live within the walls of ten of the residential colleges. Anchoring the four corners of the Old Campus in apartments created out of student suites, the fellows join the freshman counselors, who still provide essential counseling, supervision, and a direct connection to the residential colleges. The Old Campus Fellows eat all their meals in the residential colleges and at Commons Dining Hall and spend their evenings on the Old Campus, occasionally hosting students in their apartments.

Old Campus Fellow Allison Norris (SY ’94), who lives in Welch Hall, is no stranger to residential life. A former head of freshman counselors, Norris also lived for five years in Branford College, where her husband, Thomas "Dodie" McDow (SY ’93), was the college dean. Allison, a postdoctoral associate at Yale's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, moved into Welch with Dodie and their three children, Maggie, Franklin, and Solomon. Levesque believes that this might be the first time that children have ever lived on the Old Campus. Nathan Gault, the Yale College webmaster, took up residence in Durfee this fall, and former Woodbridge Fellow Lauren Thompson (CC ’05) moved into new quarters in Farnam.

These three, along with Reynaga, are involved with expanding programs for freshmen. "Our programs bring notable people from around the university and introduce them to the freshmen right where they live, in an environment where they are comfortable," says Reynaga. "When I was a student -- and I considered myself well informed about the resources at Yale -- I don't think I was as aware as I could have been about the incredible opportunities all around me."

This year, the Old Campus fellows will help coordinate a series of seminars on adjustment to college life, including sessions on study skills, time and stress management, and a host of other pressing concerns for new college students. "While freshman orientation is packed with programs and information for our newest students," says Levesque, "there remains only so much you can do and say in five days. Our goal is to expand the opportunities for freshmen to ask questions and acclimate to Yale's culture, and the Old Campus fellows are part of that effort."

Reading assignments

A longstanding program for freshmen at Yale College got a new twist this year: the traditional Sunday evening keynote address to freshmen was preceded by a reading assignment. Spelman College president Beverly Daniel Tatum delivered the talk. Her book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, was mailed to members of the Class of 2011 as a summer reading assignment. Following the address, freshmen gathered with freshman counselors and other panelists for open discussions about the speech and the reading assignment. "I think the reading assignment provided students with common ideas to discuss, disagree with, or embrace," said Dean of Freshman Affairs George Levesque. "It was also a fitting introduction to a Yale education, which demands critical reflection and civil discourse, and to the Yale Class of 2011, which happens to be the most diverse in Yale's history." At the same time, the Yale College deans have taken on a reading assignment themselves this semester: a book by Tony Kronman, former dean of the Yale Law School, entitled Education's End: Why Colleges and Universities Have Given Up On the Meaning of Life. [An essay adapted from the book appeared in the Forum department of the September/October issue.] The deans plan to discuss and debate the book among themselves and then to invite Kronman to talk about it with them. They hope for a challenging and stimulating discussion that will focus them on considering their students' intellectual experience.

DeVane Lectures focus on world performance

This semester, Professor Joseph Roach, the Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Theater and professor of English and African American studies, is offering a series of lectures on the impact of the performing arts on people and cultures. The talks are part of the DeVane lecture series, which is both the core of a university course and a program open to the public. It is named in memory of William Clyde DeVane, dean of Yale College from 1939 to 1963.

Professor Roach, whose writings on performance have received wide acclaim, has been a major force in developing the field of performance studies. In 2006 Roach received a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that has enabled him to create the World Performance Project at Yale. Roach's DeVane series is devoted to the core subject matter of this project and, in the words of Professor Roach, "to the emerging field of performance studies -- in theater, dance, music, ritual, and highlighted social practices -- that bring together people from around the world as audiences and leave them changed by the experience." The lectures are being coordinated with the 2007-2008 season of the project, which includes special performances by visitors and artists-in-residence, and a sequence of performances organized in connection with the Yale Center for British Art exhibition "Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds," which documents the era when slavery was abolished in the West Indies.

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