Yale college

School Notes: Yale College
March/April 2009

A message from Mary Miller

In my new role as dean of Yale College, I am delighted to have this forum to communicate with the alumni community. It is a great challenge to capture, in the space of a magazine column, the vibrant life of a college teeming with the activities of students and faculty; the lines that follow only scratch the surface of their many successes, but I hope that these brief "snapshots from Yale" will give some small sense of the excitement that it is my privilege to witness here every day.

Freshman seminar explores "The Nature of Genius"

With support from an anonymous donor and under the supervision of Dean of Freshman Academic Affairs George Levesque, Yale College is reinventing the boundaries of the interdisciplinary Freshman Seminar Program. Beginning this spring semester with the first two in a pilot series of "meta-seminars," the initiative encourages students to explore how to think, rather than what to know.

Combining innovative pedagogical techniques, team teaching, and resources from Yale's Instructional Technology Group (ITG), this semester's courses -- Exploring the Nature of Genius (taught by Craig Wright, music department) and The Seven Deadly Sins (Professor Paul Bloom, psychology) -- will expose students to a wide range of disciplines, approaching each topic from a range of perspectives under the guidance of faculty members and guest speakers.

Exploring the Nature of Genius will use technology housed in the Bass Library's Collaborative Learning Center (CLC) to offer video conferencing, student interviews, special guest lecturers, and anonymous pre- and post-semester evaluations of student progress. Devised in collaboration with Barbara Rockenbach and Bill Rando at the CLC, Professor Wright's syllabus guides students into a more sophisticated understanding of "genius," challenging them to think abstractly about the concept and to apply this new perspective toward a deeper understanding of their own capacities and liabilities.

Casey Gerald delivers keynote at NFF awards dinner

For many, the call to speak on behalf of college football's 15 most highly accomplished scholar-athletes would be an intimidating burden. For Yale senior cornerback Casey Gerald, a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, it was a welcome opportunity to pay tribute to the sport -- and the human spirit -- that guided him from the unlikeliest of beginnings in a hardscrabble Dallas neighborhood to the pinnacle of Ivy League achievement.

Gerald, a finalist for the prestigious National Football Foundation (NFF) Draddy Trophy, was nominated by NFF board member Jack Ford ’72 to address a packed house at New York's Waldorf-Astoria last December. While he did not bring home the trophy, Gerald's speech was a highlight of the evening, drawing on the shared experience of so many lives touched by football.

For Gerald, this team effort permeates the Yale experience both on and off the field. He is passionate about the uniquely human quality of the Yale community -- professors, administrators, and students united in service to the world. It is just this type of weighty expectation that fosters Gerald's determination. "Yale," he says, "has made me the person that I am today."

The comment period has expired.