Brushing aside a summer heatwave that pushed temperatures toward 100 degrees, more than 50 alumni came back to Yale this past weekend to share their experiences and wisdom from their time in New Haven with incoming first-year scholars, a group of 72 first-generation, low-income students on campus for the summer.

The fourth annual one-day program, “Navigating Yale and Beyond: Alumni Perspectives,” was hosted by 1stGenYale in coordination with the First-Year Scholars at Yale (FSY) program, the Yale College Dean's Office, and Yale Summer Session. It drew 150 people in total, including alumni, students, faculty, staff, and student counselors.

“What a difference a day makes,” said Yvette Rivers ’96, president of the Yale Club of Washington, D.C., one of the record number of returning alumni. “In just a few hours, we were able to share all the lessons we had to learn the hard way, to help these amazing young people get the most from their Yale experience. What a wonderful program with such a meaningful impact.”

The alumni in attendance spanned the Classes of 1956 to 2019, featuring graduates from Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. They hailed from California, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C., and throughout Connecticut, and their fields of expertise included the arts, education, finance, law, medicine, nonprofit, public service, STEM, and tech.

“Alumni came from far and wide to support these incredible students beginning their Yale journey and to show how much we care about them,” said Lise Chapman ’81 MBA, chair of 1stGenYale, who spoke to the assembled group during an afternoon address. “We want students to know that they are not alone and support Yale’s commitment to belonging and inclusivity. Words cannot express the gratitude shared by everyone who participated, as we are all truly members of the Yale family.”

Yale College Dean Marvin Chun kicked off the event with a talk on the impact of the FSY program and the shared backgrounds of those assembled. That led directly into an alumni panel discussion, a student Q&A session, and a closing reception during which alumni and students shared stories.

In addition to Chun, Yale Summer Session Dean Jeanne Follansbee addressed the alumni at a pre-program luncheon and FSY Faculty Director Laura Barraclough moderated the alumni panel, asking, “Looking back, how did you navigate your Yale experience, and how would you do it differently today?”

Afterward, Chun shared his enthusiasm for “this amazing event, where so many alumni from diverse backgrounds have come to share their experiences and give fabulous advice to our first-year scholars at Yale.”

The First-Year Scholars at Yale program provides incoming first-year students, at no cost, with the opportunity to engage with Yale in the summer before they start classes. They live and study on campus and take part in activities, coursework, seminars, and trips designed to facilitate and enhance their transition to Yale.

Currently, one out of every six students who enter Yale College identify as first-generation, low-income. To help support these students, visit the FGLI initiative section of the 1stGenYale website.

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