This feature is part of a series focused on amplifying the voices of alumni who are making an impact today and illuminating how the identities we bring to Yale transform both our community and the world.
What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale?
Sitting in professors Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim's class called "Journey To the Universe" my first year in grad school. I was in my second semester and felt in over my head. I was contemplating quitting and they opened my mind to the possibilities at Yale and in life. With their mentorship, I learned to take more control of my time at Yale both academically and personally. It made all the difference.
How has your identity shaped your Yale experience?
Being a black man at a predominantly white institution comes with inherent obstacles, and because of that my outward appearance speaks for itself before I get chance to. I feared that having braids and tattoos coupled with an inner-city education I might not "fit in" but I feel the Yale community has embraced me because I'm different, which has made me feel seen and heard.
What is your hope for the future of the Yale alumni community?
I hope the Yale alumni community continues to become more diverse which starts with the admissions process and access to the University.
What advice would you give to fellow or future Yalies?
To stay connected with Yale beyond your time on campus. A degree from here is like a badge of honor and puts you in an elite group. But getting the degree is just the start.
Johnnie Bird III is an author, business owner, and recently obtained his master’s degree from Yale Divinity. His book, “The Toughest Two,” details the difficult transition from adolescence to young adulthood, using his experience as a Division I basketball player at the University of Connecticut. Being a part of former national championship program has taught Johnnie the power of persistence. It is this persistence that has led to several speaking engagements and to the birth of his DoMode apparel brand. The brand fuses street wear with athleisure that inspires people to get into their version of do mode.
Along with running a business, furthering his education, and engaging with creatives, Johnnie is also an advocate for de-stigmatizing introversion. As a self-identifying introvert, he hopes to bring the conversation of how to value introverts to the forefront.