New Graduate Students Enter ‘A World of Questions’

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences welcomed 576 new students into what President Richard C. Levin called the “Company of Scholars” on Aug. 28, a day that included both ceremony and orientation.

Incoming students joined about 2,000 continuing students who are pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees.

Building on traditions that began a decade ago, the new students were treated to breakfast in the courtyard of the Hall of Graduate Studies (HGS) and then assembled in Sprague Memorial Hall for a formal matriculation ceremony that began with a procession of University officers and faculty members in colorful academic regalia, marching to the sounds of the School of Music Brass Quintet. Levin welcomed the matriculants, and in his address to the new students, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler encouraged them to cultivate their “capacity for wonder.” The Citations - the Graduate School’s only coed a cappella singers - performed the African-American spiritual “Steal Away,” a modern interpretation of the folk song “Scarborough Fair” and Fats Waller’s jazz piece “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

In his speech, Butler noted, “The world of advanced knowledge, and of the graduate study you are here to pursue, is far more a world of questions than it is a world of answers. And the best questions - the questions that unlock secrets we could not have imagined and the questions that will move your careers for decades - are the questions wonder unfolds for us. It is wonder that most fully reveals the stunning awesomeness of Chinese literature, the cell, the evolution of the bird or the power of Mayan civilization, and it is wonder that stimulates the creative questions that propel our research into each… .

“Wonder is critical to us as researchers and scholars - as the leading methodologists of knowledge and discovery - in shaping the intriguing, clever little methods that distinguish advanced analytical work, whether in chemistry, sociology or French literature,” he continued. “The best of our methods, the truly productive and revealing techniques we use to answer the enlivened questions raised by our wonder are, like wonder itself, full and fascinating… . Wonder unlocks and expands our motivating drive to understand. It was this demand for understanding that 200 years ago Yale president Ezra Stiles honored through two phrases that have since rightly found their place on the Yale shield - in Hebrew, Urim and Thummim, meaning lights and perfections, and in Latin, Lux et Veritas, meaning light and truth. These remain the purpose of this University, our only purpose, the purpose to which we, and you, are always held accountable.”

The ceremony was followed by a reception on the lawn of the President’s House at which students were invited to sign their names in the old-fashioned register that was the original form of registration at Yale. Later, they participated in an orientation session that introduced new students to many of the academic and extracurricular resources of the school and in a Graduate Student Activity and Public Service Fair, hosted by the McDougal Center, which informed the new students about extracurricular activities and opportunities for community service.

This year’s entering class of 449 doctoral and 127 master’s degree students was selected from over 8,000 candidates for admission, making this one of the most competitive years in the history of the school. Men outnumber women in the entering cohort, 298 to 278. International students represent about one-third of the class, with 378 coming from the United States and 198 from abroad. The countries sending the largest number of students are China (68), Korea (15), Canada (11), India (10), Japan (9) and Germany (8). The most popular fields of study for doctoral students are biology and biomedical sciences (76), engineering and applied science (41) and chemistry (33).

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325