Yale College 2020: Meet some of the graduates
To offer a sense of the extraordinary human richness within the Yale College Class of 2020, we present here short profiles of 14 members — one per residential college. Among these representatives of the nearly 1,400 members of the class, selected from nominations submitted by college heads and deans, you’ll meet singers and scientists, athletes and activists, ROTC cadets and Rhodes Scholars — a panoply of spirited, ambitious, and thoughtful undergraduates drawn from a bright constellation. (And there’s more — read about members of the graduate and professional school classes of 2020.)
Kazemi Adachi (Jonathan Edwards)
After four years at Yale, Kazemi Adachi’s interests and passions bear little resemblance to those of the high school student he was, growing up in suburban Chicago.
“When I first got to Yale, I was overwhelmed by the cool, different opportunities,” said Adachi, who will graduate with a degree in applied physics.
Among the interests he acquired in New Haven are a passion for African-diaspora step dancing, Buddhism, and the desire to help build quantum computers.
Onyx Brunner (Morse)
Yale is full of marvels. Onyx Brunner ’20 made it his job to share them with a rotating cast of thousands.
A campus tour guide since his first year, Brunner took special delight in showing off Yale’s residential colleges. For him, the colleges exemplify the palpable community spirit that animated his undergraduate experience.
“I loved showing prospective students and visitors how Yale does its best to provide undergraduates a welcoming home,” said Brunner.
Kushal Dev (Silliman)
In his first two years at Yale, Kushal Dev was affectionately called the “Swing Guy” because he spent so much time on the Silliman College courtyard swing.
He still loves that swing, but he’s since earned additional renown in the college as founder of the Silliman Textbook Library — a communal space housing over 1,000 textbooks that can be used by Yale students who can’t afford them. His other extracurricular passions included singing in the a cappella group Out of the Blue and performing in Yale Movement, a K-Pop and urban dance group.
Rachel Diaz (Pauli Murray)
Rachel Diaz, a graduating senior in Pauli Murray, came to Yale as a transfer student from a community college in Miami two and a half years ago.
“If there was ever a face for imposter syndrome,” said Diaz, a first-generation college student, “I was probably it.”
Yet she found her place on campus as a member of Sabrosura, Yale’s Latin dance team, performing and doing choreography for sold-out shows in the Off Broadway Theater on campus. The sounds of bachata, merengue, and salsa music on a show night reminded her of home, she said: “Hearing my language and being around people who grew up with similar lifestyles helped me realize the importance of community.”
Hannah Dickson (Davenport)
Hannah Dickson says her Yale years have been, in effect, a primer on leadership.
Not least due to her prominent roles in Davenport College, the graduating senior and Air Force ROTC cadet has learned and observed how organizations structure their operations, gather and assess data, and make all manner of decisions.
“I wanted experiences that would give me insight into different branches of government and different institutions,” said Dickson.
Joe Doran (Trumbull)
In many ways, Joseph Doran was born to serve. And Trumbull College, Yale, and New Haven are all the better for the four years he spent at the university.
The native of northern Virginia graduates May 18 with degrees in economics and global affairs, and he hopes one day to serve his country as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department.
Christian Fernandez (Benjamin Franklin)
His late father’s treasured saxophone was a constant in Christian Fernandez’s life at Yale. Paying forward the support of the people who helped him succeed was another.
The instrument, a tenor saxophone that he played often, brought him joy and reminded him of his family in New Orleans.
Over the past four years, Fernandez has been a saxophonist or clarinetist in the Yale Precision Marching Band, Yale Concert Band, Yale Jazz Ensemble, and Tertulia — the first and only campus salsa band — among other groups.
Claire Gorman (Stiles)
Claire Gorman ’20 arrived on campus intent on studying computer science. As her Yale experience unfolded, she developed a love for architecture.
Embracing both interests, Gorman majored in computing and the arts. Her senior project merges machine learning and architectural theory to explore how cities and landscapes function and change over time.
“My years at Yale have been the best of my life,” said Gorman. “I’ve learned more there than I can articulate.”
Titilayo Mabogunje (Grace Hopper)
Titilayo Mabogunje found her niche at Yale in both quiet spaces and public stages.
A major in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, Mabogunje spent hours working in Yale’s laboratories researching epilepsy and immunobiology. She also pursued her passion for the performing arts onstage, appearing at the Yale Cabaret, with the Yale dance group Steppin’ Out, as a spoken-word artist, and in a senior thesis production of “Macbeth.”
Tyler Miles (Saybrook)
Whether singing in the Alley Cats, Zooming with his first-years, or reading a peer’s thesis, Tyler Miles ’20 makes it a priority to cultivate community.
In his own first year at Yale, Miles, an African American studies major from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, was inspired by a singing FroCo to join the Alley Cats, one of Yale’s oldest a cappella groups. Membership in the all-male group would help define Miles’ Yale experience. It was through the Alley Cats that Miles made some of his closest friends and favorite memories, and found a platform for charity work outside of Yale.
Veena Muraleetharan (Pierson)
Early in her time at Yale, Veena Muraleetharan discovered that one way to fight injustice is to wed scholarship and activism.
In high school, she became interested in “reproductive justice” — the right of every individual to have autonomy over their own bodies and sexuality, to have or to not have children, and to parent those children in safe communities. As a first-year Yale student, she joined the undergraduate advocacy group Reproductive Justice Action League at Yale (RALY), which connected her with others on campus and throughout Connecticut. She eventually became RALY’s co-president.
Christina Pao (Branford)
Christina Pao ’20 B.A./M.A. was committed to public service before the pandemic hit. By making “inequalities more visible,” she said, it has stoked her ambition to make the world a fairer place.
Pao, who is from Portland, Oregon, has spent her undergraduate years at Yale working to better understand how research — specifically in the areas of migration and gender — can drive evidence-based policy and “mend inequalities,” such as housing disparities and unequal worker protections. She recently completed a thesis on the gender politics of refugee integration in Germany, and will graduate with a B.A. in classics and a B.A./M.A. in political science.
Liz Ruddy (Berkeley)
Elizabeth Ruddy’s bright college years have been filled with pirouettes, particles, and possibilities.
Ruddy, a graduating senior in Berkeley College, came to Yale from Needham, Massachusetts, with a determination to be open to new pursuits. She’d spent a fair amount of her childhood devoted to ballet; what else would she explore at Yale?
Plenty, as it happened.
Hannah Steffke (Timothy Dwight)
Hannah Steffke ’20 B.S. was still new at Yale when she took organic chemistry. Something clicked.
Many chemistry courses later, Steffke, who would major in the subject, came to appreciate how chemistry can be used to solve global challenges. “Chemistry allows us to look at some of the world’s biggest scientific challenges — like climate change, cancer, and COVID-19 — on their smallest level,” Steffke said. She’s used chemistry at Yale to better understand everything from water purification, to antibiotic resistance and drug development.