At Convocation in the HGS Courtyard on Sunday, May 19, more than 50 students were recognized for their outstanding academic accomplishments, research, and service to Yale and the community. Three extraordinary faculty members received the Graduate School’s Mentor Award for superb teaching and advising.
University Commencement on Old Campus began with the pealing of bells from Harkness Tower and a fanfare of heraldic trumpets. Flag-bearers led the procession, followed by the faculty in academic regalia. Some 3,000 students from all schools of the University streamed through the gates onto Old Campus wearing the caps and gowns appropriate to their degrees. After welcoming remarks and a benediction from the University Chaplain Sharon Kugler, Graduate School alumnus President Richard C. Levin (PhD 1974, Economics) conferred the degrees, school by school, building to the climax – in Latin – of the PhD degrees. This was President Levin’s last Commencement in office, and he was granted an honorary doctorate, to his surprise and delight. Next year, Graduate School alumnus Peter Salovey (PhD 1986, Psychology), former provost and one-time dean of GSAS, will officiate at the proceedings.
President Levin Given Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
The citation read:
You stand among the great presidents in Yale’s history. After 20 years of extraordinary service as President of this University, you leave Yale strengthened in every important dimension. You have helped to make our remarkable faculty stronger, and you have supported ambitious extensions of research and practice, all the while insisting that teaching remain at the heart of this institution. More Yale students now come from all walks of life and from around the world because of your commitment to increasing access to Yale. You have advanced Yale as a great global university with your emphasis on internationalization, even as you have been a dynamic partner in New Haven’s urban renaissance. Under your leadership, Yale’s beautiful campus has been restored and dramatically expanded; its carbon footprint made smaller; and its architectural distinction widely celebrated. Since you first arrived in New Haven in 1970 as a graduate student, you have embodied the ethos of Yale: commitment to excellence, to truth, and to service. As our President, you have led Yale with those same values, and with a decisiveness to act with wisdom and courage. All who love this University take joy and confidence in knowing that the legacy of your service will benefit Yale forever. We express today our deep gratitude by conferring upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
The Graduate School’s diploma ceremony followed in Woolsey Hall. Diplomas for the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Philosophy, Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Master of Engineering were awarded by the Dean and faculty representatives from each department or program. Students receiving master’s degrees from the Yale MacMillan Center for International & Area Studies and the Economic Growth Center held their ceremony in Luce Hall.
Special Awards for Public Service
While the main focus of graduate education is research and scholarship, and most of the prizes given at Convocation recognized intellectual achievements, three students were honored with the Graduate School’s Public Service awards for their exceptional efforts to make the world a better place: Jennifer Gaddis (Forestry & Environmental Studies), Lauren Tilton (American Studies), and Thalyana Smith-Vikos (Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology).
Jennifer received the Disciplinary Outreach Award in recognition of her research and volunteer collaborations with non-profit, labor, and academic groups to improve the meals served in New Haven Public Schools. She reports that she “really enjoys working with the local food community” and hopes to expand the city’s farm-to-school program, which would increase the quality of the school meals while simultaneously benefiting Connecticut farmers and New Haven school foodservice workers.
Lauren was accorded the Public Scholar Award for her work as co-director of the Photogrammar Project, an interactive map and platform that makes accessible more than 170,000 photographs of the Great Depression and World War II taken for the federal government. “Our project will allow researchers to back-up, or even challenge, previous positions about the archive and the period of history it recorded with direct visual and quantitative evidence, while discovering new patterns that would otherwise be undetectable by simply going through the photographs one by one,” she explains. “Users will be able to construct statistical graphics and visualizations from the data. For example, a user will be able to quickly plot the percentage of military images collected by month and location or see a gallery of sharecropping images created in Georgia.” Lauren is also the outgoing chair of the Graduate Student Assembly.
Thalyana received the Community Service Award. She has volunteered with the New Haven Science Fair since she began her PhD in 2009 and has coached teachers and students in developing projects for the city-wide event held every May. She has also visited many after-school programs to organize science experiments that students can carry out with their parents.
“What I consider most important about volunteering with the New Haven Science Fair is being able to leave the ‘Ivory Tower’ and interact with students, parents, teachers, and other volunteers in the community. I have observed in some after-school programs that, while the students enjoy doing science experiments, they still may not believe that they can become scientists when they grow up. I hope that, by participating in these after-school science events, I have encouraged families and teachers to conduct interactive experiments at home or in the classroom and have demonstrated to the students that becoming a scientist is not such an unattainable goal.”