Getting the Word Out
As her team of prefrosh swarmed around her with saws and hot glue guns in the Center for Innovation, Engineering and Design on Saturday night, Jordana Williams ’15 plucked a plush squirrel from her bandana and duct-taped it to a red Solo Cup. The group had yet to decide what they were going to do with it.
“Not clear, but it may go sliding down a tube,” she said, yelling over the D.J.
Williams’s high school students were among a group of over 100 highly qualified science and engineering high school seniors who were flown to campus this weekend to see Yale’s strength in the STEM fields up close.
Quinlan said the students, all of whom are regular decision applicants to the class of 2018, had received likely letters from the University after the admissions office, with input from science and engineering faculty, had identified students whose credentials made them likely candidates for acceptance.
“YES-W is an opportunity for us to begin a conversation with these students as to why Yale is the best fit for them,” Quinlan said. He added that likely letters can also be given to students who are not invited to YES-W or do not identify as science or engineering students.
In addition to tours of campus science facilities, this year’s YES-W offered numerous opportunities for students to connect with Yale’s science faculty. Seven STEM professors and faculty members, including Vince Wilczynski, the deputy dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, gave master classes for YES-W attendees. Students also attended panels featuring faculty members, students and alumni of the University and a Master’s Tea on Sunday afternoon with James Rothman ’71, the Yale professor and 2013 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine. On Monday, the last day of the program, students will meet with faculty advisors matched to them based on their academic interests over lunch in the residential college dining halls.
“As far as I’m aware, [YES-W] is the only program of its kind among Yale and its peer network,” said Ayaska Fernando ’08, senior assistant director at the admissions office and the office’s director of STEM recruitment.
He added that although the misconception still lingers that the University trails its peers in providing a world-class STEM education, programs such as YES-W have been successful in gradually raising applicants’ awareness of the University’s resources. According to Fernando, the provost’s office has approved the admissions office’s request to fund YES-W for another three years after receiving positive feedback from students who attended the program.
Although YES-W is the most significant part of Yale’s outreach efforts to STEM students, Quinlan said the University relies on a host of other programs and initiatives to raise student knowledge of the University’s science and technology departments, many of which have improved since former University President Richard Levin pledged $1 billion in 2001 to revamp Yale’s STEM facilities and offerings.
In 2009, Fernando said, the admissions office began sending every high school student who scored a 5 on the AP Physics exam a stand-alone brochure outlining the University’s strengths and latest developments in STEM fields.
That year, Fernando and a number of distinguished Yale faculty also began traveling to regions known for their strong STEM students, like northern California or New Jersey, to host “STEM forums” where professors emphasized the resources the University invests in its science students.
Yale physics professor Ramamurti Shankar, who has attended recruitment trips, said the efforts make Yale’s STEM offerings more visible. Prospective students, he said, are learning that science and liberal arts can coexist well at Yale.
“We have to change any perception lingering that this is not a science place,” he said. “We want to show them that liberal arts doesn’t mean you compromise science, and one of the things that shows that faculty takes this seriously is when we go on these meetings.”
In recent years, the admissions office has begun making the University’s presence felt at national science conferences and summer programs, such as FirstRobotics and Research Science Institute. Fernando said this is an effective way for the University to convey its strengths to a national audience and younger high school and middle school students.
While the admissions office needed to convince skeptics in the University administration when YES-W was first piloted in 2011, Fernando said the entire University community has since been supportive and enthusiastic about the admissions office’s endeavors. He added that faculty members, current undergraduates and alumni have asked the admissions office how they can help in attracting top high school students to Yale.