By YYGS Instructor Linda Holcombe, Summer 2015
Blog post for Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship through University of Massachusetts Boston.
The Yale University campus does not rest while students are on summer break. Residential colleges fill with high school students from all over the world, eager to participate in a variety of summer educational and experiential programs. I had the opportunity to work as a Lead Instructor for one of the more coveted programs: the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS). Admission is competitive and the students are incredibly smart, driven 15-18yr olds from a staggering variety of countries. This summer, YYGS welcomed students from 92 different countries and all across the United States.
Recruited from Yale’s current and recent graduate and undergraduate students, Instructors and Lead Instructors are the front line of the YYGS program. They develop and teach seminars based on their personal interests under the overarching session themes of Politics, Law, and Economics; International Affairs and Security; and Science, Policy, and Innovation. I produced 20 distinct seminars for the intensive 6-week program (2 weeks per session) on topics ranging from “Poaching as a Threat to National and International Security” to “Organized Crime” to “African Penguins and Conservation Science”. The goal of these one-off seminars is not for students to memorize content but rather give them a taste for a topic, challenging them to develop analytical skills in the process. Instructors have the freedom to design a seminar that inspires students and engages them in a subject they may not have known anything about before. Weaving critical thinking skills into these seminars was both a challenge and delight, and it was very exciting to watch students eagerly tackle highly complex issues.
I applied for this program because it encompassed everything I’ve enjoyed from my previous work in aquarium animal husbandry and her master’s program. The YYGS program also has a strong residential life component where each instructor mentors a “family” of 8-9 students throughout each session, offering an opportunity to get to know students on a more individual basis and provide a less academic outlet for interaction. Family time was also one of the most challenging aspects as it was where a diversity discussion component was integrated. In between family meals, outings, and games, instructors provided a forum for students to learn how to discuss matters of a wide range of diversity issues. These conversations were both difficult and enlightening for students and instructors alike, and they gave everyone the unique opportunity to learn from each other’s’ experiences.
I enjoyed the YYGS program not only because I love sharing my excitement for learning with others, especially in my eclectic topics, but also because I really believe in the mission of crossing the barriers of disciplines, countries, continents, and demographics to create an incredible environment. It was both humbling and exciting to be repeatedly awed by the curiosity and intelligence of these high schoolers and be part of their unforgettable experience. I look forward to bringing the skills and insights I learned this summer to the interdisciplinary IGERT and the Global Governance and Human Securities programs.