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Alumni Perspectives: Navigating Yale & Beyond | FSY 2023

By Michele Pinder Moorman ’90 

On July 15, over 45 alumni from Yale College and the graduate and professional schools (classes of 1956 to 2023) gathered in New Haven for an afternoon of connection, possibility, and community at the 8th annual “Alumni Perspectives: Navigating Yale & Beyond” with 92 First-Year Scholars at Yale (FSY) hosted by FSY, Yale Summer Session, and 1stGenYale.  

This year’s event started with an alumni lunch where 1stGenYale President Lise Chapman ’81 MBA welcomed the attendees and shared more about the afternoon’s mission and programs. Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis then welcomed everyone and shared updates about the percentage of first-gen students now enrolled at Yale College, along with administrative and financial resources dedicated to supporting this community. He also discussed the university’s efforts to provide enhanced mental health support resources as well as to reexamine the admissions process in light of the recent US Supreme Court decision ending affirmative action at universities and colleges. First-Year Scholars Faculty Director Albert Laguna, associate professor of ethnicity, race, and migration and American studies, then discussed efforts to build stronger ties between the school’s faculty and its FSY students.

Following lunch, Chapman opened the alumni panel presentation by reminding the students that the alumni are here for them, that we want to hear their stories, and that the 1stGenYale community is a safe space for them to ask questions and share their thoughts. The panel started with a networking icebreaker where students took up seats among the alumni and spent a few minutes introducing themselves and their academic and personal interests and learning more about the alumni in the room. “I was fortunate to speak with three students during the icebreaker and was so excited to learn about them and their Yale experience so far. They were excited and engaged and asked great questions about my background and career journey. The icebreaker also helped to create great energy leading into the panel discussion,” said Michele Pinder Moorman ’90. 

The alumni panel participants who shared their stories included Kimberly Jones ’00, Jay Wong ’17, Lori Flores ’05, Darnell Battle ’21, and moderator Professor Albert Laguna. The panel discussion was engaging, candid, and full of encouragement. It covered a wide range of topics including imposter syndrome, developing life skills such as time management and organization, the importance of connecting with professors through office hours, and contributing to in-class discussions and projects. Several panelists emphasized the importance of finding your people and building community at college. All of the panelists emphasized the importance of taking full advantage of all of the resources available at Yale both during school and as alumni. 

“It was an honor to be a panelist for the 1stGenYale FSY Alumni Perspectives event. Hearing the experiences of the other alums and having the chance to pass on some knowledge to a younger generation of Yalies was incredible. The FSY students asked impressive and thought-provoking questions, demonstrating just how bright their futures will be. As a younger alum, the experience of serving on the panel made me more confident in my ability to be a mentor for FGLI (first-generation, low-income) students and use the lessons I’ve learned to help others. I am immeasurably grateful to Lise Chapman and the 1stGenYale team, the entire FSY Residential staff, all the alumni who make the event possible, and, most importantly, the FSY students. It was a truly wonderful event,” said Darnell Battle ’21.

Incoming student David ’27 shared: “This program has already made me see the different perspectives and views of previous 1stGenYale students. I really related to the panelists’ guidance. I enjoyed their stories, and they really educated me on how to navigate my experience around Yale.” 

Following the panel, the group headed to a networking reception in the Presidents’ Room in the Schwarzman Center. There, the students had the opportunity to have more in-depth discussions with the alumni and share their hopes for the Yale experience while seeking advice on embracing this exciting time in their lives. 

A few other observations from students and alumni who attended the event: 

“Yale is an integral part of who I am. When speaking with the students, I emphasized that they may study at Yale for only a few years, but that their association with Yale will last a lifetime. In addition to answering their questions and imparting my knowledge about Yale and beyond, I did not realize how much I would benefit from my interactions with the students and alumni. I absorbed their energy, optimism, and experience. I look forward to participating in future 1stGenYale events.” — Ellen (Levy) Ryan ’77 

“This program was really inspiring because I was able to meet so many other people that have followed a similar path as me. And I was able to find out how their life journeys have gone. And I love connecting to new people and knowing how far they’ve gone.” — Rachel ’27

“One of the most special things about being part of the 1stGenYale community is how much I receive and learn from its members and supporters. It’s a special, shared space through which many (including me) have experienced moments of healing, enlightenment, connection, and hope. And the recent Alumni Perspectives event was no exception. I left feeling hopeful and excited and so grateful to be part of this impactful community.” — Michele Pinder Moorman ’90 

“My main takeaway was I finally realized that everything’s going to be okay in the end. Coming to Yale as a first-generation student, it’s kind of hard trying to navigate all the opportunities that Yale offers. But after hearing from so many alumni, hearing about their career changes, it made me feel like everything was going to be okay in the end. And I really love that.”  — Keenan ’27 

five alums smile and face camera in a wood-paneled Yale classroom