Eli Whitney Student Profiles

What are Eli Whitney students like? This is a difficult question to answer because there is no “typical” student in the Eli Whitney Students Program. They come from all walks of life. They are entrepreneurs, community or social activists, veterans, parents, business professionals, and they range in age from mid-twenties to fifties. In addition to the profiles below, a YTV video and a Yale Herald article may provide you with a better sense of the backgrounds of some Whitney students. The descriptions below of a few current students illustrate the diversity of life experiences that Whitney students bring to the Yale community.


A Computing and the Arts major at Yale, Jennifer is a former professional figure skater, having competed nationally and internationally for the United States in ice dancing for many years. She is the owner and director of a skating school and is also an entrepreneur with her own small costuming business. Jennifer grew up in Texas but has lived in many parts of the US and abroad. Jennifer is trilingual, speaking English, Russian and Italian fluently. She balances life off-campus (which includes two young sons and her husband) with her studies by reading many of her texts to her kids at bedtime. She loves the culture of Yale and the lack of stigma so often applied to older students at other colleges. Her favorite perk of the Yale experience is the Master’s Teas which provide opportunities for Yale students to meet in small groups with guest speakers who are leaders in their fields.


Michael graduated from high school in 1969 but left college after two years at two different institutions. He currently juggles being a History major at Yale and being the chief executive officer of a $100-million independent book publishing firm in New York City. Michael is also on the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Academy of American Poets and chairs the Board of the National Coalition Against Censorship.  He also serves on the Board of Governors of Yale University Press.  Michael is married to a novelist and they have two children who are now older than many of his undergraduate colleagues at Yale. After an almost 40 year hiatus from higher education, in his first semester back at school he took two seminars, “Shakespeare and the Canon: Histories, Comedies, and Poems” and “Rivers: Nature and Politics” with two Sterling Professors at Yale. Michael calls Yale a “Disneyland for Brainiacs” and the Eli Whitney Students program “an experience that has changed and enriched my life.”


Upon graduation from high school, Ryan enlisted in the military. He served twelve years in the Navy, predominantly within the field of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), and has deployed to the Middle East and Afghanistan with various units including SEAL and Army Special Forces teams. In 2014, he left active duty in order to pursue a traditional liberal arts education, and applied to the Eli Whitney Students Program while attending community college in California. Ryan is currently a Political Science major at Yale, and is interested in the study of strategic and theoretical frameworks as they apply to complex phenomenon like war and political violence. He says that he feels at home surrounded by people with the same deep curiosity and thirst for knowledge as himself. Outside of the classroom, he is co-captain of Yale’s competitive powerlifting team, a member of the rock climbing team, and also continues to serve in the Naval Reserves.


After graduating from high school, Chris started a career in music. Following a 6-year hiatus from his education, he returned to college where he received leadership and writing awards, founded an Economics Club, and served as president of the college’s Philosophy Club. After obtaining his Associate’s degree, Chris transferred to Yale’s Eli Whitney Students Program. In addition to being an Ethics, Politics and Economics major at Yale, Chris is a music producer and business manager of a film company. Of his Yale experience, Chris says “My question-and-answer-seeking process has been every bit as stimulating and challenging as I had hoped not only because my professors at Yale are incredible lecturers and culture-shaping intellectuals, but also because my classmates and friends here share my passion for learning and offer their own unique questions and answers. Since arriving at Yale I have come to see the world in a new way. I have developed new goals that my experiences at Yale have both inspired and prepared me to accomplish.”