What is “Intellectual Curiosity” and 3 Places You’ll Find It

Intellectual curiosity is one of those Yale™ phrases—it’s one of our core values, plastered all over the admissions website, reiterated every year during speeches and welcomes… In fact, for the class of 2023, president Peter Salovey dedicated his entire opening address to celebrating Yale’s “culture of curiousity.” He encouraged students to embrace their humility and admit that they have a lot left to discover. But what is intellectual curiosity, really? Are Yale students just natural intellectual curiosity monsters, dedicated to always searching for more information, more reading, more debate? 

The answer is no. We are normal college students (mostly), but there is something about loving the process of learning that binds us together. And it isn’t that we love readings, problem sets, or writing essays! Intellectual curiosity is a big phrase for something that’s actually very simple—the passion for hearing each other out, learning from each other, and wanting to know more. We are all curious. At Yale, you are allowed to be. So, where can you find this coveted “intellectual curiosity” on campus?

1. In the dining hall

Dining hall conversations can go in pretty much any direction. When I sit down at Saybrook’s long table—a row of tables pushed together in Saybrook’s dining hall—I never know where our “intellectual curiosity” will land us. One day we might be talking about the hidden messages in Taylor Swift’s Instagram posts and whether she is going to surprise drop another album (my money is on December 26th, 2021, but let’s check back in about it). The next the conversation might be about prison abolition and what alternatives to incarceration are most likely to be implemented first. 

2. On the walk home 

Whether you’re walking from class to the Schwarzman center, from the LGBT co-op to your residential college, or from the shops around the New Haven green to your section in the Humanities Quadrangle, you will probably pass through Cross Campus. Cross Campus is the area of campus located right in front of Sterling Memorial Library. It is a big courtyard with lots of paths that intersect with each other. Functionally, this means that Cross Campus is the perfect spot for student groups to set up their information tables. On the walk home, you can stop and learn about the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project (YUPP), Sustainability at Yale, or Dwight Hall’s Volunteering efforts. Be curious and don’t shy away from the pamphlets!

3. In the classroom

This one’s a no-brainer. The seminar table is like an intellectual curiosity rap-battle.