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.
After graduation Eli Whitney alumni do remarkable work with their Yale degrees. Gregg Gonsalves ’11, ‘17 Ph.D. was recently awarded a MacArthur “Genius” award for his pioneering work at the intersection of human rights and public health.
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.
An immigrant from South Korea, Moses came to the United States when he was eight years old. Upon graduating from high school in California, Moses enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his four-year service as an Amphibious Assault Vehicle Technician, he was deployed twice. After completing his military service, he returned home to San Jose where he enrolled full time at a local community college while working as a barista. At Yale, Moses is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Political Science with an academic interest in International Political Economics. He hopes to pursue a career in finance. He is President of the Eli Whitney Student Society, a board member at Yale THINK (There is Hope in North Korea), and an ambassador for Service to School. Moses has found his Yale experience to be intellectually stimulating and rewarding. He says, “I have never once felt out of place at Yale, and the open social environment has allowed me to share my experiences and culminate meaningful relationships with students and faculty alike.
Raised in Texas, Aaron has called the East Coast home for almost two decades. Before matriculating at Yale, Aaron conducted non-profit humanitarian work all over the world, served as an Emergency Medical Technician, and owned a paint and design contracting company. Eager to pursue a formal education, Aaron made his way into the classroom of a local community college, and eventually to Yale where he majors in art with a film concentration. At Yale, Aaron is focused on developing his voice as a documentary filmmaker. His Yale project “Questions of Justice: Officers of Color in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter” was featured as the Yale Policy Lab’s annual event and at the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media where he served two semesters as a fellow. Two professors have used the film as curriculum in the sociology department. His senior thesis project “Spectacular Body the Surface Changing” engages with gender and identity trends. Aaron feels that “the liberal arts aspects of Yale and the opportunities to explore cross-disciplinary subject matter” has allowed him to flourish as a student, and as a filmmaker.
A native Oregonian, Frances pursued a career as an internationally certified snowboard instructor in the U.S. and in Europe after graduating from high school. When she returned to Oregon, Frances was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent several surgeries. During the intensive rehabilitation process she began volunteering at local non-profit media and contemporary art organizations which led her to work on large-scale art installations and film projects. She later enrolled at a community college where she discovered her interest in refugee issues, particularly in the design of more humane and sustainable refugee camps and international integration policies. Frances is currently majoring in Political Science, with a concentration in refugee and migration studies at Yale. She has benefited from Yale courses that took her to Morocco and Greece, where she was able to learn directly from organizations working with refugees and migrant communities. By complimenting her rigorous coursework with frequent excursions to New Haven’s many museums, community centers, and film screenings, Frances feels she is receiving a stimulating liberal arts education from which she is building a meaningful career.
Originally from Kansas, Allegra enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating high school. Her career began in North Carolina, where she served as an unmanned aerial vehicle technician. She also worked as an embassy security guard at various U.S. diplomatic missions in Africa, Asia, and South America. Allegra is attending Yale through a Marine Corps commissioning program and will return to the operating forces upon graduation. Majoring in Political Science, Allegra has enjoyed the variety of courses offered at Yale, as well as the opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners. Additionally, she says “the unique opportunities to interact with professors and students across different disciplines” is what has made Yale special. Allegra is active in Yale’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, conducts research at the Political Violence FieldLab, and is a nontraditional student representative for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
Originally from Texas, Nicholas moved to New York City in 2009 to follow his interest in photography. After working in both the photojournalism and fashion photography industries, Nicholas returned to education. From there he became certified to teach English as a second language and soon began to teach recent immigrants in the city. During this time, Nicholas enrolled in a local community college where he majored in mathematics and published environmental research. Since matriculating to Yale as a computer science major, Nicholas has collaborated with the Yale School of Architecture to develop an application for the Venice Architecture Biennial and launched his own privacy-centric social network. He has also developed a strong interest in the legal and social challenges created by technology and hopes to focus on these as he continues his time at Yale.
After graduating high school, Hillary enlisted in the Navy. She served for almost six years as a mass communication specialist (journalist), working as a news producer for the American Forces Network in Sasebo, Japan and Afghanistan. In 2016, while underway with the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, she applied to the Eli Whitney Students Program. She is currently majoring in Political Science. What she enjoys most about Yale is having the opportunity to learn directly from subject matter experts. Her favorite classes include “Ethics and the Law” taught by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Karen Goodrow, and “Comparative Constitutional Law” taught by Professor Steven Calabresi. She currently serves as a volunteer ambassador with Service to School, is a member of the William F. Buckley Program and a nontraditional student representative for the Yale Undergraduate Admissions office. Hillary plans to attend law school after she graduates from Yale with the intention of practicing criminal law and assisting with criminal law reform.
Originally from the tiny island of New Providence in The Bahamas, Wellington moved to New York in 2002. Prior to attending Yale, he co-founded a non-profit organization that delivered food to the needy and the homeless. The program has blossomed into a bustling community food pantry that serves approximately 400 individuals on a weekly basis and it has forged partnerships with larger organizations in New York City to lead the fight against hunger. Wellington transferred to the Eli Whitney Students Program from a community college and is currently studying Political Science with a research focus on Public Policy and International Human Rights. He plans to conduct research on the Coase Theorem and its application to international humanitarian intervention. Wellington is married and raising two children while being an Eli Whitney student. Of his Yale experience, Wellington says, “What I have found most special about this institution, aside from its challenging intellectual environment, is the ease with which one can form new and productive relationships. Every student and faculty member that I have come into contact is trying to be better at solving important problems, but they are also willing to help me to be better as well. This is a distinguishing characteristic of Yale that I do not take for granted.” Wellington graduated from Yale in the spring of 2018.