A visit to Yale: Three lessons, three observations

April 18, 2023. At exactly 5: 45 a.m., I had disembarked at the JFK International Airport in New York, and was already enroute being chauffeured straightaway to Omni Hotel in New Haven, Connecticut. I was journeying to one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning: Yale University. I was invited to join a team of world-class scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, US National War College, and the like, for a workshop on Sino-African relations. The closest I came to Yale was far back in April 2016 when I had completed my doctoral program in Michigan, and had gone for vacation in Boston, Massachusetts. I saw Boston College; I saw Harvard. But the splendor of Yale University would leave the postmodern Branislav Malinowski in perpetual awe. Join me to attempt a thick description of the intellectual space, focusing on three lessons I have garnered from my sojourn.

Yale reminds humanity of the mammoth significance of a green revolution. Yale is well manicured. As I walked through the cold from the Omni Hotel (where I lodged) to the venue of the international workshop, the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs, I could not fail to notice how truly green the campus was. Reminiscent of my alma mater, Michigan Tech, or Uppsala University in Sweden, or the Wits or Stellenbosch in South Africa, one noticeable feature of the green environment at Yale was that it was constantly nursed and nourished every passing day by a team of dedicated horticulturists and gardeners. They fed the grass with so much joy!

The gentrification of the campus is beyond description. The staccato-esque, Victorian-like, almost Gothic nature of the architecture of Yale is pristinely awesome. Nearly almost all buildings on the campus of Yale have identical themes, designs, and patterns with well laid top-of-the class streets crisscrossing the colleges and major buildings. In fact, you may not notice you are on the campus of a university not until you are told so. Come to think of it, you may wonder how much money has been expended in keeping the buildings in shape. I was told by colleagues at Yale that even newer structures are made to conform in purpose, design and taste to older already built ones. The campus is gentrified with clearly identifiable navigational maps and labels that can easily be recalled. I hardly can remember any form of noise, entropy, or distraction. Or maybe I was way too focused to recall.

Ultimately, Yale needn’t be a space. It is a state of being. Far beyond being one of the world’s universities of renown (with a perpetual rivalry with Harvard), Yale is quintessentially a state of being. I was awed by the reverence with which almost every attendee at the conference (some of whom were alumni themselves) accorded the institution and the humility with which they approached the workshop. The level of seriousness at Yale was at its zenith. Occasionally, I would scout around to “gauge” whether this mood could be felt among undergrads.

Yale does not exude excellence. It reminds you that you already are!

Written by Dr. Wincharles Coker

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