Yale Daily News
A new student-led initiative called Pathfinder aims to change the way lower-income, first-generation Yalies chart their academic and social paths through University.
An online roadmap important deadlines, Pathfinder helps students organize personalized schedules that reflect their unique deadlines and interests. Along with Summer Bulldogs, an internship matching program, Pathfinder is a relatively new branch of 1stGen Yale, a network of diverse Yale alumni that supports underserved student communities at Yale.
Development began in the summer of 2022, and the roadmap was officially launched to the public at the start of the fall semester 2022-2023. 1stGenYale summer interns Tony Wang ’25, Satia Hatami ’25, and Bernice Wong ’24 spearheaded the project under the direction of 1stGenYale Vice President Michael Watson ’81.
“Yale is incredibly generous in the opportunities it provides – we are simply the bridge that brings you closer to these resources,” said Lise Chapman ’81 SOM, president of 1stGen Yale. “[Pathfinder] is not a practical guide to getting into medical school or law school. Rather, it presents the various tools that can help you in your exploration of yourself and the larger communities around you during your four years here.
How to use Pathfinder
Pathfinder combines a traditional, informative approach to decoding Yale’s socio-economic curriculum with more customizable components.
According to Hami, Pathfinder solves the challenge of juggling the nuances and complexities of his academic journey by condensing resources into one accessible place.
“When I came to Yale, I wanted a way to organize [and] plan my next four years, but [Yale] didn’t have one,” Hatami said. “My friends at other schools like UC have done this, which made me think it was so odd that Yale didn’t – given that we’re supposed to have really good academic advising services. .”
Browsing through the website, a user encounters a table of contents that guides them through their four years at Yale, as well as the summer before entering college and after graduation. Below each year and each section of the timeline are displayed the resources, tips, programming, and general requirements that cater to that particular year.
For example, under “The Summer Before Yale,” are Online Experiences for Yale Scholars — or ONEXYS — and Freshman Programs, which offer academic tuition and support to incoming students from underserved backgrounds. Meanwhile, the freshman category is dense with resources that help adapt to Yale, including an introduction to peer liaisons, freshman counselors, and college counseling.
“Entering and starting at Yale can be one of the toughest times for an FGLI student,” Wang said, emphasizing that the information should not be taken for granted.
Drawing on his own experiences as a low-income student, Wang also prioritized shedding light on the financial and career aspects of a Yalie’s journey. Advice categories on Pathfinder include how to get funding for summer scholarships, ask professors for job references, learn how to network, prepare for interviews, and take advantage of career development events at the University.
Pathfinder also offers customizable spreadsheets that allow students to plan their schedule in six different categories: Academics, Involvement & Jobs, Undergraduate Scholarships & Awards, Postgraduate Scholarships, Graduate Schools & Programs, and Career. post-graduate. Students can create their own copy of these Google Spreadsheets and use the sections they find most appropriate for their Yale travels.
Spreadsheets largely function as fill-in calendars or checklists, depending on the category. For example, the Academics spreadsheet has a blank calendar for users to fill out with the courses they are currently taking or planning to take, along with reminders about distribution and major requirements. The scholarships spreadsheets feature a catalog of opportunities, programs, study abroad, and outside awards available to Yale students, while the Graduate Schools & Programs tab allows students to organize all the institutions they are interested in, as well as important deadlines, requirements and other information.
“A lot of professors take their students on fully funded trips to get somewhere. But if you miss a deadline, that’s it — you can’t make the trip,” Chapman said. “Pathfinder prevents the ‘I wish I had known about that’ or ‘I wish I hadn’t missed that.'”
Looking ahead, Wang and Hatami are excited for more students to learn about Pathfinder and incorporate it into their planning.
Pathfinder an example of emerging and growing support FGLI students
Pathfinder is part of a growing effort by 1stGenYale and other campus affinity groups to make Yale’s financial and academic spaces more accessible to underrepresented students, especially those who identify as low-income racial minorities. income or the first members of their family to attend university.
Chapman praised the leadership of Wang, Hatami and Wong, adding that it is important for students to take initiative rather than being an authority telling Yalies what to do with their time at the University. Their leadership cultivates a sense of family, peer relationships and trust in a place as daunting and exciting as Yale, she said.
This teamwork — this idea of “being one family to others” and the “shared experiences of being an underserved student” — remains one of the core values of 1st Generation Yale, according to Chapman. With Magda Vergara ’82, she saw 1stGenYale evolve into the rich and supportive alumni network it is today. While proud of this continued progress and growth, Chapman said she will always remember the organization by its collaborative origins.
A few years ago she read the New York Times opinion piece “From South Sudan to Yalewhere columnist Nicholas Kristoff told the story of Paul Lorem ’15, who was orphaned at age five and endured an arduous road to an education. The profile left a mark on Chapman, reminding her of her own childhood raised as a single mother and the resulting challenges when education, family responsibilities and socio-economic status collide. One day, while Chapman found herself lost on Hillhouse Avenue and asking for directions, she came across a young man who offered to help her. It was none other than Lorem himself.
“We’ve been friends ever since,” Chapman said. “I still remember that day – I started crying when I realized it was him.”
After learning that Lorem hoped to find a job in the agricultural industry, she put him in touch with other alumni who were looking to hire. This experience – as well as a Halloween incident in 2015 that set the university on fire with debates on racial insensitivity and the cultural appropriation of minority identities – saw the creation of 1stGenYale as a safe place where people can share common experiences, “move forward together” and “create versions of themselves of which they are most proud,” Chapman said.
According to Chapman, part of this process is knowing that there are people facing the same difficulties – people who also experience impostor syndrome and find themselves lost at a crossroads – and another part is to try their luck with passion and individual goals. Yale’s journey is incomplete without both, she added.
“That’s where Pathfinder comes in,” Chapman said. “It’s a whiteboard – a notebook – allowing students to think ahead, to be entrepreneurs… and to follow their interests.”
1stGenYale was founded in 2016.