The schedule gods aligned the stars, and I was able to attend the Global Health Innovation Conference (where two friends from both sides of the country were also attending) and sneak in a meeting with the busy, but incredibly welcoming and experienced, Betsy Bradley. I won’t lie. I think that despite my anticipation for the conference and the opportunity to glean knowledge from Professor Bradley, my excitement to head to New Haven was largely driven by my love of Gilmore Girls. Like, if I’m being honest, probably 35% conference, 65% Gilmore Girls and finding all the places filmed in the show.
While visiting Yale, I took a campus tour and learned all kinds of fun facts (a few of which I’ll share here), starting by walking through the gates into Old Campus. These are the gates nearly every freshman passes through on their first day at Yale.
After passing through the gates, we turned left to admire the statue of Nathan Hale, a 1773 graduate of Yale University and the first American spy. Unfortunately, since he was the first American spy, he didn’t have anyone to teach him the rules of the game. The story goes that, after a pleasant evening at a local pub in New York where he enjoyed perhaps one too many beverages, he told the British that he was spying on them. Which, unsurprisingly, they didn’t like. So they took him into custody and hanged him the next day. Yale, proud of his efforts to support the American Revolution, built a statue of him that is now found on the Old Campus. Except that Nathan Hale was not a wealthy man, so there were no portraits of him on which to base the statue. So, more than 100 years after his death, the most patriotic-looking male from the freshmen class was selected as the model for the statue that now stands in this well-known courtyard.
Because he was the first American spy, the CIA was quite interested in this statue and asked if Yale would give it to them. Yale denied the request, but the CIA is not often told “no.” Or perhaps, they are, but they don’t often accept that answer. Lore goes that they snuck onto the Old Campus late one night, made a mold of the statue, and cast their own which now stands in Virginia. Joke is on them, though, since it’s not the real Nathan Hale…!
We also visited Branford College, one of the living communities at Yale, where Rory and her grandfather were members. [Note: Rory moves into Durfee Hall as a freshman, but in an episode says she’s moving into Branford College. I’m not sure if Durfee is a part of Branford or not, but didn’t think my tour guide would appreciate my question. Afterall, he was only 7 when the show started.] All of the dorm rooms are a bit different, different sizes and configurations of number of roommates, with rooms located around a common room. (Like in the show…) Then there are a variety of different rooms (laundry rooms, common rooms, perhaps a printing press room) connected by tunnels under the residential college.
We also stopped at two libraries on our tour, which I think Rory would have appreciated. The first that we visited was designed by a Yale alumni who was responsible for much of Yale’s current architectural design. As his final project and a fitting memorial to his life, he offered to build Yale a cathedral in the center of campus. Yale was touched by his heart-warming story, and promptly turned him down. What good was a church in the center of a secular campus? So he crossed out the word “cathedral” in his design, wrote “library,” and built his building.
A photo of the central library “hall” is below. The mosaic at the back of the room behind the alter, I mean circulation desk, is of “Mother Yale.” And the angels with halos? Not angels, but university deans. (They probably like that comparison.) The library has the largest collection of secular stained glass collection and still keeps the old card catalogue drawers, sans cards, in the walls on the main level.
We also visited the Beinecke Rare Books Library built with special features such as a cement walkway leading up to the building that always stays above freezing so the snow hits it and melts immediately. The plaza outside the library is slightly sloped so the water runs away from the special collections held in the basement of the library to prevent any chance of flooding. The books, themselves, are held in a central glass column in the middle of the library that can fill with a special gas that doesn’t burn, should the library ever catch fire. The outside of the library is built from a stone that is just the right thickness to block out UV light, but to allow in natural sunlight on a bright day. Pretty interesting architectural features!
So, right. Now that I’ve fully proved my point about being excited about visiting New Haven because of Gilmore Girls, there was also a conference on my work passion: global health. The conference began with snow swirling down and winds blowing, but this snow globe effect didn’t keep participants away.
Although perhaps a bit on the “light and fluffy” side, the conference draws a large crowd and big name speakers, like Jeff Sachs and Agnes Binagwaho, and encourages you to think about projects differently or to consider how to apply new ideas to your current work. The combination of in-depth workshops, keynote speakers, and sessions with 3-4 speakers who each spoke for 10-minutes, gave a wide variety of options to learn and think creatively. And the conference was excellent about providing sufficient time for audience questions.
My favorite speaker was Rwandan Minister of Health Agnes Binagwaho who speaks with such passion, honesty, determination, and evidence of what has worked in her country that you can’t help but leave inspired.
Perhaps next year we’ll have the opportunity to present our innovative work and encourage a new line of thinking in global health…