Understanding America


A Year-long Series Exploring Yale, New Haven, and the U.S.

After settling in to life at Yale, international students, scholars, and family members may be curious about their new hometown of New Haven as well as the broader culture of living in America. You are not alone - with all that is happening in the U.S. at present, many of us are re-evaluating our understanding of the people, the culture, and government of the U.S. Join us in this year-long series of talks as we attempt to crack some of the codes and break down key issues at Yale, New Haven, and the U.S. at large. 

The Understanding America series includes panel discussions, field trips, and expert speakers both from Yale and the New Haven community. Our goal is to provide a comfortable space for you to engage in a lively discussion, offer opinions, and gain insights into some complex features of American society and culture. 

The series is open to the Yale Community, and we encourage you to come with questions, opinions, and an open mind.


 Last Year's Discussion Topics

Talk 1

Yale in New Haven - The Early Years

Join us for a lively discussion with Mike Morand, the Public Relations & Communications Officer at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, as he takes us back in time to discuss Yale's history in New Haven. The evening will include discussion and a walk through The New Haven Green.  

Talk 2

Post-Industrial Cities - A New Haven Case Study

Join us for our second session of our Understanding America series, led by Peter Crumlish, the Executive Director and General Secretary of Dwight HallYale’s student-led center for public service and social justice. In this session we will explore New Haven’s recent history as it transitioned from an industrial hub to a post-industrial city, and how this has impacted the socioeconomic make-up of the urban area from the mid-20th century onward. We will examine housing and zoning issues, gentrification, the urban renewal process, and of course, we will have time for your questions at the end.   

Talk 3

Inside Local Government - Guided Tour of City Hall

For our final session of the fall, join us for a discussion about U.S. local government and a guided tour of New Haven's City Hall. Not only is City Hall a beautiful piece of architecture on The Green, but the heart and mind of New Haven's government operations. Al Lucas, the Director of Legislative Services, will guide us through the building as we discuss the legislative process, the types of issues that local government handles, political debates, and voting procedures. We know that U.S. politics are complex, so bring your questions along and get them answered from a government official!  

Talk 4

The Civil Rights Movement - Here and Everywhere

In honor of Black History Month and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we are kicking off our spring semester with a discussion on the Civil Rights Movement, both historically and where it stands today. To lead this discussion, we have three incredible PhD students who all specialize in different areas of the movement; Amanda Hall and Anna Duensing from the Department of History and African American Studies, and Pedro Regalado from the American Studies Department. Throughout the evening, we will explore the historical context of the Civil Rights Movement here in New Haven, and move throughout history to present day issues that are still facing the U.S. and the world. Our presenters will be happy to answer your questions, so please come ready to participate!

Talk 5

The Right To Bear Arms

The United States statistically has had more mass shootings than any other country in the world. Join us as we explore the 'why' for our fifth installment of our Understanding America series, in a discussion about gun culture in the U.S. To lead this conversation, we are thrilled to have Professor Alan Bruce join us for the evening. Professor Bruce is the Director of the Criminal Justice Department at Quinnipiac University and will be discussing the second amendment and how it has evolved over time, the unequal distribution of gun violence across the country, and data surrounding media coverage on mass shootings. Please register and come ready to participate!

Talk 6

Campus Culture in the #MeToo Era

You are likely familiar with the viral #MeToo movement that has been calling attention to the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, especially against women in the workplace. #MeToo and #TimesUp have reignited a century's long conversation about women's rights, equal pay, harassment, and the policies and laws that surround these issues. Join us for our next Understanding America discussion as we look at the history of Title IX, what #MeToo means for campus culture, and the resources that are available at Yale. To lead this conversation, we are very pleased to have three Yale colleagues join us for this discussion: Melanie Boyd, Yale College Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Director of the Office of Gender & Campus Culture, and a Lecturer of Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies; Maria Gutierrez, Program Manager, Title IX; and Ksenia Sidorenko, Postgraduate Associate in Psychiatry and with Yale College as a Title IX Coordinator.