Magazine On-line [spring 2013]
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Around Campus

Bioethics seminar twines Transylvania to Ivy League

As a biology student might say, Transylvania and Yale University have evolved a symbiotic relationship.

Transylvania students who attend the Yale Bioethics Summer Internship Program bring an imaginative energy to the Ivy League school, and they return with new perspectives and confidence.

Yale is so fond of Transylvania students that it set aside a spot for one of them to attend each year.

Carol Pollard, director of the summer program, said Transylvania students are academically exceptional and demonstrate a high emotional IQ. “Basically, we are looking for students who have a strong interest and are creative and empathetic types.”

Pollard’s program—which is part of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics—each year draws dozens of students and professors from around the world to discuss topical issues such as animal rights, designer embryos, and the causes and prevention of violence.

The Yale-Transylvania connection formed five years ago when biology and philosophy major Prya Murad ’11—who now attends the Loyola University Chicago School of Law—participated in the two-month program. Since then, about a dozen Transylvania students have been accepted. Three went last year.

Yale created the guaranteed spot in 2009; Transylvania selects the student and covers his or her enrollment fee. Transylvania chooses students who “bring creative energy and novel concepts to our morning lectures and afternoon seminars,” Pollard said.

Kathleen Jagger, biology professor and interim vice president and dean of the college, said Transylvania is grateful for the collaboration. Her students not only return from Yale with new knowledge, but they also help grow the summer program.

The Transylvania students come back to lead bioethics discussion groups and might share what they’ve learned at off-campus forums.

Plus, at Yale they mingle with students and faculty from elite universities. Doing so, they discover they’re of the same caliber and as well-prepared. “In all cases they realize they compete with the best of the best,” Jagger said.

The bioethics program also helps show students the value of a liberal arts education because of the many ways it ties into other fields—from exercise science to sociology. “They begin to see that connecting the dots intellectually is something that they’re going to enjoy doing well beyond Transylvania,” Jagger said.

Philosophy professor Jack Furlong also mentioned the summer program’s mind-expanding nature. “It makes biology majors think differently and philosophy majors think differently,” he said. And with their liberal arts background, Transylvania students bring to Yale a well-rounded mind and an ability to learn and communicate.

When they return, they create a buzz that helps Transylvania fill its own bioethics courses.

Senior Emily Shepp won the guaranteed spot last year. She learned from the experience that she doesn’t want to go straight to law school; she’d first like to figure out what part of health care law she wants to focus on.

The Yale experience provided her with valuable contacts. For instance, a friend she met there has university connections in Chile, where she may work for a while.

Shepp also had a Yale bioethics classmate, Ed King, who was one of the first lawyers to exonerate an innocent prisoner by using DNA evidence. “It was a huge honor to realize that I had studied him before and he was sitting next to me,” she said.

Shepp gained confidence through the Ivy League program. “I thought that I might be intimidated, but I felt that Transy prepared me really well.”

Carol Pollard and senior Emily Shepp

Carol Pollard, director of Yale University’s Bioethics Summer Internship Program, presents a diploma to Transylvania senior Emily Shepp, who attended last summer with a spot that Yale sets aside for a Transylvania student each year.

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