‘We’re Back!’ The Graduate Center Welcomes About 600 New Students

August 23, 2023

The Graduate Center held its first full-day, in-person new student orientation since 2019.

New incoming student at the Orientation
Haydeeliz Carrasco (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

Energy and spirits were high as hundreds of new students poured into the Graduate Center’s Fifth Avenue campus for the first full-day, in-person orientation since 2019. The vibe, which Vice President for Student Affairs Matthew Schoengood encapsulated in his opening remarks, was “We’re back!”

About 600 new doctoral and master’s students are joining the Graduate Center this year, and those who attended the orientation expressed their eagerness to start their programs and received plenty of advice from scholars who had been in their shoes.


Professor Teresita Levy speaking
Teresita Levy (Ph.D. ’07, History) (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

Alumna Teresita Levy (Ph.D. ’07, History), interim dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and an associate professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, gave one of two keynote addresses at the opening assembly. She spoke of her journey to completing her Ph.D., which involved defending her dissertation when she was nine months pregnant with her second child.

“Do not only be a graduate student,” she told the students. “Be an intentional, curious, generous participant in this life you will lead for the next few years, allowing yourself to be surprised by the work and the people around you.”

She also spoke about what sets the Graduate Center apart.

“One of the greatest things about being in the GC,” she said, “is that we are not in an ivory tower. We are in the diverse, messy, brilliant, fabulous middle of New York City. Be a part of that community.”


Professor Juan Battle speaking
Presidential Professor Juan Battle (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

Presidential Professor Juan Battle (Nursing, Social Welfare, Sociology, Urban Education, Liberal Studies) gave a second, brief, and advice-filled keynote with lessons he wanted to impart as he entered his 30th year at the Graduate Center.

“This school was not built to appreciate you,” he said as he opened. “It was built to educate you. If you want appreciation, affirmation, and stuff like that, get it outside of these walls. It's not designed for that purpose. And it will come up short and you'll be frustrated over the wrong stuff time and time again.”

He also advised students to feed their spirits. “Whatever it is that brings you joy, do it,” he said. “You've got to take care of you first so that when those around you fall, your arms are strong enough to catch them.”

Provost and Senior Vice President Steve Everett reminded students that a Graduate Center education is not about merely receiving knowledge. “You are the ones creating original knowledge,” he said, “which is going to transform the world.”


President Robin L. Garrett with a new M.A. student
President Robin L. Garrell with an incoming master's student. (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

President Robin L. Garrell encouraged students to think often about the arc of their graduate careers.

“Plan your professional development,” she said, “that’s my key takeaway for today.” She let students know about the many support centers and services at the Graduate Center, including the Center for Career Planning and Professional Development, the Writing Center, the Teaching and Learning Center, and the Wellness Center.

After the remarks, as further inspiration, Music doctoral student Sophie Delphis sang excerpts from La Chanson d’Eve, Op. 95, by Gabriel Fauré, with piano accompaniment from fellow doctoral student Joseph Vaz.  


Students from D.M.A. Program in Music performing
Sophie Delphis and Joseph Vaz perform La Chanson d’Eve, Op. 95, by Gabriel Fauré. (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

Haydeeliz Carrasco, a public finance consultant at the World Bank who is starting an Economics Ph.D., said the orientation affirmed her decision to come to the Graduate Center. “I’m very excited to be part of the student community and to contribute to research that improves social equity in the economics field,” she said. 


Minglei Zhang portrait
Minglei Zhang (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

Minglei Zhang, a Sociology Ph.D. student from China, echoed Carrasco’s excitement. “I feel very confident starting my Ph.D. here,” he said. “I think the GC's culture is very open-minded and accepting of people from different backgrounds.”


Jake Sweet portrait
Jake Sweet (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)

“It feels sort of surreal at the moment,” said Philosophy Ph.D. student Jake Sweet. For years, he has read books on social ontology by Distinguished Professor Carol Gould (GC/Hunter, Philosophy, Political Science), and this semester, he’ll take a course with her. “It’s mind-blowing,” he said.


New doctoral students at 2023 orientation. (Photo credit: Alex Irklievski)