Eli Days Events Inspire Gratitude, Reflection Across Campus

Hundreds of students participated in a series of events sponsored by the Yale Alumni Fund designed to create opportunities for celebration and thankfulness.

The Yale Alumni Fund’s Eli Days, a celebration for the university community to reflect on what they love about Yale, brought hundreds of students out to events across campus. From a silent disco and the “Bulldog Bus” to tree planting and university trivia, Eli Days gave Yalies a study break and opportunity to express gratitude before finals and graduation.

The first event, held outside Silliman College on Wednesday, April 28, attracted dozens of students who left their mark on campus by planting trees. Students planted ‘Autumn Brilliance’ Shadblows, a variety of tree native to the northeast that boasts deep red foliage in the fall and bright white flowers in spring. The trees will grow to more than fifteen feet tall, and those who return to Grove Street next spring should be able to see them at full maturity.

“It’s a chance to give back to the community and leave a mark on Yale,” said Daniel Bacheschi BK ’22. “Yale is constantly changing with a new batch of faces every year, so I’m excited to leave my small footprint. It’ll be so nice to come back during reunions and get to see a tree I planted.”

Two Yale students plant a tree on campus
Daniel Bacheschi BK ’22 and Aishwarya Rai ’22 MA plant trees outside Silliman College.

Aishwarya Rai ’22 MA, who is finishing up her master’s degree in international development economics, says planting a tree felt like a symbolic way to say goodbye.

“I was only here for a year, but it was a beautiful year, and planting a tree feels analogous to the growth I went through while I was here,” Rai said. “I’m moving abroad to Kenya, so I really want to keep that connection to campus.”

Yale mascot Handsome Dan
Yale mascot Handsome Dan

“Oh My Gosh, It’s Handsome Dan!”

On Wednesday, May 5, the Eli Days booth set up outside Woolsey Hall, drawing hundreds of students out into the rain with the promise of fries and the opportunity to pet everyone’s favorite mascot.

At the booth, members of Yale Alumni Fund Student Ambassadors (YAFSA) and Alumni Fund staff members invited students to write thank-you notes, record thank-you videos, and answer trivia questions about Yale’s Alumni Fund. Those who participated received free fries from the Fryborg food truck.

Crystal Chan SY ’24 was drawn in when she spotted Handsome Dan but came away from the booth with a better understanding of how the Alumni Fund works—and a serving of fries.

“I chose to write a thank-you note for alumni donors because the Alumni Fund supports my scholarship to go here,” Chan said. “I probably wouldn’t be at Yale if it weren’t for financial aid, so I’m really grateful.”

A Welcome Study Break

Eli Days was on Beinecke Plaza the next day, where the sunny weather brought lots of students looking for a study break. Yalies answered quiz questions about the university’s history, athletics, and the Alumni Fund to earn tokens redeemable for tote bags, ivy plants, and daisy growing kits.

Mike Steinthal ES ’24, an economics major, had been studying downstairs at the Underground, the new café in the Schwarzman Center.

“I have two final exams in the next two days, but it’s such a nice day that I figured I’d take a stroll and try to win some prizes,” Steinthal said.

Mike says he appreciated the change of pace from studying and enjoyed learning trivia about Yale’s history and alumni community.

“It’s so great that Yale has such a strong alumni base,” Steinthal said. “I’m already starting to lean on it for career advice, and it’s nice to have so many connections already. I would love to be in a position to contribute to future students and their experiences here at some point.”

Yale students and volunteers enjoying Eli Days
Students write thank-you notes expressing gratitude to alumni, faculty, staff and friends.

Some students answered their quiz questions while taking a ride on the “Bulldog Bus,” an electric utility vehicle decked out for Eli Days that took passengers on a loop around the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“The Bulldog Bus was lovely because it saved me a walk, and I got to learn about the Alumni Fund,” said Anna Zhang ES ’24.

Cindy Li BR ’25 heard about the event via email and stopped by on her way to study for her Chinese final.

“This was a cool way to learn about the Yale Alumni Fund, and I loved getting to take home an ivy plant,” Li said. “I definitely want to stay connected to the Yale community when I graduate and would love to mentor future Yalies, so I liked learning about how alumni stay involved.”

Amanda Baker ’00 MusM, deputy director for young alumni and students with the Yale Alumni Fund, says that Eli Days events have been a great success, with hundreds of students across campus engaging with the events and learning more about alumni giving.

“It’s been amazing to be able to do things in person again,” Baker says. “The student response has been very positive. It’s been a great opportunity to illustrate the impact of the Alumni Fund and give students an opportunity to recognize all of the things they’re grateful for about their time at Yale.”


(Photographs by Allie Barton)

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