Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Philosophy and History of ASP

Our Philosophy

The Academic Strategies Program is underpinned by the core belief that learning works best when students are lifted up. Students should be empowered to find their strengths and make unique contributions to the social and the knowledge-making communities that they are a part of.


  • The best learning culture is one that cultivates community. Education is fundamentally a social, collaborative, and collective pursuit. It relies on conversation, support, and insight exchanged among people who share common curiosities.

  • In order to build and maintain a true sense of academic community at Yale, everyone must be included, and everyone must feel that they belong—that their voice matters, and that they are genuinely welcomed by the larger whole. When students are valued, they are happier, better learners.

  • Every single student brings a unique background, identity, personality, and set of experiences to their education—and that this is a strength. This diversity is essential to Yale’s dynamic learning community, making it a rich place for student growth and development.

Student Agency

  • We are student-led in our programming. The best way we can support students is to listen to the students themselves, hear their concerns, and then work to address those challenges. We constantly evolve and adapt in response to the concerns of current students.

  • When students learn how to understand and develop their own unique interests, they are better positioned to pursue them and to take ownership of their education. This allows students to find more meaning and satisfaction in the choices they make.

  • We know that learning is hard, and that deep learning experiences are normally accompanied by growing pains. “Big picture” conversations about what is at stake for students personally in the learning process are key to helping students maintain motivation, especially during times of struggle. These discussions also help students develop mindsets that will allow them to get the most out of their time in college.

Holistic Approach

  • A college education isn’t only about what happens in the courses students take. Extracurricular activities, research, paid work, study abroad, internships, job searches, and leaves of absence all contribute to students’ education and growth during their time in college. We know that students do not necessarily experience these endeavors as separate domains; an integrated and holistic approach to student support is essential.

How Our Philosophy Guides Our Approach

  • Because education is a social endeavor, we strive to create community among students. We do this by helping students learn how to create networks of support among peers, faculty, alumni, staff and professionals. We also encourage practices of collaboration and mutual support within the larger Yale academic community.

  • Because a sense of ownership and belonging are central to student learning, we help students identify the interests and strengths that are unique to them as individuals. We help students figure out how to grow these strengths and interests through all of the resources available: academic, extracurricular, and pre-professional.

  • We help students become strong self-advocates, and we help students learn how to create a vision/philosophy for their own education based on what matters to them.

  • Because understanding the Yale culture is key to knowing how to navigate it, we make the hidden curriculum visible: we demystify the hidden expectations and assumptions.

Our Methodology

  • We currently offer three kinds of programming: 1-1 mentoring; small group mentoring; and interactive workshops. Nearly all of our programming is led by our team of junior and senior undergraduate Peer Mentors.

  • Each program format is designed to:

    • develop relationships and mutual support among students; 

    • respect each student’s unique experiences; 

    • meet students where they are;

    • help students find the specific strategies that will work well for them.

  • Our programs are synchronous (both online and in-person) so that participants can have live conversations. Conversation allows students to genuinely get to know one another, which both fosters community and allows our mentors to tailor their mentorship to individuals.

  • In creating our program content, we combine educational research, pedagogical best practices, and student input. Our student Peer Mentors are encouraged to contribute to and provide feedback on our work as we constantly revise our programming.​

Our History

In Fall 2015, students at Yale held a series of protests in response to racialized incidents on campus. In the months that followed, the conversation continued; students showed administrators how the current structures of Yale’s academic and social cultures created an experience of perpetual outsiderness and non-belonging for many students, especially BIPOC students, first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students, and students from non-traditional backgrounds. 


In response to what he had learned from students, then Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway asked the executive director of the newly formed Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Jennifer Frederick, if there was any programming they could create to help these students thrive at Yale. Dr. Frederick asked her undergraduate support team to help, and the Academic Strategies Program was created.


After several months of research and interviews with students, faculty, and staff, founding director Dr. Karin Gosselink identified several areas of academic life where students needed more concrete strategies and guidance. These areas included how to approach and work with faculty, how to take ownership of learning in the classroom, how to manage time in college contexts, and how to take advantage of academic and professional resources available outside of the classroom. Two FGLI students, Eva Albalghiti and Sebastian Perez, were hired to help research and develop 6 initial workshops. These workshops were designed to offer effective strategies that were grounded in the lived experiences of Yale students. 9 more undergraduate students were hired to serve as mentors. These undergraduate mentors led the workshops and met 1-1 with their peers to provide advice and support as students pursued their academic goals. In our pilot year, we assisted nearly 200 unique students, and were given the green light to grow to support more students.


From the beginning, Academic Strategies programming was designed to empower all Yale students, while also being especially accessible to FGLI  students. When the Yale College Community Initiative for First-Generation and Low-Income students was established in Fall 2018, it became a close partner to Academic Strategies. Once that initiative began, Academic Strategies also began to work with Yale’s summer bridge program for FGLI students, First-Year Scholars at Yale, to offer workshops and individual pre-advising to the program’s 72 participants.  In 2020-2021, we sponsored FGLI Peer Mentorship groups for over 200 first-year and sophomore students. 


As the program has matured, we developed more than 30 workshops to help students navigate what we identified as the “hidden curriculum” at Yale–the assumptions and expectations about how to do well as a student. Our support now includes partnerships with organizations across campus, including the Center for International and Professional Experience, Yale Libraries, and a variety of academic departments and programs. In 2019-2020, the Academic Strategies Program’s 40+ mentors had over 1400 contacts with Yale undergraduates. 


In the future, we will continue to expand our programming for all students, including helping students to have greater access to research opportunities and preparation for graduate school and professional opportunities. 


Questions? We’d love to be in touch with you! Just send a note to academicstrategies@yale.edu.
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