Spreading Joy

YLS students at East Rock Park
A student hike at East Rock Park was one of more than a dozen events for staff and students sponsored by the Joy Fund this fall.

Dean Heather K. Gerken launched the Joy Fund at the beginning of the fall term as part of her efforts to build upon the joy of being back together again in person and ease weariness from the pandemic. “Joy. We need more of it,” Gerken said when she announced the fund. She invited students and staff to present ideas for gatherings that inspire happiness.

The new initiative instantly engaged the community, as students and staff produced thoughtful event plans for activities that cultivated a sense of community. The Joy Fund successfully hatched a number of enjoyable happenings around the School and in the local New Haven area.

Monday mornings welcomed people to campus with a “Cup of Joy,” which provided a free cup of coffee in Ruttenberg Dining Hall to kick off every week. The fund also brought much activity to the Courtyard, where students Ryanne Bamieh ’23 and Sarah Nealon ’23, hosted a “Croissant Tasting in Connecticut.” Their search for the best croissant in New Haven was playfully titled “CT/CT.”

Croissant Tasting
Sarah Nealon ’23 and Ryanne Bamieh ’23 hosted a croissant tasting sponsored by the Joy Fund.

“We picked up croissants from four local bakeries, tasted them all on a sunny Tuesday morning in the Courtyard, and crowned a winner,” Bamieh explained. “I particularly enjoyed the voting process, as it became quite competitive. Nevertheless, it was such a lovely start to the day, and I had a wonderful time!”

Nina Oishi ’22 and Angie Liao ’22 organized an outdoor book club to connect with friends over Stanley Tucci’s memoir while enjoying pizza. “We had over 60 people sign up for the event,” Oishi exclaimed. “We had authentic Neapolitan pizza and discussed Stanley Tucci’s new memoir, Taste, thanks to the many purchased copies courtesy of the Joy Fund. With all the lights and the heat lamps in the Courtyard, it was a warm and comforting night – and a welcomed break from studying and exams.”

The Joy Fund also sponsored a student roller skating party, a hike to the top of New Haven’s East Rock Park, and a wine and cheese discussion of the latest book by author Sally Rooney.

Nikitia Tillman and Kelly Moore
Staff members Nikitia Tillman and Kelly Moore enjoy a visit from the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream truck.

During the fall semester, there were also several occasions that recognized the hard work of the Yale Law School staff, including a “Staff Appreciation Sundae Afternoon” with the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream truck, a visit from the locally famous Waffle Cabin Waffle Truck, and relaxing chair massages.

Laura Capasso, the Law School’s conference and events manager, helped organize the staff events.

“It was truly joyful to see staff reunite in person, some for the first time since 2020, and some for the first time since joining the Law School,” she said.

“After a year and a half apart, it has been glorious to have our entire community living, learning, and working under the same roof,” added Dean Heather Gerken. “The Joy Fund has given staff and students a chance for whimsy, camaraderie, and community, just when we need it most. It’s been wonderful to see the creativity and energy that this new initiative has generated.”