Advice for Admitted Students: MODS!

Advice for Admitted Students: MODS!

Hello again, prospective and admitted students! This here is my last installment of Advice for Admitted Students. This time, I’ll talk about the Technical Skills Modules (or MODS, for short). When I got my admission letter and was told I’d have to participate in a three-week training course, I was really nervous—convinced that Yale was going to kick my ass before classes even started. That wasn’t really the case—and MODS quickly became the most awesome thing I had done in a long time.

MODS is kind of like summer camp for adults. You will spend a total of two weeks out in the forest camping, plus a week in New Haven. Each week of MODS serves to teach you some kind of field skill, but is also an awesome opportunity to get to know your classmates and get over the awkward get-to-know-you stuff before you have to start worrying about what classes to take and how to get all your reading and problem sets finished each week.

The incoming class is split into three sections each week, with each week trying to maximize the number of people you’ve not met before (though inevitably, there are people with whom you will spend all three MOD weeks and people with whom you will spend no time during MODS). Each group will go off to one of the three modules for 4 days, and then everyone will spend the weekends in town.

The general vibe of the MODS program is informal—the point is for you to have a ton of fun and learn some good basics. You do have to complete the MODS program in order to graduate, but there are no grades or anything like that associated with it. So, what can you look forward to?

Great Mountain Forest: Orienteering. One of your MODS weeks will be spent at Great Mountain Forest (GMF), at the Yale Camp. GMF is a 6000-acre forest that has been hosting Yale Foresters since the 1940s. The land is completely beautiful, and the camp features an awesome common room (with Moose and fireplace for rainy nights), bunkhouse, several cabins, and space to pitch your own tent. During this MOD, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to use a compass, how to count paces, using topo maps, using GPS units, and other orienteering skills. This basically translates to spending lots of time walking around in the woods, getting lost (don’t worry, we haven’t lost anyone yet!), lots of campfire time, swimming in the nearby pond, singing, games, telling stories, socializing, and, most importantly, the annual MODS softball games (no skills necessary—just enthusiasm!). I was a Teaching Fellow for this MOD two summers ago, so if you have any questions about it, I can definitely talk for-EVER about this week and how much fun you will be having the entire time!

Yale-Myers Forest: Forestry and Field Sampling. Yale Myers Forest is one of the forests owned by Yale and managed by FES students (the current School Forest Manager, Alex Barrett, is MF ’12). This camp also has a big bunkhouse, a big common room for hanging out, an awesome smoker and outdoor dining area, and space to pitch your own tents. During this MOD, you’ll get a look into the actual industry that this school used to focus on exclusively—forestry. You’ll get the basics of field sampling methods—water quality, soil descriptions, and forest qualities. You’ll learn about the specific tools that a forester will use in the field, visit a timber mill, and hear lectures from folks who will totally change your perspective on how to look at land—not to mention all the good stuff like campfires, stories, hikes, and swimming in the nearby pond. As someone who didn’t study forestry at the school, I loved this look into the history of the school and a new way of learning how to look at the land.

New Haven/Urban Ecology: The third MOD takes place in New Haven, which gives you a chance to get settled into your apartment, begin to get your bearings in the city, and explore your home for the next two years. You’ll spend time biking through the various neighborhoods in New Haven, meeting with different FES faculty and staff, learning about urban ecology principles, urban watershed issues, and invasive species. You spend a lot of time learning tree and plant species (way more fun than it sounds, really!), and you’ll get to see the annual Shakespeare in the Park, have a pizza party at the Yale Farm, and have a BBQ at East Rock Park. The Urban MODsters act as the weekly welcoming committee for those coming back from the forest-based MODS, and will often spark big all-class social functions like BBQs, house parties, and pot lucks.

The best part of MODS—aside from the fact that it is a three week period during which you have practically no responsibilities and can just focus on getting to know people and have lots and lots of fun—is that the program sets you up for the community expectations for the next two years. FES is community-focused, and having good friends in school translates to having a really strong alumni and professional network once you leave. I know this sounds really cheesy, but I literally met my best friend at FES on my first day of MODS (we were partners for an activity at Great Mountain), and my closest group of friends came from the group that did all three MODS with me in our first year.

So there it is. MODS is awesome.

Certainly, feel free to send any questions, comments, or theories about the nature of the universe my way:

Until next time,