Yalies from all over the world came back to campus on Oct. 17 as part of a new alumni-led program, “Careers, Life, and Yale.” The program was co-developed by the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), Students and Alumni of Yale (STAY), and the Office of Career Strategy (OCS).
The organizers hope the program will better connect alumni with current students and serve as a foundation for future mentorship opportunities. The kick-off event, titled “Being Useful: Careers in Education, Health, Public Service, and Social Entrepreneurship,” was one of a series of events to be held this year. Another day-long session is scheduled for next February and will be arts-focused.
In a welcome letter to participants, President Peter Salovey urged students, alumni, and Yale to learn and grow from each other, noting that the connections binding Yalies together “span backgrounds and interests, foster links among generations, and form a vast network that extends around the globe.”
Steve Blum ’74, the senior director for strategic initiatives for AYA, said the program became possible due to the increased involvement of alumni over the past few years.
“We now have an opportunity to take some of that energy which has been released and redirect it towards campus,” he said. “We should be taking the wisdom that exists and making it accessible to students.”
Blum added that “Careers, Life, and Yale” will focus on life skills and career advice, two areas of “life wisdom” that he believes will enrich the student experience. The inaugural event featured four life skills panels on work-life balance, business etiquette, interviewing, and global citizenship in the morning and four career panels on education, health, public service, and social entrepreneurship in the afternoon.
Cristina Moreno ’16 said the global citizenship panel was her favorite part of the day because she was able to hear from alumni who are invested in international work from different angles. She added that it helped her round out her own concept of what a career is and how to align it with her own personal goals.
In between the two sessions, students were able to meet alumni at a networking lunch. Lise Pfeiffer Chapman ’81 M.B.A., chair of the AYA Board of Governors and co-founder of "Careers, Life, and Yale," said the lunch provided a more intimate space for students to get a “real-world view” from the alumni. More than 100 students, undergraduate and graduate, participated in the event along with about 60 alumni.
Students and alumni alike said they found the networking lunch to be useful in providing some perspective. Kathleen Yu ’17 said she enjoyed seeing alumni coming back because it showed “they cared about the next generation of students.” For his part, Selby Jacobs ’61, ’72 M.P.H. wanted to help students understand that careers are difficult to plan at the start and instead encouraged students to focus on their interests to slowly build a career.
In his keynote address, Neal Keny-Guyer ’82 M.P.P.M. stressed the importance of giving back to Yale and to the world, emphasizing that opportunities for service can be found in all sectors of work.
“The world needs your talents and your service now more than ever,” he said. “In this fast-paced, rapidly changing world, it’s not even clear where to begin, much less how to jump in. But from where I stand, the opportunities to make a difference have never been more abundant or more exciting.”
Ultimately, Rahul Prasad ’87 Ph.D., a board officer for AYA and co-founder of "Careers, Life, and Yale," hopes that the program will begin to make connections between people and foster an awareness that “we are all in this together.”
“An alumni network, if properly utilized, can be a powerful force of good,” he explained. “That’s what I hope will come out of this: that students are going to know they can rely on this network of people who have gone before them to get advice, to get mentoring, to get guidance. When they feel like they are lost or struggling, they know there are people they can reach out to who will help, not by necessarily handing them something, but by helping them find their way.”