From Copenhagen to Yale: a summer exchange

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(Photo by Michael Marsland)

While Yale students and scholars have dispersed around the globe to take part in a myriad of summer projects, the campus has welcomed international visitors taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge available right here. One of these visitors has been at Yale facilitating an exchange of information on two continents as part of an alliance of international universities.

In the soaring summer heat, Astrid Gufler has been biking around the Yale campus and New Haven while on a mission to learn about Yale’s development strategy, and how Yale communicators … well … communicate.

Gufler, a senior consultant from the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark’s largest research university, has been in New Haven for almost six weeks, based at Yale’s Office of International Affairs (OIA). She has been meeting with senior management, development officers, and communicators from the different schools and offices around Yale, while working on several projects that she hopes will benefit Yale and UCPH in the areas of communications and development.

It is an ideal way for both universities to share best practices, says Gufler. UCPH is interested in strengthening international alliances, international fundraising, and alumni communications, while Yale would like Gufler’s feedback on its internal communications as well as a review of its website for international visitors — specifically, the Yale and the World International Toolkit.

“Sometimes, the eyes of an outsider can see new possibilities,” notes Shana Schneider, director of communication at OIA, “both on how we are talking to each other and how we are doing as hosts to international visitors.”

Gufler has been particularly interested in Yale’s success in fundraising. “Danish universities are publicly funded by the government. It is new to us to think about fundraising from the central level of the university,” said Gufler, adding that she was surprised by the number of people involved in development at Yale.

In her job at UCPH, Gufler has been involved with international relations for years. She came to work at Yale, she said, because UCPH “wanted to know how other universities worked strategically with international relations — and I felt that a project like this could benefit both universities, in addition to being a project that I felt would be enjoyable for me personally.” Gufler has been a UCPH point-person for Yale and other international universities, and is also the University of Copenhagen’s contact person for the International Alliance for Research Universities, of which Yale is a member.

As it happens, New Haven had an international exchange of its own during the first few weeks of Gufler’s visit. While attending the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, she was adopted by the British troupe here to perform in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Already at home after her first week in town, she enjoyed showing off New Haven to the performers as they ended their U.S. tour and prepared to head home.

Gufler will be going back to Denmark, she says, with “a new-found knowledge of Yale development fundraising. I knew this was something that American universities do differently than most public European universities, but I was still impressed by the magnitude, the coordination, and focus.”

“To meet with people from different universities and different cultures is extremely inspiring. Just to come here — being an international at the university is eye opening,“ remarked Gufler. “And New Haven is gorgeous. It might not be big as Copenhagen, but being a university town, so many things take place here; it’s a very active and vibrant place. The atmosphere here in New Haven and at Yale is similar to Copenhagen. People are very laid back and, at the same time, very involved with their community.”

She looks forward to returning to attend President Peter Salovey’s inauguration in October.

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