Alumni association has big plans for 2014-2015

“Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your interest, your Yale alumni association has a way for you to connect, engage, learn, and serve,” said Lise P. Chapman ’81 M.B.A., chair of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) board of governors, when the AYA board gathered at Yale on Sept. 4-6 to preview plans for the new school year and review the successes of 2013-2014.

Lise P. Chapman ‘81 M.B.A., President Peter Salovey ‘86 Ph.D., and Darcy Troy Pollack ‘87 at the recent Yale alumni association board meeting on campus.

Alumni engagement has deep roots at Yale, which was the first institution of higher education, beginning in 1792, to identify graduates on the basis of specific undergraduate class year affiliation, a basic step in organizing alumni affairs.A landmark in Yale alumni relations will be celebrated this year, when the Cincinnati Yale Club (CYC) marks its 150th anniversary with a two-day program of music, lectures, and an address by President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. The CYC was the first regional association of alumni from Yale, and among the first such groups founded by any university’s graduates. The events on Sept. 19-20 in Cincinnati will salute the legacy of regional alumni groups for Yale — which now include more than 120 groups throughout the United States and 40 international Yale alumni associations, all with programming during the year.

In recent years, there has been a growing set of alumni shared interest groups (SIGs), which connect alumni across regions, classes, and academic disciplines. SIGs will be hosting a variety of events in 2014-2015. Among the highlights will be the 45th anniversary celebration of the Afro-American Cultural Center on Oct. 17-19. The full roster of SIGs can be found at the AYA website.

Service to society is another hallmark of AYA programs, and alumni volunteers will build on the success of the annual Yale Day of Service, which is scheduled next for May 9, 2015. Organizers note that the most recent program, in May 2014, set new records for participation, with over 4,000 people engaged in 251 sites in 42 U.S. states and 20 other countries. The Yale Day of Service is just one of many alumni service efforts, which also include the Yale Alumni Service Corps and the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange.

Other new alumni programs will continue this year — including the series of residential college reunions. On Sept. 27-28, Jonathan Edwards College will host the next installment of college-specific reunions, welcoming home graduates from across all years. On the road, the Yale Alumni College will take place in even more locations, from New Haven to New York City, Greenwich, Hartford, and Washington, D.C.

Pursuing presidential priorities

At the AYA board meeting in September, Salovey shared his priorities for the university and his thoughts about how to strengthen alumni engagement. He noted that his own involvement with the AYA dates back to when he served ex officio on its board while he was a graduate student leader. He emphasized that Yale aims to make campus more accessible to alumni and to make alumni an even more salient presence at Yale.

Those goals will be pursued this year in a number of ways, including the annual AYA Assembly in November, the preeminent leadership information and development program for alumni leaders from SIGs, regional clubs, graduate and professional school alumni associations, and regional Yale clubs. This year’s assembly will focus on “The Entrepreneurial Spirit at Yale” and feature even greater interaction amongst alumni, faculty, and students than previous programs.

Mark R. Dollhopf ’77, executive director of the AYA, notes, “The AYA is a powerful association of associations, driven by alumni volunteers who bring their talents, passions, and energy as ambassadors for Yale around the world. We are inspired by the creativity alumni bring in building connections to make an impact at Yale and in their communities at home.” Alumni participation in AYA programs has tripled over the last decade, he said, with longstanding club and class programs remaining strong and new initiatives such as the SIGs and service programs taking root and flourishing.

Dollhopf notes that the events and programs mentioned above are just a sampling of the array of initiatives underway by the AYA and its volunteer leaders, supported by a team of professional staff on campus. He and his colleagues encourage all alumni to contact the AYA and connect with Yale — “whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your interest.”