The Association of Yale Alumni kick-started its new “Careers, Life, and Yale” initiative on Saturday, with the first of two full-day events to be held this year.
The event, titled “Being Useful: Careers in Education, Health, Public Service and Social Entrepreneurship,” is part of a joint initiative by the AYA, Students and Alumni of Yale and the Office of Career Strategy to connect students and alumni and increase alumni engagement on campus. According to AYA Board of Governors Chair Lise Chapman SOM ’81, the intention is to consolidate existing programming like the AYA’s financial literacy courses for students and other one-time alumni events by organizing them under one initiative. Careers, Life, and Yale will hold one other event in February for careers in the arts, and three events per academic year will be held starting next fall.
“This effort became a giant collaborative effort across the University,” Chapman said. “It didn’t really start in one place. It’s sort of … connecting things that haven’t been connected before and bringing them together.”
Steve Blum ’74, senior director of strategic initiatives for the AYA, emphasized the large role that alumni played in developing the program. Rather than a University-driven initiative, Careers, Life, and Yale was organized almost entirely by alumni, he said. Blum added that alumni spent around 300 to 500 hours organizing the program.
Two hundred and fifty students signed up to attend the event, with a waiting list of 30 people, according to Blum. Of the 250, around 150 were undergraduates, with the remainder of students enrolled in the graduate and professional schools. Blum said there were many seniors signed up, but stressed that students of all years expressed interest, and that seniors did not even constitute a majority of undergraduates in attendance. Around 60 alumni participated in the event.
Throughout the day, alumni hosted small sessions where they discussed life skills such as interviewing, work-life balance, business etiquette and global citizenship. There were also panels hosted by alumni involved in four career sectors — education, health, public service and social entrepreneurship — meant to provide students with an authentic view of each profession. Each topical breakdown occurred once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Apart from the event’s main programming, students and alumni were able to connect at a luncheon and a dinner provided for attendees. Blum said the schedule was designed to facilitate networking and frank discussions about careers among students and alumni.
“We don’t want to have the situation where [students] ask three or four questions at the panel and then they vanish,” Blum said.
Some students took full advantage of the opportunity to engage with alumni by seeking out specific attendees. Abdul Osman SOM ’16 said he attended the social entrepreneurship panel to see Kristina Tremonti ’11, who created a platform for Greek citizens to raise awareness about government officials accepting bribes. Osman said he wanted to recreate the website in Ghana, where he is from, adding that listening to Tremonti’s experiences would help him manage the challenges of developing the project.
Another attendee, William Nyarko DIV ’17, said he saw the event as a good opportunity to meet people in the professional world, adding that his first few weeks of the semester have been very focused on academics, and part of going to Yale is to be able to work after graduation.
Bryan Patten ’96, who works in education management and served on an educational panel at the event, said he was invited to participate by his local AYA board, and that he was pleased Yale was offering opportunities for students to learn about a variety of careers.
“This is the kind of thing I wished they’d had when I was an undergraduate,” Patten said. He added that when he was at Yale, there was not much guidance for students who didn’t want to pursue careers in traditional fields like consulting and investment banking.
There are over 120 domestic and 40 international Yale Clubs and Associations for alumni.