This past weekend, Yale hosted the 16th annual Ivy Leadership Summit — the first time in six years that the event has been held on campus.
According to its website, the Ivy Leadership Summit is an annual two-day conference that brings together students from the eight Ivy League universities, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as leaders in the business, government, academic and humanitarian sectors. The conference was also open to students from other universities, on a case-by-case basis. A total of 185 students attended the conference.
The theme of this year’s summit was “Impetus: Driving Forward Visions for Positive Global Change.” Delegates participated in one of five “tracks:” global health and development, technology, education, government and activism, and general entrepreneurship.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for students to recognize the power of their ideas and to be given the practical skills to make sure their ideas become a reality,” Senior Assistant Director Jaclyn Schess ’18 said. “This is where the idea of breaking students into five professional tracks came from — the idea there was to really focus on what students were passionate about and giving students stories of similar experiences that could really show them [their visions] were possible.”
On Saturday, delegates attended an opening session with remarks from Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway, listened to a plenary panel of speakers and attended breakout sessions based on their track. The evening concluded with a banquet at the Timothy Dwight College dining hall. On Sunday morning, delegates participated in workshops aimed on developing tools and practical skills in leadership.
CEO and Co-Founder of Elite Daily David Arabov advised students in the Technology track on the importance of finding the right business partner. Elite Daily, an online news platform aimed at millennials, was founded in 2012.
“I think every Batman needs their Robin, and it’s important to find the right Robin,” said Arabov. “As far as skills go, there’s got to be that chemistry. Instead of looking for the person who’s good at the things you’re bad at, look for someone you want to be around. The chemistry comes first, the skills come into place later.”
Ellen Su ’13, the CEO and Co-Founder of Wellinks — a wearable health technology company that creates devices for orthotics and prosthetics — stressed that students should take advantage of all the resources their university may offer, including funding and mentorship opportunities. She added that students should reach out to alumni of their universities for advice.
Jason Saltzman, the CEO and Co-Founder of AlleyNYC, a shared space for entrepreneurs in New York City, was one of the panelists in the General Entrepreneurship track. Saltzman spoke about the importance of passion in entrepreneurship.
“You need to believe — know — that the world needs what you’re building” he said. “You truly have to believe in your heart that what you’re doing will have impact. … We don’t know what’s going to happen three weeks from now. If you want to start a business, do it now.”
Mason Ji ’16, a Rhodes Scholar and a former delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, was one of the speakers on the plenary panel Saturday morning. Ji, who was an advisor to the Republic of Seychelles and the youngest delegate to the United Nations, described how it can be difficult for others to acknowledge young people, but that they bring fresh perspectives to the table.
“I hope students take away a different, broader perspective to leadership,” Ji said. “Leadership isn’t just determination and grit, but also creativity: how can you bring a fresh perspective to issues that other people do not, and by doing so, approach it in a more interdisciplinary type of fashion?”
Summit attendees interviewed said they appreciated the opportunity to connect with leaders from different fields. Dominique Desroches ’19 said the Summit was the “bridge” for her to learn how to put ideas into action, adding that this is not traditionally taught in colleges.
This year’s conference represents a significant improvement from previous years., according to Marketing Director Taylor Buscemi ’18.
Buscemi said she attended last year’s Summit at Harvard University and the Ivy Policy Conference at the University of Pennsylvania last semester, the latter of which is also organized by the Ivy Council, the Summit’s umbrella organization. She added that logistical errors plagued both conferences, and that this motivated the Yale team to create a more successful Summit this time around.
Executive Director Lelina Chang ’18 said that one of the challenges associated with organizing the conference was the issues of funding. According to Chang, she and her team reached out to 120 corporations, but only received one sponsorship, from Bank of America. In light of this, the team pursued internal funding through Yale, Chang added.
Chang added that this year, the Summit received three times as many applications as last year’s Summit at Harvard.
“I want [delegates] to leave understanding that it doesn’t matter how young you are, you just need passion and a goal,” Chang said. “People shouldn’t be sitting down idly. They should start catalyzing on their ideas.”
The first Ivy Leadership Summit took place in 2000.