The Yale College Council voted earlier this month to change its constitution to formally recognize alumni as one of its constituencies.
The change was first proposed two months ago at a meeting between YCC’s leadership and members of the Board of Trustees by Steve Blum ’74, a member of the board and senior director for strategic initiatives at the Association of Yale Alumni. In addition to the YCC constitutional change, Blum — who has been spearheading campus efforts to boost alumni-undergraduate interaction — hopes that the YCC can help promote such programs and thereby connect students to the 160,000 living Yale alumni. The change in constitution was a step to achieve the goal, Blum said.
“The constitutional change also matches a strategic opportunity for YCC,” Blum said. “YCC is attempting to do more outreach, so what better way to do outreach to students than to include alumni?”
YCC President Peter Huang ’18 said that because the YCC is a primary mode of contact between students and alumni, making the move to strengthen relationships between alumni and undergraduates was “a great opportunity.”
Blum said the YCC is a great platform for increasing students’ awareness of the Careers, Life, and Yale program, which Blum has overseen since 2015. According to him, the program provides Yalies with insights, advice, mentoring, networking opportunities and life skills directly from Yale alumni. He added that one major goal for the new constitutional change is to increase awareness of the program, which is one of its main challenges. Huang said that the YCC will help advertise various programs organized by alumni, particularly those such as Careers, Life, and Yale that offer “advice and insight on life after college” to students. Huang, an ex officio member of the AYA Board of Governors, has already been in contact with many alumni.
“One of the immediate focuses is for the YCC to better understand the undergraduate demand for different alumni programming,” Huang said.
One of the YCC’s latest attempts at student outreach, the New Ideas Fund — a $6,600 fund used to finance student projects focused on community building and inclusivity — may also act as a bridge between students and alumni. To help build this connection, Blum said he spoke with leaders of YCC about the possibility of AYA providing mentorship to fund recipients.
“I hope ideas that come out of this incentive are ideas that can involve alums,” Blum said. “The AYA would love to support ideas engaging alumni and students.”
YCC Chief of Staff Sydney Wade ’18 said the change will have a general impact on the way the way the organization considers and pursues projects. Wade said alumni will be brought into YCC conversations when it evaluates “the impact and implications” of their projects, and “when we are looking for potential experts on our projects.” Wade added that while the future partnership between YCC and AYA is still in progress, the group looks forward to their collaboration with Blum to settle the details.
Although the YCC had already been involved in connecting students and alumni prior to the formal change, the latest move provides the organization a constitutional basis for expanding its scope.
Each year, the YCC presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to an alumnus chosen by the student body. The 2014–15 members designed the award to bring prominent alumni back to campus to interact with undergraduates. The YCC also helped advertise the AYA’s alum-student mentor program last year, according to Wade.
In light of the constitutional change, the YCC and the AYA plan to cross-promote and execute more such programs.
“The alumni office has countless ways that undergraduates can connect with alumni, but I think that a lot of students don’t know about those opportunities,” said YCC Vice President Christopher Bowman ’18. “From Alumni Teas to the Careers, Life, and Yale series, we are absolutely not lacking in alumni presence on campus. Alumni have so much knowledge about both life at Yale and life beyond it, and I hope that students tap into that base through these programs as they prepare for their futures.”
The AYA was established in 1972.