In order to ensure Yalies remain connected with the University after their bright college years come to an end, administrators are introducing initiatives to better engage young alumni.
In anticipation of the upcoming capital campaign and to generally reach a greater number of recent graduates, the Yale Development Office and the Association of Yale Alumni are strengthening outreach efforts and working on new initiatives, such as hosting large-scale events around the country for alumni and organizing alumni mentoring programs.
“We need to be engaging people all their time as alumni, not just at the point where they may be able to be significant donors,” Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Joan O’Neill said. “Even … when you graduate, we want Yale to be a meaningful part of your life in those first few years so that you consider staying connected, getting involved, volunteering and then ideally giving back philanthropically.”
O’Neill said the Development Office is looking for ways to create “kind of a young alumni initiative,” which would connect current students and young alumni through panel events and other gatherings. She added that connecting all alumni — both those who graduated more recently and longer ago — with current students would likely make alumni feel prouder of the University.
According to O’Neil, the University is also planning to host large-scale events that would bring Yale faculty members to speak to alumni in different parts of the country. Leading up to the University’s last capital campaign in 2011, such events were invitation only, she said.
“It’s great when younger alums and older alums can come together because they get a chance to see what Yale’s been producing in recent times,” she said. “We can get great scientists who are able to talk about why the work Yale is doing is making a difference in the world and that Yale is a place that’s going to cure cancer, [get rid of] global warming — whatever the things may be. I think we need more reasons to give [alumni] pride in Yale, and that’s part of the storytelling we’ve been working on.”
Outreach to younger alumni has long been a priority for the University. Jocelyn Kane, managing director of the Yale Alumni Fund, said the fund contacts recent alumni who volunteered to solicit donations for the senior class gift as undergraduates to ask them to serve as class agents — people who continue to reach out to classmates and encourage them to support the University through donations — for the fund.
Kane added that together with the Association of Yale Alumni, the Alumni Fund also maintains a Bulldogs of the Last Decade website, aimed at students who graduated from Yale in the last 10 years. The website lists multiple ways young alumni can stay involved, from interviewing Yale applicants to donating.
Stephen Blum ’74, senior director of strategic initiatives for the association, said the association hosts leadership forums for both students and alumni living near campus; conducts the A2A program, which pairs recent Yale graduates with more established alumni who can “convey wisdom, suggestions and other life skills”; and plans to host LinkedIn bootcamps.
While some of these programs are open to all Yale alumni and even current students, a number of recent initiatives are geared specifically toward young alumni, Blum said.
He added that while engaging all alumni is valuable, proactive outreach to recent graduates is important.
“Alums early in their careers are getting used to life away from the campus. They may not always have the time that older alums have to connect with Yale,” he said. “So having proactive outreach by Yale alums to younger alums can be an important reminder to younger alums that they are a part of a larger community.”
Blum said that as a Yale alumnus and a parent of Yale students himself, he wishes that such programs existed when he graduated from the University. For the first 15 years after graduation, he said, his sole connection to Yale was through the fencing team, which he captained during his time in New Haven. Although he did join the Yale Club in New York two years after he graduated, he said there was no “automatic easy connection” he could make with Yale as a young alumnus.
Recent Yale graduates interviewed by the News also underscored the importance of connecting with their alma mater early on.
Igor Mitschka ’15, an Association of Yale Alumni delegate from the Yale Club of Austria, said that he decided to take on the position because getting to know Yale alumni throughout his college years was a meaningful part of his experience.
As an undergraduate, Mitschka co-founded the student run Yale think-tank European Horizons in 2015. Mitschka remains involved with the program as a chairman, which he said allows him to regularly keep in touch with students, alumni, faculty and administrators across the University.
“I think it is very important for us to get engaged,” Mitschka said. “Because we all share many good experiences with the place called Yale, and we all share the drive to make a difference in other people’s lives. This combination is the perfect motivation for any alumnus/alumna to get engaged with life at Yale — by donating, staying in touch, advising students or, like in my case with European Horizons, assisting Yale student organizations.”
Joshua Barrett ’15, the Association of Yale Alumni Assembly delegate for the class of 2015 said that he joined the association as a senior class council co-president and has remained involved since. He said he participates in the annual Association of Yale Alumni Conference to engage Yale alumni and will be organizing his class’s five-year reunion.
Barrett added that actively engaging with Yale early after graduation helps alumni to keep in touch with the community and to remain abreast of recent developments. In addition, such engagement encourages alumni to give back to the University “now and in the future.”
“The Yale undergrad community meant so much to me as a student,” he said. “I wanted to give back to the community and continue to serve Yale after graduation.”
Anastasiia Posnova | firstname.lastname@example.org