The front wall of the Rose Alumni House on 232 York St. no longer displays the placard “Association of Yale Alumni.” But the organization is not moving.
Rather, on Dec. 17, the Association of Yale Alumni, or AYA, rebranded itself as the “Yale Alumni Association,” or YAA. Now, a sign reading “Alumni Association” has taken the old placard’s place.
Along with the name change, the organization also completed a comprehensive rebranding campaign that included a redesigned website and the creation of a mission statement. In an interview with the News, E.J. Crawford, who is the communications and marketing director for the YAA, said that before the rebrand, the organization was referenced by different names in documents. The change was made out of the desire for a “consistent brand,” since the previous name made it sound like there might be a barrier to entry, he added.
“Yale is the basis for our organization’s identity and so should be the most prominent word in our name,” wrote YAA Executive Director Weili Cheng ’77 in a statement to the News. “Having the word ‘association’ first in our name was confusing. Some alumni thought our organization required applications for membership, other alumni thought our organization was only for Yale College alumni and still others confused us with the Yale Alumni Fund.”
The group was originally founded in 1972, after then-University President Kingman Brewster commissioned a “root and branch study” to give suggestions on how alumni and administrators could express concerns and provide programs and services to University graduates.
According to Cheng, the name change had been many years in the making. It arrived four years after branding and marketing experts on the YAA Board of Governors initially suggested the idea.
“We want alumni to feel comfortable and familiar with us. YAA is not the people in the building but alumni in the world. We wanted to make them feel a part of the association,” Crawford said. “It is important to the association that we represent all alumni and make everyone — college and graduate school graduates — feel included.”
Though not visible on the walls of the Rose Alumni House, the newly rebranded YAA also created a mission statement. In part, the statement says that the organization aims to unite “the people and ideas that comprise the lifelong Yale experience.”
“Our mission is to enhance and renew the lifelong Yale experience for all alumni, whoever they are and wherever they may be,” the statement reads, in part. “We strive to inspire new ideas, affiliations, friendships, professional fulfillment and acts of service, around the world.”
But some alumni feel that the changes did not go far enough.
“Unless the University revamps its approach to alumni relations, as opposed to fundraising, by emphasizing the YAA’s importance in the University hierarchy and allocating adequate resources to it, rebranding it or changing its name in my view will make no perceptible difference,” former Chairman of the News Jon Rose ’63, who has served on the YAA Board of Governors, said.
In response to Rose’s comments, Cheng said that although she “appreciated” Rose’s “support” for the YAA, the organization’s decision to complete the comprehensive rebranding was independent “of any discussions regarding University support and was executed in concert with our current model of alumni relations.”
“For its part, the University has been supportive of alumni relations and our efforts,” Cheng wrote in an email to the News. “Our resources have been increased and, due in large part to that support, we are now better able to engage alumni through our new website and other programming.”
YAA was established in 1972.
Skakel McCooey | email@example.com