The Yale Alumni Association will expand its programming relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, as part of the new phase of the existing Belonging at Yale initiative.

In an email to the Yale community on Wednesday, University President Peter Salovey announced nine areas of focus for the next phase of the Belonging at Yale initiative, meant to “increase diversity, ensure equity, and enhance a sense of inclusion and belonging for everyone,” per the Belonging at Yale website. One of the areas of focus is “Working with Our Alumni community,” and the YAA is rolling out new initiatives to spotlight diversity and inclusion.

“Our alumni have long supported a more diverse and welcoming campus community,” Salovey wrote in the community-wide email. “In the past five years, the Yale Alumni Association (YAA) has prioritized diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Now… the association will make DEI and belonging key thematic areas in its programming, supporting career and professional development and lifelong learning that will promote understanding and inspire action and service.”

YAA Executive Director Weili Cheng told the News that her organization’s current efforts with regard to DEI began in 2015, when a task force was formed at the request of the YAA Board of Governors to examine the state of the Yale alumni community and recommend programming that could “leverage all forms of diversity to strengthen the alumni network.” The task force issued a report in 2017 which led to the creation of a working group focused on DEI.

Salovey’s email heralded Cross Campus — a new networking forum for students and alumni — as an example of the YAA’s commitment to DEI and mentorship for students. The email also pointed to the YAA’s Impact Conference, scheduled for March 2021, as a space for alumni and students to come together and discuss issues related to belonging and inclusion.

“In light of the national conversation around race, equity, belonging, and social justice, the YAA board of governors and staff feel strongly that now is the time for more focused efforts to advance these important principles,” Cheng wrote in an email to the News. “The YAA plans to promote understanding and in doing so, inspire alumni to pursue interests and activities that positively impact their communities.”

Senior Director of YAA Communications and Marketing Edward Crawford and Cheng both pointed to the YAA’s “BOLD: Bulldogs of the Last Decade” group as an important forum for DEI work. BOLD is holding a panel later this week on fighting COVID-19 through social entrepreneurship, featuring a diverse group of alumni to talk about their experiences during the pandemic.

Crawford also mentioned the YAA’s “curated collection on combating racism and advancing equality,” a virtual space for books, movies, courses and other resources on anti-racism. Volunteer leadership from the YAA is currently leading an 300-strong alumni section of the past Yale course “African American History from Reconstruction to the Present.” 

Some upcoming initiatives include increased partnerships between alumni identity groups and their counterparts on campus, such as student organizations and cultural houses. According to Salovey’s email, these partnerships will help create mentorship for underrepresented student groups and create increased networking and alumni support for first-generation, low-income students. All the while, the YAA will continue creating dialogue opportunities for alumni across all backgrounds.

“[Alumni’s] Yale experiences are different; those differences provide learning opportunities and should be acknowledged and appreciated,” Cheng wrote. “I would like all alumni to feel that, in the YAA, they have found a community in which they belong and in which they can thrive and grow.” 

The original Belonging at Yale campaign was launched in 2018.


Amelia Davidson | amelia.davidson@yale.edu