Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

The Yale Alumni Association ran elections last week for the first-year and sophomore classes to choose who they wanted to represent them as delegates among the alumni community.

Each year, the YAA requests one student from each class to speak for their constituencies — the other students in their year — at the YAA Assembly and other important events. For the first-year and sophomore classes, these students are delegates elected by their peers to ensure the student body’s experiences are brought to the table. Their job includes attending the YAA Assembly in November and reporting back to their class on what is discussed; serving on YAA committees relevant to the undergraduate experience and student-alumni relations; and working on any other student-alumni engagement projects. This year, the class of 2025 had six candidates running in the March 2 to March 4 elections, while 2024 had three. The results will be announced on Friday, March 10. 

According to E.J. Crawford, the communications director for YAA, the delegates provide their constituency with a voice in the alumni community. 

“[They] help shape and communicate the Yale experience for and to that constituency,” Crawford said. 

While most terms in YAA last three years, delegates only hold their seats for one year. The primary goal of delegates in that year is typically to attend the YAA Assembly, which brings together YAA members, volunteers and other alumni to get an understanding of the state of Yale today, honor outstanding volunteers and organizations and share best practices and new ideas for how to better the Yale community. Delegates then report back to their constituencies on what they discussed at the Assembly. 

For many in the class of 2024, however, this goal may look a bit different. Because of the unusual college experience that students in the class of 2024 have gotten thus far due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students believe that the YAA delegate should try to gain knowledge from alumni to ensure sophomores get the most out of the remainder of their time at Yale. 

Alyse Olcott ’24, one of the candidates for the class of 2024 delegate, explained in her candidate statement that improving the Yale experience for herself and her classmates is her priority. 

“I know that the Class of 2024 feels that it has missed out on a lot of the experiences promised to us as Yalies,” Olcott shared. “I believe this position will allow me to draw on the knowledge and experience of our Alumni to ensure that we are able to make the most of our time here.” 

In contrast to Olcott, other candidates are focused on connecting Yale students to the alumni community. The University considers anyone who completed one semester at Yale to be an alum, but many Yale students do not actively participate in the alumni community after graduation. A stronger connection to Yale alumni as a student may remedy that. 

The YAA hopes that first-year and sophomore delegates will go on to be leaders in the alumni community once they graduate, Crawford explained. 

“Our great hope at the YAA is to cultivate alumni leaders who will represent the great diversity of the Yale community and the Yale experience and find ways to give back to that community,” Crawford said. 

Fostering those connections between the Yale student body and the alumni community is Vanessa Li ’24’s reason for running for class of 2024 delegate. She hopes to encourage future participation in alumni events, associations and other groups once the sophomore class leaves the University. 

As a member of Students and Alumni of Yale and an intern for Accelerate Yale, an organization that works with Yale alumni who are engaged in innovation and entrepreneurship, Li told the News that she hopes to build on her experience working with the alumni community as a YAA delegate. 

Li pointed to certain initiatives such as the mentorship program on the Yale Cross Campus website, which allows students to choose any alumni with which they want to connect, as an example of some of the work she would hope to do as delegate. 

“I’m most interested in being involved in the innovation space. I want to find ways to connect student entrepreneurs with alumni in the same industry,” Li said.

The YAA delegate position is not only about informing Yale students on the benefits and activities of the alumni community — students serving as delegates also inform alumni about the current environment at Yale and what they can do to help better the Yale College experience. 

Ella Martinez ’25, who is a candidate for class of 2025 YAA delegate, told the News that she understands the importance of updating alumni on how the student body is fairing. She was involved in student-alumni relations in high school and wants to continue that work at Yale. 

“The alumni network is what makes Yale such an amazing place, and without YAA delegates, this resource is essentially being wasted during undergrad,” according to Martinez. 

In addition to connecting students with alumni in order to enrich the student experience, YAA also recognizes outstanding alumni. Delegates play a role in choosing who is awarded the Yale Medal, an award that acknowledges alumni who have contributed immensely to the Yale community. 

Class of 2025 candidate Alex Bavalsky ’25 told the News that he is particularly interested in being a part of this process. 

“If chosen as a delegate, I would be keen on rewarding alumni and others who contribute to Yale because they are certainly contributing to my class,” Bavalsky said. “We should not only honor and acknowledge their service, but encourage others to do the same.” 

Ultimately, only one candidate from each class will be chosen to represent their year on the YAA. While the voting period ended on March 4, 2022, there are many other ways for Yale students to get involved with the alumni community. Yale Cross Campus; Students and Alumni of Yale and Careers, Life and Yale all offer ways for students to connect with alumni. 

Janalie Cobb is an Audience Editor for the News and a former University staff reporter. She is a junior from Chicago in Davenport College double majoring in political science and psychology.