News from Alumni House

Sharing the Yale alumni experience Down Under

Kathy Edersheim ’87 was the executive producer for the Global Alumni Leadership Exchange program in Australia. She has just completed two years as the president of the Yale Club of New York City and one year as the treasurer for the AYA Board of Governors. Kathy lives in New York with her husband and two boys.

On August 4, Yale and the Australian National University began the first Global Alumni Leadership Exchange, an event that elevated the concept of cultural exchange and alumni engagement to a new level.

I was a member of the delegation of 60 "ambassadors for Yale" -- alumni leaders and their families who arrived in Canberra to be greeted by ANU alumni ready to serve as hosts to promote cross-cultural understanding, strengthen alumni ties to the two universities, and affirm the shared goals of the International Alliance of Research Universities (of which both universities are members). My involvement began when the concept of the program was introduced to the AYA Board of Governors last year. I was intrigued by the idea of a new type of travel that would bring alumni together in the service of Yale, create the framework for a shared experience with other Yalies, and provide the opportunity to be ambassadors to Australia. As executive producer of the trip, I was involved with planning, organizing, and collaborating with the staff and alumni at ANU. It was an extremely interesting, challenging, and rewarding experience to work with wonderful people at the AYA and at ANU, and to share an exceptional travel experience with so many talented leaders.

This inaugural program focused on alumni relations as practiced at Yale, and on environmental issues as researched at ANU. Yale alumni gave presentations on the AYA, the Bulldogs internships, AYA Community Service Fellowships, Alumni Schools Committees, Yale Clubs, and philanthropy to help ANU alumni understand how and why Americans develop and sustain our alumni culture of stewardship -- the giving of time, talent, and treasure to the university.

ANU shared with us their unique spirit of discovery, insights into their government and culture, and their commitment to environmental stewardship -- from lectures given by their premier faculty to discussions on the environment at their beautiful campus in Kioloa. We celebrated at special events, which included a dinner at the Australian War Memorial with an address by High Court Judge Michael Kirby and a reception at the U.S. embassy hosted by Ambassador Robert McCallum ’68, ’72JD, and his wife, Mimi. The grand finale, an elegant reception at the Sydney Opera House for over 300 Yale and ANU alumni, provided an opportunity to meet and discuss future shared opportunities.

The generosity of the ANU host families who took our Yale travelers into their homes for the four nights in Canberra made this exchange truly special. By sharing so many experiences and having the opportunity to learn about each other and exchange ideas, we established new friendships that will last a lifetime. And, through the sharing of our great Yale traditions we learned as much about ourselves and the school spirit that inspires us as we learned about Australia.

Our retreat at Kioloa, a small conference camp on the southeast coast of Australia, was the highlight of the trip. We were welcomed -- in a ritual cleansing ceremony -- by Aboriginals, descendants of the indigenous people who have inhabited the local land for millennia. We took sunrise walks on the beach, gazed at the Southern Cross in the stunningly starlit southern night sky, hiked the eucalyptus rainforest, and even watched the opening of the Beijing Olympics, cheering on both the Aussies and Americans with our hosts.

Sharing a blazing campfire late that night with friends old and new, we were certain that this new style of alumni engagement was an exciting turn for the AYA, and an unparalleled opportunity for alumni to be cultural ambassadors for Yale.

The success of this effort has already had far-reaching implications: other foreign universities have extended similar invitations so that we might share with their alumni the volunteer energy that propels so many alumni activities at Yale. Our next adventure will be to Japan to share our volunteer experiences with the alumni of the University of Tokyo and to participate in an alumni relations conference with representatives from as many as 100 Japanese universities. Service to Yale was never so rewarding!

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