News from Alumni House

How I will spend my summer vacation

Kathy Edersheim '87 is the chairperson of the YaleGALE Committee of AYA and vice president of the Yale Alumni Chorus. She is a former member of the AYA Board of Governors and the first woman to serve as president of the Yale Club of New York City.

It is interview season again. This year, two applicants have asked me about my Yale experience—what was special, what was meaningful? I find myself responding not only with an anecdote about Yale in the '80s—not really that meaningful for the experience they will have—but also with an explanation of how Yale continues to change my life as an alumna. It is so amazing.

As I have been involved with the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange (YaleGALE) and other Association of Yale Alumni programs in recent years, it has become clear to me that the Yale experience—the Yale relationship—is a lifelong association that has the power to have an impact on many institutions and many communities around the world.

Over the last three years, there have been over 200 Yale alumni, family, and friends who have visited universities in Australia, Japan, and Turkey in an exchange to share best practices in alumni relations. While each experience has been unique and wonderful, it is also clear that, because of our relationship with the university, we as Yale alumni have gifts to share beyond our financial contributions.

That relationship between university and alumni differs around the world. In most countries, universities have historically been government-funded. In countries such as Australia, access to higher education is expected because it is supported by one's taxes. Alumni see higher education as an entitlement. As one high-ranking university official told me at the first YaleGALE program, his alumni view their universities as we here in the United States would view our utility companies—with almost no feeling of appreciation and very little sense of stewardship after graduation.

Yale thrives because of the contributions of its alumni. It is instilled in us early and often that we should not just appreciate the advantages these contributions have given us, but that we should also ensure that they are available to future generations. Over time, this has proven to be a strong system—much stronger than if we depended merely on government support and tuition. For me, it has been a personally rewarding experience to share this tradition of stewardship with other universities so that they can strengthen their own institutions.

And it is not just about giving money. It is about the obligation, the excitement, the fun, of giving time and talent as well, to nurture and sustain the next generation of world leaders. Alumni "give back" in many ways.

When we share this passion with other universities on YaleGALE missions, we find that their alumni respond to the need to serve the university, and there is even a new drive to "give back" to the broader community. If alumni can have impact as individuals because they are well educated, what better way to leverage their education than to gather with fellow alumni, to have a greater influence on the larger community?

Passion, mission, and service: that is the trend. Each university is starting from a different place but the direction, ultimately, is toward a greater level of engagement with and for alumni. Each university in turn has to help its alumni, collectively and individually, to feel that the mission of the university is their mission as well.

This year there are many opportunities for alumni to reach out to other universities and institutions around the world under the Yale banner and share their own sense of passion, mission, and service. Among forthcoming options are: the Yale Alumni Service Corps program in the Dominican Republic (March, 100 participants); Yale Alumni Chorus trip to Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia (June, more than 200 participants); the Yale Alumni Service Corps–Yale-China Association program in China (July, more than 200 participants); and the YaleGALE program in China (July, around 70 participants).

An astounding number of Yale alumni, family, and friends can participate in these events to demonstrate the power and efficacy of alumni stewardship. Those other universities and their alumni will catch up someday.

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