News from Alumni House

What would you like to do for Yale?

Michael Madison ’83 is the chair of the board of governors of the Association of Yale Alumni and a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Just over three years ago, the board of governors of the Association of Yale Alumni adopted a strategic plan. Titled "Ambassadors for Yale," the plan has been a smash hit in operational terms. The AYA and Yale's ever-growing corps of volunteer alumni leaders have launched an amazing array of new programs and initiatives to engage more Yale alumni in service to the university, their communities, and the world.

Many of these programs have been featured in this column and elsewhere in the Yale Alumni Magazine. They include the Alumni Service Corps, leading Yale alumni on service trips to the Dominican Republic and to Monterrey, Mexico; the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange, sharing the AYA's mission and strategies with alumni leaders at universities in Australia, Japan, and Turkey; and the global Yale Day of Service, which looks ahead to its third annual installment on May 14, 2011.

To complement the organization of Yale alumni into Yale College classes, regional clubs, and graduate and professional school associations, the AYA also supports a growing number of shared interest groups: alumni who organize themselves based on a student interest, professional interest, or demographic.

Meanwhile, more-traditional alumni affairs have also moved forward. The 2010 Yale College reunion season set an all-time record for total alumni returning to campus. The AYA's executive director, Mark Dollhopf '77, his staff, and the two past chairs of the AYA, Susanna Krentz '80 and Ellen McGinnis '82, deserve an enormous round of applause for the work they have done to get this strategic plan up and running.

As the incoming chair of the AYA's board of governors, I am awed by the passion that the plan has unleashed—and harnessed—among Yale's alumni and the AYA's professional staff. I was a member of the board when the strategic planning process began, and I remember thinking: how is the AYA ever going to pull off such an ambitious plan while keeping up with the services it has long provided to alumni? And yet it happened—because the Yale alumni population houses a vast pool of talented individuals around the world who had been waiting for Yale to invite them to do something for their university. Yalies want to serve.

I've been an active volunteer for Yale ever since, as a sophomore in Berkeley College, I volunteered to lead tours and serve on panels at the undergraduate admissions office. I know alumni affairs inside and out, and it's clear to me how the AYA and its strategic plan benefit not only Yale, as a leading world university, but all Yale alumni. It is safe to say that I would not still be a volunteer leader for Yale today had I not been inspired by the vision that took shape as the strategic plan and by the individuals who set that plan in motion.

But despite the best efforts of the AYA and its board of governors, the AYA staff, and our friends and supporters around the university—including the Yale Alumni Magazine—too many alumni have not heard the news about what has been happening at Alumni House and around the world. Too many alumni still confuse the AYA with our colleagues and fellow volunteers at the Yale Alumni Fund and the Yale Office of Development. To paraphrase a comment that we repeat often at the AYA board, the Alumni Fund is in the important business of fund-raising. The AYA is in the business of friend-raising. Done well, these functions complement each other, but they are distinct.

One of my biggest challenges as incoming chair of the AYA board is to get the word out more effectively about the AYA today. The goal of the strategic plan is to enable Yale alumni—the best of Yale—to become the best for Yale. To do that, we need to tell alumni that it can be done. We need to show alumni how it can be done. The twenty-first century has blessed us all with an unprecedented array of tools and technologies for doing both, but spreading the story of the AYA's success—Yale's successes, and the successes of Yale alumni—requires that we collect those stories to begin with. What's your story? How has your status as a Yale alum helped you to help others? What would you like to do for Yale? Send your stories to


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