Assembly LXIX: November 19-21, 2009

Transformational Dialogue:
Spiritual and Religious Engagement
at Yale and in the World

What are the intersections of formal religion and spirituality throughout Yale’s history and today?  What does the spiritual map of the modern Yale campus look like, and how does spirituality affect the lives of individuals and influence the life of the University as a whole? This Assembly will examine the complexities of those questions, and the implications for formal learning, individual action, political influence and intellectual life.  A series of panels and discussions by distinguished faculty, student leaders and pastors will be presented.





Thursday, November 19

8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Rose Alumni House, 232 York Street

Assembly participants will check in and receive their packet of materials for the Assembly program. The packet will include the final program for the weekend, as well as name badges and other materials.


Assembly Welcome
9:15 – 9:30 a.m.

AYA Board and Assembly Chair Ellen McGinnis ’82 will welcome delegates and guests to the Assembly and share her thoughts on the topic of spirituality at Yale.

Introduction to the Assembly
The Spirit and the Divines: Faith and Intellect in Contemporary Theological Education
9:30 – 10:15 a.m.

Yale Divinity School Dean Harold W. Attridge will explore the ways in which Yale Divinity School provides the opportunity for men and women who aspire to be religious leaders to appropriate the insights of their rich religious heritage for engaging the culture of the 21st century.  Transformative spirituality, a combination of heightened awareness of self and others and disciplined engagement with the issues that matter to humankind, will be essential to the future of both church and civil society.


Speaker Reference Material:

The essay by Prof. Schneiders is available on-line at:

The book by David Kelsey is:

Author:     Kelsey, David H.
Title:    Between Athens and Berlin : the theological education debate / David H. Kelsey.
Published:    Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, c1993.
Description:    viii, 235 p. ; 23 cm.

Nurturing a Religiously Plural Community at Yale
10:15 – 10:45 a.m.

Sharon Kugler, University Chaplain, will describe the changing religious and spiritual landscape at Yale highlighting the current work of the chaplaincy and give an overview of the ways this approach engages students in transformational spiritual dialogue.


Student panel:  Keeping the Faith at Yale
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Students representing diverse faith communities will speak about their religious practice at Yale as well as the ways they seek to integrate the spiritual and the intellectual.  University Chaplain Sharon Kugler will moderate this session.


Lunch in the Residential Colleges:  The Big Blue Read
New Delegate Orientation
12:15 – 1:30 p.m.

Most Assembly participants will have lunch in assigned residential colleges where they will have the opportunity to participate in discussion groups examining the readings from “The Death of Adam” as part of the inaugural Big Blue Read. Assembly registrants interested in these discussions should mark their registration forms to indicate their interest.  In addition, the New Delegate Luncheon will take place in the Presidents’ Room and will provide a short overview of the Assembly and the delegate role for new delegates. An opportunity to participate in the Big Blue Read will also be available at this lunch for those new delegates who are interested.  New delegates will have a ticket for this luncheon in their registration packet.


Topical Breakout Sessions
1:45 – 3:30 p.m.

Assembly participants will have the opportunity to learn more about some of the ways that spirituality is realized at Yale and beyond through a number of breakout sessions. Registrants will choose from among the following simultaneous sessions; please be sure to note your first and second choice selection on the registration form.


Catholic life at Yale in the 21st century

Visiting the Thomas E. Golden, Jr. Center at St. Thomas More Chapel brings one into the sphere of Catholic life at Yale which was established in 1922. Its 30,000 sq. ft. center, designed by Cesar Pelli, introduces you to the varied programmatic initiatives offered for Catholic undergraduate and graduate students during the academic year. Three Fellowships, numerous lectures, Chaplain’s Teas, Small Church Communities (SCC) and a Catholic Faculty Series: Life as a Scholar and a Believer, bring students into dialogue with faculty and visitors who discuss aspects of a rigorous Catholic intellectual life. Service projects, Alternate Spring Breaks, soup kitchen, inner-city tutoring and other social justice opportunities offer students a chance to put their faith into action. This session will involve highlights of the program and tours of the center.


The Spiritual Practice of Systemic Change

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson ’04 MDIV, a Baptist minister with a decade of experience in nuclear weapons issues, is the founding director of the Two Futures Project (, a Christian movement for the global elimination of nuclear weapons.  His session will examine the ways in which people of faith have historically been among the most significant leaders for social change and justice, from William Wilberforce to Dorothy Day to Martin Luther King, Jr. -- but as we seek to address pressing global problems, it is also easy to have a disconnect between one’s personal spirituality and the quest for large-scale, systemic change. The session will begin with a multimedia presentation about the new movement of younger evangelicals for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and then use that phenomenon as a case study to draw spiritual connections between individual lives, local/regional activism, and global impact. Significant time will be dedicated to discussion in which participants from all religious traditions will be encouraged to contribute their particular perspectives to a robust conversation.


Suspending Disbelief: A Way of Attending

Participants will explore what it means to attend Yale from the perspective of a Buddhist chaplaincy—a way of attending inviting an active suspension of disbelief. As the University has taken on global proportions, the breadth of diversity within the student body has grown to include devout students from throughout the Buddhist world. Founded by alumni in 2003, Indigo Blue now serves as full-time non-sectarian Buddhist chaplaincy and center for Buddhist life at Yale.
During its first seven years, traditional Buddhist precept and formal practice have provided scaffolding for extending Buddhist hospitality to a wide and various array of students and staff whose family origins fall outside worlds given shape by Abraham and Aristotle, creating spaces of spiritual refuge where devout students could honor, nurture and sustain their faith, and in turn extend welcome to their non-religious peers. During this workshop Bruce P. Blair’81, Buddhist Chaplain and co-founder of Indigo Blue, will join members of the Buddhist Student Advisory in introducing traditional forms of Buddhist practice—including sitting, walking, bowing, chanting, and serving tea—enjoyed on campus during daily opportunities for worship, fellowship, and learning. Within the context of the workshop, participants will be invited to consider the effect an active suspension of disbelief has when attending to the religious and spiritual lives of others.


Sacred Music, Worship, and the Arts in Context: A Window to the Human Soul.

Oscar Wilde once said, “One can forgive a man for making something useful, just so long as he does not admire it.” For decades, the modernist has viewed the arts true value in its “uselessness”; this is summed up in the all too common phrase “art for art’s sake.” The Institute of Sacred Music, while recognizing aesthetic disinterested contemplation as one of many avenues to the arts, upholds the value of the arts in context; particularly spiritual ones. This session will explore the many ways that the ISM engages with the Sacred through music, worship and the arts in religious communities and public life. Director Martin Jean will share video clips and recordings of past performances and liturgies sponsored by the ISM, offer some theoretical concepts that uphold the value of viewing the arts in this way, and in closing he will demonstrate one of the newest additions to the ISM’s growing collection of music instruments: the beautiful Taylor and Boody baroque style organ in Marquand Chapel.


Reconceiving Jewish Spirituality

Yale's Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Jim Ponet '68, will take you on a tour of Slifka Center with students and colleagues that will expose you to the many facets of Jewish spiritual life as they currently play out at Yale.  In particular you will explore the interplay of Judaism and the arts as expressed in a show of wood and stone sculpture on exhibit throughout the Center, a newly encased collection of silver ritual items, and a series of food-based paintings that are now showing in the dining room.  You will also hear about Slifka Center's commitment to the creation of new spiritual-culinary traditions as a way of reconsidering / reconceiving the interdependence of the material and spiritual dimensions of human / Jewish existence.


Religion and Race in a Society that is Far From Post-Racial

The presidential run of Barack Obama had the potential to develop a public conversation and debate on the ways in which religion and race are a part of the fabric of our communities and in governmental policies.  However, this conversation has not developed in a robust enough way to help us name and understand the intricate interplay between religion and race.  Emilie M. Townes, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology, and Clarence E. Hardy III, Assistant Professor of the History of American Christianity, will lead a discussion of some of the vital questions that can help develop a meaningful conversation:  How does our sense of racial identity shape our perceptions of the political landscape and religious practice? Why are certain religious perspectives seen as raced when others are not?  How does religion shape our sense of (dis)connection to others and the larger society?


Muslim Life at Yale: Engaging the Sacred & the Secular
Yale’s Coordinator of Muslim Life, Omer Bajwa, will discuss the opportunities and challenges of Muslim Life at Yale in a post-9/11 world. Yale is home to a small but thriving and actively engaged Muslim community.  This session will highlight various Muslim Life activities, from the extraordinarily popular Ramadan Banquet to the unique Critical Islamic Reflections Conference.  It will also explore questions such as:  How do Muslim students fit into the intellectual and religious tapestry of Yale?  What nurtures their spiritual life here?  How, and why, should they be representatives of Islam in an era of apparent conflict between the United States and the Muslim world?  What can Muslim Yalies contribute to Yale and beyond?


The Emerging Alliance of Religion and Ecology

The growing ecological crisis clearly requires the response of science and technology, economics and policy. These are necessary but not sufficient for solving the complex problems we are facing in envisioning a sustainable future for the Earth community. We will also need the participation of the world's
religious communities as we recognize the moral and spiritual implications of the diminishment of the life support systems of the planet. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grimm, Co-Directors of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at  Yale, will highlight some of the remarkable work being done within religious communities around the world to bring healing and restoration to people and land. While acknowledging the limitations of religions, it will also note the promise for ethical and spiritual transformation regarding ecological attitudes and practices.


Christian@Yale: Change and Heritage at the University Church in Battell Chapel

Student leaders, musicians and pastors from the University Church in Yale will share one picture of contemporary Christian life on campus, with examples of global Christian music, ecumenical worship styles, community service in New Haven, and community life in a multi-national, multi-racial, multi-denominational church.  The session will invite alumni to share memories of Battell Chapel and weave these together to show how the great heritage of the church and Yale’s Chaplains lives today on a campus where Protestant Christians are one religious voice among many others and worship speaks many languages and moves to many rhythms.  Current student deacons, Pastor Ian Oliver and Associate University Chaplain Callista Isabelle '05 M.DIV will share perspectives on their Christian experiences at Yale. 


The Impact of Faith in a Globalized World
4:00 – 5:00 pm

These are times of tumultuous change. The twentieth century order is history, and the forces of globalization are pushing all of the economies of the world—and all of the citizens of the world,
with their great diversity of religious faiths—more closely together. Yale Center for Faith and Culture Director Miroslav Volf discusses the issues addressed by the Center and the Faith and Globalization Seminar such as how faith can be lived responsibly in our globalized world and how it can contribute to the humanization of the globalization processes.


Yale Medal Dinner
Reception begins at 6:00 pm
University Commons

For more than 50 years, the Yale Medal has been conferred to honor outstanding individual service to the University. This year’s recipients reflect the range of service and leadership the AYA strives to recognize with this award. We honor the remarkable contributions of the Medalists and recognize that they honor Yale and all of us in the alumni community by the ways in which they have chosen to give back to our community of scholars and friends. We hope all Assembly participants will join us for a gala celebration honoring this year’s Medalists – Stephen Adams ’59, Frances Beinecke ’71, ’74 MFS, Charles D. Ellis ’59, Justice Carlos R. Moreno ’70, and Eve Hart Rice ’73. For more information about the Yale Medal and this year’s recipients, please go to



Friday, November 20

Board Interest Breakfast
8:15 a.m.

The AYA will host a special breakfast for those interested in learning more about service on the Board of Governors.  Service on the Board offers a wonderful opportunity to continue a delegate's volunteer engagement.  Because the AYA Board of Governors Nominating Committee gives particular consideration to delegates with some experience, the session will be especially helpful to delegates in the second or third year of their delegate term.


The AYA Strategic Plan
Ambassadors for Yale

In the summer of 2006, the AYA Board of Governors launched a strategic planning effort designed to guide the Association over the next five years to create more ambitious programs that would serve alumni more successfully and support them more effectively in service to Yale. Just over a year ago, the Board of Governors approved and endorsed the strategic plan. Sessions offered throughout the day on Friday are specially designed update you on the plan and its implementation strategy, and to afford you the opportunity to brainstorm about major initiatives.


Update:  The AYA Strategic Plan with Mark Dollhopf ’77, Executive Director of the AYA
9:30 – 11:00 a.m.

At its heart, the AYA is about serving and engaging alumni, and advancing the needs of Yale. As Yale becomes truly global in its reach, influence, and impact, the opportunities to engage with alumni and promote the interests of the university around the world are unprecedented.

The AYA’s most important asset, and the focus of the strategic plan, is you, the volunteer. You are the leaders that Yale trained; you are change agents in a changing world. The AYA is evolving to better support you in your lifelong pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment to effect that change. At the same time, if you believe that Yale can make a difference in this world, the AYA is providing you with the opportunities to advance and promote the work of this great institution.

Its starts with a vision, a vision of enabling the best of Yale to be the best for Yale. This session is an opportunity to learn how the strategic plan is being implemented and to see the ways in which it is changing how alumni engage with the University and the world beyond.  You will have the opportunity to share in the discussion about these ideas and AYA’s strategic direction.


Alumni Leadership Awards
11:00 – 11:15 am

Last year, the Association of Yale Alumni introduced a new award in the spirit of the new AYA Strategic Plan.  The AYA staff recognized the extraordinary accomplishments of alumni volunteers as Ambassadors for Yale, nominating outstanding volunteers who have demonstrated passion for their willingness to give back, a penchant for innovation and out-of-box thinking, and selfless service to Yale.  Join us as we announce the award winners for 2008 – 2009.


Day of Service 2010 Photo
11:15 – 11:30 am

Don your new Yale Day of Service 2010 tee shirts (which will be provided at the morning plenary) and come together for a group shot to be used for promoting this year’s Yale Day of Service to be held on May 15, 2010.


Lunch in Commons
University Update
President Richard C. Levin '74 Ph.D
11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.

At lunch, Assembly attendees will be joined by those volunteers on campus for the Alumni Fund Convocation to hear the annual University Update from President Levin.  Assembly and Convocation participants will have the opportunity to submit questions for President Levin '74 Ph.D during the Friday morning plenary sessions.


Leadership Development Workshops
1:45-5:00 pm.

How can the initiatives of the Strategic Plan invigorate your constituency’s work for Yale?  Attendees will break out by interest, constituency and/or activity for hands-on leadership training in bringing the goals of the strategic plan to life within your own Yale communities.


Yale College Class Leadership

How can you, as a Class officer or Class delegate, further relationships among your classmates?    In this session, Yale College Class staff liaisons will facilitate concurrent discussions where you can share your experiences and challenges, and learn best practices for officers and delegates. Discussion topics will include class governance, single class and multi-class events, class communications, and reunion planning.  Because rich and wide-ranging conversations are bound to take place in these concurrent sessions, we hope both class officers and delegates will attend.

Yale Clubs and Associations

Yale Club Presidents and volunteers are invited to gather for a combination of plenary and break-out sessions this afternoon.  First, learn about plans for the second Yale Day of Service on May15, 2010 and how individual Yale Clubs will be able to participate in this activity which may help to invigorate your membership and to draw in new participants. For the second half of this session, we will break into smaller groups which will focus on Club Web Templates, Reinvigorating your Club, Working with and attracting younger alumni, benchmarking your Club against other Yale Clubs in reviewing the results of the Year End Survey.  We look forward to a stimulating discussion and participation from a wide range of Yale Clubs.


Shared Interest Groups

As the AYA continues to expand its outreach to Shared Interest Groups (SIGs), our goal is to help alumni of such groups develop sustainable organizations, share best practices and better understand their campus and alumni partners. This session will begin with a brief overview of SIG procedures and policies , continue with a spotlight on innovative programming and focus on working with the University and other SIGs to maximize volunteer engagement.   We encourage all Shared Interest Group volunteers and At-Large Delegates to attend this session.


Graduate School Alumni Association (annual fall meeting)

AYA delegates who are members of the GSAA Executive Committee will meet to conduct their annual fall meeting. AYA delegates who are not GSAA members are welcome to attend.


Major Cities (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Haven, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, DC)

Did you know that almost half of all Yale alumni live in these seven metropolitan areas? With large and diverse alumni populations to serve, the Yale clubs/associations in these areas are striving to engage alumni in new ways. As such, the volunteer leaders have embarked on efforts to renew their sense of mission and vision for the future. In this work session, these club leaders will report on progress since last year’s Assembly gathering and lead discussions about what’s working well, what are the challenges, and what are the big ideas they wish they could take on.

Yale Day of Service

Last year, nearly 3,500 Yale alumni and friends participated in the inaugural Yale Day of Service. Volunteer Regional Directors for the program and other interested alumni will discuss strategies for the second year of the program, including expanding the number of sites around the world, recruiting even more alumni to participate, and ways to build upon the engagement of Day of Service participants. Anyone interested in starting a Yale Day of Service program in their area or helping with existing programs is welcome to attend.

Yale Alumni Service Corps

In keeping with Yale University's commitment to community action as well as the personal dedication to service among our alumni, the AYA has recognized the need for alumni service opportunities that continue beyond our years at Yale. Joining with University partners such as Dwight Hall as well as local partners around the globe, we provide a vehicle for alumni to join together and apply their diverse talents in order to serve communities in need. The Service Tours also offer opportunities to learn in depth about the populations we serve and connect with people in the local community. Service Tour projects vary, building on the skills and creativity of our alumni constituency. Through the Yale Alumni Service Corps, Yale alumni, family, and student volunteers play a critical role in working with the AYA to develop global service projects and opportunities. YASC leaders will discuss current initiatives including the upcoming Service Tour in March 2010.



YaleGALE is an AYA initiative that seeks the advancement of education by fostering rich cultural understanding, sharing best practices in alumni relations and providing reciprocal educational opportunities among world leading universities through alumni engagement and leadership. The Committee will meet to discuss the Committee structure, long range plans, communications and current initiatives including the program in Turkey for 2010.

Immediately following the Committee Meeting, we will have a YaleGALE reunion dinner from 5:30 - 7:30 where we will host a delegation of Doshisha University alumni singers.

Family Camp

One of the most popular activities of class reunions is the AYA sponsored "Camp Bulldog" -- activities and programming designed for the children of reuning parents. The AYA recognizes that parents are looking for more family oriented programming designed to bring alumni families together in fellowship and lifelong learning experiences.  An important new goal of the AYA strategic plan is to create an AYA Family Camp, a three day pilot program in the hills of New Hampshire that will be launched this coming June, 2010. We're looking for a pioneering families to join in this discussion help us shape this exciting new program.


Bulldogs Across America (Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Louisville, Minneapolis, New Orleans, St. Louis, San Francisco, Santa Fe)

With an eleven-year history, the Bulldogs Across America network has expanded to nine cities hosting over 140 Yale students in internships this summer. Bulldogs Across America is sponsored by scores of dedicated alumni volunteers who recruit local employers, mentor the students throughout the summer and involve them in the civic fabric of the community. Join alumni volunteer leaders from each of these cities as they share best practices of each program’s student, alumni and community engagement components.


Divinity School Reception
Reception begins at 5:30 pm

Faculty, students and staff will welcome Assembly and Volunteer conference attendees and friends to a reception at the Divinity School. Transportation will be provided.


Blue Leadership Ball

See the information at the beginning of this program regarding attending the Department of Athletics Blue Leadership Ball. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to or call 203-432-1434. 


Saturday, November 21

While the Assembly is officially over, we are pleased to provide you information on the following activities for Saturday:

Yale Center for British Art
10 am – 5 pm

A guided tour of the Center's architecture begins at 11 am, and at 1 pm there will be a student-led introductory tour of the Center with diverse themes.  Both tours meet at the information desk.  Special exhibits include Mrs. Delany and Her Circle and Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill.


Yale University Art Gallery
Hours: 10 am – 5 pm

Guided Masterpiece Tours are available at 1:30 pm; gather at the front desk.  Special exhibits include The Pull of Experiment: Postwar American Printmaking and Continuous Present.


Yale-Harvard Football Game

Please note that alumni can take advantage of the free transportation to the Yale Bowl provided by Athletics.


AYA Alumni Village
10:00 a.m. – 12 noon

We invite you to join the AYA and your classmates and friends for our exciting pre-Game event at the Yale Bowl.  Once again the AYA will be hosting the very popular hospitality tent, AYA Alumni Village, located within the Hospitality Village adjacent to the Yale Bowl. This free event for all alumni provides a place to gather and meet up with classmates before going to the game.  Free refreshments and raffles for those who come early!


The Game
Kick-off 12 noon

Assembly participants are invited to attend the Yale-Harvard game at the Bowl. Mark your registration form if you wish to receive complimentary tickets (up to two) for admission to the game. On the form, you may also indicate if you wish to purchase additional tickets at the price of $12 each.