The discussion held the same passion, proliferation of ideas, and desire to make a difference. The format, however, was entirely new.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-at-home orders around the world, the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors held virtual meetings April 23-25, transitioning online for the first time in its history. As it has for so many, Zoom provided the forum for the YAA board’s spring gathering, which featured a Thursday university update and networking session, Friday committee meetings, and a Saturday plenary session.

“While being together online isn’t the same as being together in person, it was wonderful to assemble and hear about all that Yale is doing in response to the current pandemic,” said Nancy Stratford ’77, chair of the YAA Board of Governors. “It was also an important opportunity to reflect on the work we’ve done over the last few months and plan for what we hope to accomplish in the months to come.”

Those discussions included in-depth conversations about volunteer leadership; programming and events for graduate and professional school alumni; the YAA’s shared interest groups; and mentoring and networking, both alumni to alumni and alumni to students. Mentoring received a deeper dive with a full discussion of the burgeoning Cross Campus program during Saturday’s plenary, which also included a discussion of Yale College reunions and alumni outreach to recent and soon-to-be graduates.

Thursday’s all-board session, meantime, featured updates from Stratford, YAA Executive Director Weili Cheng ’77, Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83, ’86 JD, and Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Joan O’Neill. It was followed by a virtual connection session between members of the board and current Yale students.

“I was delighted to see how productive the conversations were and impressed by all that we were able to accomplish,” said Cheng. “Our goal during these meetings is to find the best forums for alumni to engage with each other and with the university, be it in person or online. I look forward to when we can all gather together again in the same room, but until that time, we’ll continue to serve the YAA’s mission and to provide opportunities – in this case, virtual opportunities – for all alumni.”

The YAA plans to hold another virtual session in June to close out the current Board of Governors term and say goodbye to the members who will be cycling off the board. The 2020-21 board will be announced shortly thereafter, with the new members and executive officers slated to take office July 1.