The Yale Alumni Association and Yale Alumni Fund held its annual Assembly and Convocation last week, a virtual gathering of alumni leaders to learn from their peers, discuss volunteer resources and tools, and get an inside look at Yale today.
The theme for this year’s Assembly and Convocation was “Collaborating for Impact: Yale’s Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Global Challenges,” and that in-depth exploration of the university’s approach to learning and problem-solving was highlighted throughout the three-day online event, held November 4-6.
“I don’t need to tell you that this topic is timely,” President Peter Salovey ’86 PhD said of this year’s theme in his welcome remarks. “We’ve all been following national and global events in the news. We see reminders daily that the U.S. is calling for leaders who can heal division and help us find our way back to a share sense of unity, strength, and optimism. This is a matter of nearly existential urgency. And we know the world needs that cohesion, too. … At Yale, we’re breaking down barriers to bring together faculty from different schools and departments to work on global challenges and to prepare leaders who will be informed by facts and analysis.”
In addition to Salovey’s opening address, the 2021 Assembly and Convocation featured plenary and breakout sessions that included faculty, staff, alumni volunteers, and current students. Among its many highlights were a series of leadership development meetings and faculty breakouts that focused on topics ranging from mentoring and community-building to diversity in computer science and included sessions on the For Humanity capital campaign, the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs, Yale College certificate programs, best practices for nonprofit governance, and virtual programming for alumni groups.
Those gathered heard from a host of Yale leaders in various formats, including a dean’s panel featuring Indy Burke (School of the Environment), Kerwin Charles (School of Management), Tamar Gendler ’87 (Faculty of Arts and Sciences), Greg Sterling (Divinity School), and Sten Vermund (School of Public Health); and a closing conversation with Yale Board of Trustees members Chip Goodyear ’80, Carlos Moreno ’70, and Annette Thomas ’93 PhD.
“A great strength of Assembly and Convocation is the ability to gather so many alumni leaders so we can converse, share anecdotes, and work together to achieve a shared mission based on the ideals of a Yale education,” said Yale Alumni Fund Chair Marla Grossman ’90. “One of the joys of being an alumni leader is learning firsthand all that Yale is working on. Hearing directly from university leaders gives us, as ambassadors to the school, the tools to better understand and articulate to fellow alumni and Yale friends what the university is doing to effect positive change for alumni individually and collectively, for humanity.”
Taking place concurrently with the COP26 Environmental Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, this year’s Assembly and Convocation also shined a light on environmental issues. In addition to a breakout session on environmental justice, the attendees watched the Climate Day conversation with Salovey and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry ’66 before separating into smaller breakout rooms to discuss takeaways from their conversation.
“This is a matter of certain existential urgency, to take on these and all the other great challenges and opportunities,” Salovey said of tackling climate change. “To do so, Yale must draw strength from every part of its campus. No one field can answer all our questions or deliver the solutions we desperately need. … Of course, the whole of Yale is addressing climate change. We are all in, because that’s what the world needs.”
Assembly and Convocation has traditionally been an in-person gathering held over three days, prior to the last home football game of the season, featuring plenary and breakout sessions, luncheons, and awards ceremonies for the Yale Medal, the YAA Leadership Awards, YAA Board of Governors Excellence Awards, Yale Alumni Fund Chair’s Awards, and Alumni Schools Committee awards. Due to COVID-19 protocols, it was converted to a virtual event for 2020 and 2021.
“While we all miss being able to be together on campus, it’s wonderful that we can do this virtually,” said YAA Chair Jerry Henry ’80 MDiv. “During these unusual times, events like Assembly and Convocation allow us all to stay in touch with each other and with Yale in our collective effort to improve the alumni experience for Yalies far and wide. It was truly an important, educational, and fun three days, and I think there was much in the program to benefit everyone who took part.”