The YAA mission states that “our character, strength, and values come from our diversity and our commitment to a culture of inclusion and equity” and that we aspire to “enhance and renew the lifelong Yale experience for all alumni, whoever they are and wherever they may be.” That commitment is affirmed in our core values, which feature inclusion and include openness, impact, relevance, and collaboration, all terms relevant to the current discussion of justice, equity, and solidarity with our Black alumni.
As a follow-up to my message from earlier this summer, Standing for What Is Right, I want to provide you with an update of the efforts of the Yale Alumni Association (YAA) and the university in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the last year.
Executive Director’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group
The YAA’s work on DEI began in 2015 with the formation of the Alumni Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the delivery of its report in 2017. It continued with the 2018-19 Executive Director’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group (“Working Group”), and the 2019 conference “IMPACT: Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Through Social Change.” So many of you participated in these activities and are continuing in this work. Thank you!
The current Working Group started in September 2019, focusing on three distinct projects. with their work ending later this month, with plans to continue these important efforts into the coming year. The 2019-20 working groups focused on three distinct projects. Their work is summarized below, and I am grateful for and thank the project leaders.
- Programming. Under the leadership of Lauren Graham ’13 MEM and Amy Savage ’10 PhD, sessions titled “Real Talk” were launched. These interactive and dynamic sessions are described in the Addendum below.
- Communications. Camille Jackson ’94 and Rahul Prasad ’87 PhD worked closely with the YAA communications staff to identify stories about and for alumni that exemplify DEI principles. They also reviewed the new DEI Toolkit for volunteer alumni leaders and are organizing a workshop for these leaders on planning inclusive events and communications for this audience.
- Leadership Pipeline. Masa Gong ’96 and Tom Opladen ’67 led a team that identified potential alumni leaders from diverse backgrounds and considered how best to connect alumni and students interested in DEI, focusing on the YAA’s new networking/mentoring platform Cross Campus. More than one thousand alumni and students have registered their interest in matters relating to diversity! Please join them on Cross Campus and start a conversation and share experiences, articles, books, and more.
Other YAA DEI-Related Activities
We have taken a number of steps internally over the last few years to advance DEI with YAA staff, including skills-building workshops on working across differences, handling uncomfortable conversations, bystander intervention, and a staff training session with the Office of LGBTQ Resources. Also, the board of governors’ opening session in September 2019 featured a session on developing skills to negotiate differences.
The Addendum (see below, beneath my signature) lists activities and programs organized and/or supported by the YAA during the last year that advanced DEI.
Also, in response to requests for more information, we curated a collection of resources on combating racism and advancing equality.
University DEI Efforts
You will recall the university’s communications in the spring of 2019, including President Salovey’s message to the Yale community regarding DEI, Dr. Reese’s report, and the Belonging At Yale initiative. The work has continued.
- President Salovey appointed University Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews to lead the university’s Belonging at Yale efforts to foster diversity and inclusion by coordinating and aligning efforts across campus. As part of this initiative, the Belonging at Yale website serves as a resource for students, faculty, and staff, and a source of information for alumni and the public
- The Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative was established in 2015 (to run July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2021) with $50 million to build on the excellence and diversity of faculty. The university has renewed the program, increasing the funding for the second five years (July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2026) with an additional $85 million.
- The President’s Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging is in the final stages of preparing its recommendations that touch students, faculty, staff, and notably, alumni. As chair of the alumni subcommittee, I was able to draw on the 2017 report of the Alumni Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the work of the 2018-19 Executive Director’s DEI Working Group, and various surveys of alumni over the last few years, to recommend strategies and actions specific to alumni.
- The university last year began a comprehensive review of the Yale Police Department (YPD), retaining 21CP, a consultancy that grew out of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The full 21CP report was recently issued, and President Salovey also issued a full statement on the report, which includes a personal note from Chief Ronnell Higgins. Many of the report’s recommendations have been adopted or are in the process of being implemented. This work includes, for example, a transition to using trained mental health, student life, and counseling professionals rather than the police in response to calls unrelated to crime.
- Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the 12 professional schools each have a dean’s designee who works with the dean to support students. These designees have responsibility to receive student concerns and offer advice and guidance related to diversity and inclusion, discrimination and harassment, and equal opportunity.
- Yale public safety staff provide orientation presentations for incoming first-year and new graduate and professional students. This year the presentations will explain the role of police in a university environment and the commitment to reimagine how Yale Public Safety protects and serves the campus. As part of that effort, Yale will use trained mental health, student life, and counseling professionals rather than the police in response to calls unrelated to crime.
- Training for faculty and staff in student life, academic departments, and residential colleges ensures that those working with students understand university policy and procedures, including on DEI.
- Workplace DEI learning opportunities are offered at both the department and university level for staff. And it continues to be offered to managers, at two levels: newly hired/promoted and seasoned managers.
- Yale’s graduate and professional schools as well as Yale College provide training for all incoming students on what it means to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive campus climate.
- Yale’s four cultural centers (Af-Am, La Casa, Native American, Asian American), the Yale University Chaplain’s Office, and the Office of LGBTQ Resources provide programming and support for students across the university.
- An emphasis on web accessibility, and a continued commitment to make university websites and web applications accessible, is one of many activities to support people with disabilities.
This year, we will continue to offer learning opportunities in support of advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism and will update you in due course. In the meantime, many have asked what they can do. One way to start is to consider the aspects or values of DEI about which you feel most passionate, that you feel you are best equipped to contribute to, or that you think are the most pressing needs in your community or broader society. We recommend you build upon reflection, study, and education to pursue these activities in support of your community. Additionally, you can:
- Volunteer to mentor and network with current students and alumni on the YAA’s new platform for networking and mentoring, Cross Campus. Please join!
- Organize and participate in events (online for now) for Yale students and alumni, making an effort to meet and get to know those from diverse backgrounds. These can range from summer farewells for students coming to campus in the fall, online YAA regional club or national/international events, shared interest group or career-focused events, and more.
Let us know if you have questions. Thank you again for your interest and your support.
Weili Cheng ’77 PC
P.S.: For a closer examination of our current moment, I encourage you to listen to President Salovey’s latest Yale Talk podcast with Professors Elijah Anderson and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, which looks at the parallel crises of racism and COVID-19.
Assembly and Convocation 2019 programs:
- Advancing Women’s Leadership through alumnae circles (November 21, 2019); Becca Constantine, ’19 MBA
- Belonging at Yale: Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Campus (November 21, 2019); Dean Burgwell Howard and Sharon Kugler
- Leadership in Conversation: Women Athletes (November 21, 2019); Lisa Brummel ’81 and Virginia Gilder ’79; moderated by Vicky Chun
- Learning to advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in your Alumni Group (November 22, 2019); led by Masa Gong ’96 and Elijah Heyward III MAR ’07
- Student Leaders on Promoting Intellectual Diversity at Yale (November 21, 2019); Lauren Noble ’11 and students from the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale
YAA programs (in person):
- 50th Anniversary Celebration of Women at Yale (September 2019); held on campus in New Haven
- Contemporary Crossroads III (December 2019); held in Miami in conjunction with Art Basel Miami Beach
- DiversAbility: Addressing Disability, Equity & Inclusion at Yale and Beyond (October 2019); held on campus in New Haven
YAA programs (webinars):
- A Disturbance in the Force: Artistic Responses to the Pandemic in China (May 2020); presented by the Yale International Alliance and the Yale Alumni Art League; explored how artists and visual culture about and in China have shifted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic; moderated by Nixi Cura '88
- Sustainable Change for Indigenous Women and Their Communities in Peru: Minga Peru and the Yale Alumni Service Corps (April 2020); co-sponsored by Yale Alumni Service Corps, YAA shared interest groups (SIGs), Yale Day of Service, Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance, and YaleWomen; explored Yale Alumni Service Corps partner Minga Peru and the difference it has made with the Kukama people who live in the Loreto region of Peru; moderated by Kathy Edersheim ’87
- 2020 Yale Day of Service: Digital Service in a Virtual Era Webinar (May 9, 2020); Andrew Burgie ’87, Liam Elkind ’21, Alison Gardy ’88; moderated by Xiaoyan Huang ’91
- Increasing Education Access in Underserved Youth Communities: A Conversation with Yale-Jefferson Award Recipients Webinar (June 24, 2020); Ariel Horowitz ’19 MusM; Zlatko Minev ’18 PhD; Ian Tuski ’15 MusM; moderated by Aaron Shipp ’96
- Climate Emergency: Practical Actions, Equitable Solutions (May 2020); co-sponsored by ’77 YaleWomen, Yale Blue Green, Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance, Yale Black Alumni Association, and 50WomenAtYale150; produced by Phoebe Shackeroff Reese '98; moderated by Lauren Graham ’13 MEM and introduced by Akosua Barthwell Evans '90 JD; explored what lessons and reverberations from COVID-19 will affect our response to climate
- Creating Story Through Sound with Composer Jongnic "JB" Bontemps (May 2020); co-sponsored by the Yale Black Alumni Association, Yale in Hollywood, and DRAMA: Community for YSD Alumni, in partnership with the YAA SIGs; a conversation with JB to discuss his career creating story through sound for stories that matter; moderated by Regina Bain ’98, ’01 MFA
- Diversity in Tech: A Conversation with Gary Stewart, CEO & Co-Founder of The Nest (July 2020); moderated by Regina Bain ’98, ’01 MFA, with the live audience Q&A managed by Wendy Maldonado D’Amico ’93, and co-sponsored by the YAA SIGs, Accelerate Yale, and the Yale Black Alumni Association; explored the issues facing black entrepreneurs and how we can move forward to create lasting change in the tech space
- Emotional & Cultural Strength for the Journey Ahead: A Healing Session (June 2020); sponsored by the Yale Black Alumni Association, featuring Dr. Cheryl Grills ’80 and Enola Aird ’79 JD
- Finding Your Fit (September 2019); organized by Careers, Life, and Yale; panelists discussed with a highly diverse group of students how to find “your fit” in a career and creating and leading a values-focused culture in the workplace
- On Black Motherhood: For the Journey Ahead (June 2020); a panel discussion moderated by Regina Bain ’98, ’01 MFA and sponsored by the Yale Black Alumni Association, in association with the YAA; Black mothers come together to celebrate life, share experiences, and generate the joy that can fuel our collective resistance and resilience
- Real Talk: Conversations on Race, Heritage and Identity (Part I: August 2019; Part II: August 2020); sponsored by the YAA and co-sponsored by Yale Club of Philadelphia, and facilitated by Sheryl Carter Negash ’82; afforded the opportunity for small groups of alumni to engage in a candid discussion on how race and ethnicity impact our programming and interactions
- Vida Americana Exhibit at the Whitney Museum: An Exclusive Conversation with Assistant Curator Marcela Guerrero (May 2020); co-sponsored by the YAA SIGs, Yale Latino Alumni Network, Yale Museums, Arts and Culture Facebook Group, Yale Alumni Art League, and YaleWomen
- What Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? (March 2020); co-sponsored by YAA SIGs and YANA and featuring Dr. Cheryl Grills ’80, professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount and a clinical psychologist; explored how can we become more intentional in advancing DEI principles
- Women’s Health in the Time of COVID-19 (July 2020); co-sponsored by the YAA SIGs, YaleWomen, Yale Alumni Health Network, Women’s Health Research at Yale, and 50WomenAtYale150; focused on uncovering how the coronavirus affects the biology of women and men differently is teaching us new ways to fight COVID-19
- Yale International Alliance Virtual Series on Global Citizenship: Spotlight Speaker Marvin Rees and Panel - Local voices, Global Insights: Governance in Times of Crises (June 2020); co-sponsored by the YAA SIGs and the Yale International Alliance; explored how global citizens can ensure that government works for all
Trips with Yale Alumni Service Corps (YASC)
- Cape Town 2019: YASC embarked on its second service trip to the township of Philippi, an underserved community of approximately 200,000 residents located on outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. The program partnered with Amandla Development (founded by Scott Clarke ’02). Led by Lisbeth Jordan ‘88, projects included business consulting (mentored multiple small businesses), children’s hearing screening (continued the 2018 screening of ears and screened nearly 1,000 children for chronic ear infections), public health (addressed topics in health, biology, hygiene, HIV, depression and anxiety, women’s health including pregnancy and maternal care), performing arts (taught lessons in music and dance to hundreds of children), and photography and media.
- Puerto Rico 2020: In March, YASC held its inaugural service program in San Juan’s community of Residencial Luis Llorens Torres, the largest housing project in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, with almost 3,000 people. Working alongside Instituto Nueva Escuela (New School Institute), a nonprofit organization whose mission is bringing Montessori education to public schools and supporting the families of enrolled students, our group of 50+ Yale volunteers, led by Elena Labrada ’86, conducted a number of community projects in the two schools that children from the community attend: Escuela Luis Llorens Torres (pre K–6) and Escuela República de Peru (7-9 grades). They included organizing group sports and games for fun and exercise; building sun shades and bookshelves; teaching science offerings including bees and botany, environmental science and computer coding with robots, planning a newsletter and performance art classes including singing; addressing public health needs in understanding emotions and developing empathy, self-control and conflict resolution, and habits for healthy living; as well as photography and media.