Since October 2022, Yale has been hosting For Humanity Illuminated, an ongoing series of live events in cities across the United States and abroad to engage the alumni community and showcase the people, programs, and ideas that distinguish the University as a world-class institution and its capacity to improve and enrich lives around the globe.
Through these events, alumni representatives from different shared interest and identity groups have had the opportunity to connect with fellow Yalies, promote awareness and understanding of issues and topics important to their respective groups, and encourage alumni to become active volunteers and leaders.
“It was a chance for the community of Yalies to see ways to get involved, whether in community service or in service to Yale,” said Lt. Josh Clapper ’16, a US Navy nuclear submarine officer stationed at the Pentagon who represented the Yale Veterans Association at the For Humanity event in Washington, DC, attended by nearly 400 people. “I hope people saw a chance to connect with Yale in a new way, even if that starts small.”
According to Clapper, his interactions with other Yalies highlighted for him the richness and diversity of the alumni community.
“I was struck by the great variety of alumni pursuits I heard about—many had worked in government, but there were also many other careers and volunteer service represented,” he said, noting the significant contributions made by alumni for the benefit of society at large. “Yalies continue to have a big impact in service to the nation and the world.”
Maria Lee ’89, a board member of the Association of Asian American Yale Alumni (AAAYA), and co-leader of its DC regional chapter, was delighted to hear about the many scholarly activities and impactful work being undertaken at the University.
“I was impressed but not necessarily surprised by how much is always going on with the Yale community,” she said, adding how special it was for alumni to be able to gather for larger in-person events once again. “Post-pandemic, I am seeing an increasing desire to connect more.”
A senior advisor for a national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age, Lee expressed her continuing wonderment in engaging with other alumni.
“The biggest takeaway for me is how stimulating being in a room full of Yalies can be, and all the great ideas we have when we connect,” she said. “I was inspired.”
The same goes for Lee’s counterpart in a different city on the East Coast.
“What jumped out from my conversations with alumni was their commitment to applying their Yale education and experiences in diverse, impactful ways,” said Mike Jin ’13, who represented AAAYA at For Humanity in Boston, attended by about 300 people. “Seeing alumni from various backgrounds and decades coming together, sharing ideas, and inspiring each other reinforced my belief in the strength of community-driven change.”
Jin, a senior research scientist at a software company specializing in medical and scientific datasets, was heartened by Yale’s enduring call for alumni to, pursuant to its mission, improve the world today and for future generations.
“The event was a reminder that every individual has the power to contribute meaningfully to societal progress, regardless of their field or profession,” he said. “I hope alumni left with a renewed sense of connection not just to Yale, but to the broader community of change-makers.”
Mick Hirsch ’03 MDiv, representing the Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance in Boston, was among those alumni for whom effecting positive social change constituted an important part of their lives.
“I was really taken by the genuine humanity cascading throughout the event,” he said. “Clearly, everyone was at the right party, as not only the spirit of Yale but the desire to make a positive difference defined the energy in the room.”
A trauma recovery specialist who was serving as the executive director of a nonprofit in New Hampshire that assists survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Hirsch said his conversations with volunteers and leaders from other shared interest groups opened his eyes to multiple opportunities for partnerships and collaborations.
“Our groups do not need to operate in silos,” he said. “There are so many possibilities for two or more to collaborate on events and programs that bring the best of what they individually offer to wider audiences.”
Concurring with these sentiments was Linda Chin ’81, who had recently assumed leadership of the Boston chapter of 1stGenYale, which connects alumni and supports students of diverse backgrounds. She highlighted the significance and value of the connections that come with being part of the alumni community.
“Whether you were seeing people you hadn’t seen in a while or meeting people for the first time, with Yale alumni there is instant commonality and an inextricable emotional bond,” she said. “Everyone seemed so genuinely happy to be gathering in person again!”
A cultural producer, theater critic, and creative director at a nonprofit organization for musicians in mental health recovery, Chin expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to participate in an event that provided attendees with different experiences and socio-economic backgrounds a sense of belonging and pride.
“Some of my conversations were with alumni who were the first in their family to go to college and/or graduate school, and who were, like me, from low-income backgrounds,” she said. “I feel proud to belong to an academic institution that strives to benefit the human condition.”
Donal Toole ’97 MPPM, co-chair of the Yale Alumni Journalism Association (YAJA), said he also valued Yale’s mission, as well as how alumni of all stripes are called upon to leverage their knowledge, skills, and talents in service to others.
“The broad intellectual interests of the alumni community were well represented,” he said. “From recent graduates to retirees, first gen to multi-generation, businesspeople, scientists, and artists, all were present and keenly interested in the latest developments outside their own field, and how they could be used to benefit humanity.”
The associate director of forecasting at a global healthcare and pharmaceutical company, and previously director of analytics for different journalism and media outlets, Toole left For Humanity in Boston with a stronger appreciation of Yale and the alumni community.
“Not only were the presentations amazing, but we almost always learned something new in even casual conversations with others,” he said. “As always, I leave these events thinking, ‘What an incredible group of people!’”
His counterpart in the United Kingdom felt the same way.
“I’m always amazed by the number of fields that Yale alumni go on to explore after graduating—it’s such a pleasure to speak with people who have embarked on such different professional and personal journeys from myself, despite our shared background of having gone to the same university,” said Chloe Tsang ’17, the other YAJA co-chair, who represented the group at For Humanity in London, attended by over 300 people. “I view it as a testament to the purposeful diversity that Yale encourages both in its curriculum and its students.”
Tsang, a senior consultant with a media-affiliated digital growth consultancy, and previously a journalist for a major American news network, was captivated hearing about the advances emerging from Yale to promote better understanding and unlock deeper insights about the past, present, and future of humanity.
“Some of the guest speakers were pursuing some truly fascinating work, particularly around using advances in technology to understand both ancient and contemporary civilizations,” she said. “There are so many different ways to contribute to a shared understanding of humanity.”
Also in London was Olga Babakina ’05 MEM, who represented Yale Blue Green, Yale’s environmental alumni group. She was delighted to reconnect with Yale President Peter Salovey, as well as one of her professors from the Yale School of the Environment. Like other alumni, she was impressed by the faculty presentations spanning different departments, disciplines, and research interests.
“The event was an excellent demonstration of the breadth of disciplines covered by Yale curricula, from economics to paleontology,” she said. “I had a number of very exciting conversations with alumni that ranged from discussions about 4,000-year-old Persian artifacts to sustainability initiatives.”
Babakina, a commercial integrator on the sustainability team for a multinational energy company, said she appreciated the chance to engage with fellow Yalies and looked forward to seeing more alumni become actively involved as volunteers and leaders in service to Yale, and beyond.
“I hope the event inspired alumni to join various shared interest groups that cover a whole spectrum of topics from journalism to sustainability, and more.”