When I chose to leave the “work place” which I define as financially gainful employment to be home to raise my two children, I knew that I would need to stay involved in activities beyond the family and home life. Of course, with small children there is not much time for anything else so for the first few years, I spent a lot of my time taking care of my family. I was able to continue with some of my volunteering efforts at the time, primarily at the Yale Club of New York City as a committee member.
Over time, I volunteered more time at the Yale Club as a member of the governing board and worked my way up to President of the organization. My involvement at the Yale Club gave me invaluable experience and knowledge of running a business even from the volunteer perspective. In my club leadership role, I used my financial background, learned about the hospitality industry, dealt with management issues and stayed connected with many professionals. Note that the time commitment as President was significant – committee and board meetings at least 4 times per month and a presence at the Club to address various needs approximately 2 – 3 times per week.
While I was active in club governance but before becoming President, Yale University was celebrating its 300th anniversary and I was able to attend some events on campus. That prompted me to become the Yale Club representative to the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) Assembly which was held twice a year. My role as a delegate (just prior to my Yale Club Presidency) led me to run for the Board of Governors of the AYA for a three-year term. I then served an additional year as Treasurer of AYA.
While I was on the AYA Board, the organization decided to expand its programming and the types of initiatives for alumni participation. The concept of an “alumni exchange” was discussed during my year as treasurer. With a personal interest in traveling and sharing ideas, I was fascinated with the concept of using my university affiliation as a way to reach out to others and have a cultural exchange. The idea grew into a program called the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange (YaleGALE) which I have been leading for ten years as a volunteer. The leadership role started with organizing trips for Yale alumni, family, and friends to share best practices with alumni of universities overseas. I “produced” trips for the first five years and then continued as an unofficial president and advisor to the group.
In 2011, after our fourth trip which was to China with 100 people, the person who had been running Yale Educational Travel, a staff position at the AYA, announced that she would be retiring in spring 2012. Based on my somewhat unusual travel planning and leading experiences in Australia, Japan, Turkey, and China, I spoke with the executive director of AYA about interviewing for the position. As an aside, the timing of the availability of the position was good though not perfect. In fall of 2012, both my children would be in high school and be able to manage with my absence much better than it would have been earlier. As a travel professional, it was likely that I would travel a few times a year which would mean that my husband would have to take on some more responsibilities around the house.
On consideration of my interests, I knew that I wanted a position that involved volunteer engagement, and knowledge sharing as well as travel. I discussed this with the Yale administration so that the travel position could include responsibility for the YaleGALE program as well as the Yale Alumni Service Corps which had started in 2008 as well. Over 5 months of discussion about the position and an interviewing process, my application was accepted and I was hired as Senior Director, Global Travel Programs (or International Alumni Relations and Travel) with AYA.
I have been in the position for five years and learned a tremendous amount about being part of a large entity such as Yale. I have gotten fabulous management experience as well as continued to learn about volunteer engagement, leadership development, affinity travel, service travel, alumni relations structure, mentoring programs, and many other areas.
Now I have gone on to my own consulting firm, Impactrics, which works to build communities, usually for alumni organizations. My clients have ranged from small universities in the U.S. and abroad to a project as interim CEO of a nonprofit in the UK and working with technology companies in the field. I continue to do a lot of volunteering that is fulfilling and helpful for making contacts. I also do a lot of reading to stay up to date on the trends in community building and alumni relations.
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