The YaleGALE trip through India was inspiring. We held four exhilarating conferences in 3 different cities, while marveling at the sights and sounds throughout our travels. Many YaleGALE veterans felt that these were some of the best exchanges we had experienced anywhere. In some ways the trip was like coming home. It began in Chennai, the one-time home of Elihu Yale, former Governor of Madras, and the man for whom Yale University was named. By the end of the trip we had become quite fond of high tea.
On Friday afternoon, January 9, YaleGALE and the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) produced an Alumni Leadership Conference at the M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women. Welcoming remarks were delivered by Dr. Lalitha Balakrishnan, Principal M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Maya Sundararajan, Regional Officer, USIEF, and Sharon Houle Randall ’98, Producer of YaleGALE in India. Almost 60 people attended the conference, representing 38 institutions plus the U.S. Consulate.
The conference attendees were then treated to commentary by luminary Mr. P. Murari, Advisor to the President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and President of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, describing “Vision 2030: Higher Education in India and the contribution of alumni groups to such an achievement.” Mark Dollhopf ’77, Executive Director of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), presented an introduction to alumni relations as a foundation for the discussions to follow. The afternoon program included three sets of breakout sessions on a variety topics from “Engaging Alumni of Different Ages” to “Cultivating a Culture of Giving Back” to “Motivating Volunteers to be Effective Leaders and Fundraisers”. The full conference agenda can be found here: yalegale.org/forums/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/YaleGALE_USIEF_proceedings.pdf.
The conference concluded with a summation of the sessions given by conference attendees, and remarks on “Next steps for Alumni Initiatives” followed by networking over a delightful high tea in the College courtyard.
The next morning, Saturday, January 10, was spent with faculty and alumni of IIT Madras at a Conference on Alumni Relations produced by IIT Madras and YaleGALE. The conference was opened with introductory remarks by Sharon Houle Randall ’98 and Dr. R. Nagarajan ’86 Ph.D., Dean of International and Alumni Relations at IIT Madras and Professor of Chemical Engineering. Mark Dollhopf ’77 spoke on “The Emerging Importance of University Alumni Relations in a Competitive Global Economy,” followed by four break-out sessions and a panel discussion by both Yale and IITM alumni on “Bridging the Undergraduate / Graduate School Divide” in alumni relations. After a working lunch, the YaleGALE participants were given a short tour of the IITM Campus, a National Park which usually abounds with wild life. However, the heart of the Campus had been given over to tens of thousands of students attending a pan-India celebratory event – so the examples of “wild life” in center-campus were students break-dancing, juggling, creating art, and demonstrating video games. The full conference agenda can be found here: yalegale.org/forums/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/YaleGALE_IIT_Madras-proceedings.pdf.
The conference continued the next morning, January 11, at a lovely country farm house on the East Coast Highway by the beach generously offered to us by D. Chandrasekhar, an IITM alumnus and Secretary of the IIT Madras Charitable Trust. Another four breakout sessions ensued followed by summations of the sessions by conference attendees. lllustrious participants included V. Gopinathan, President of the IIT Madras Alumni Association and Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director of IIT Madras. Networking continued afterwards over a sumptuous lunch by the beach. Altogether, the two day event drew about forty IITM faculty and alumni. Following the session with IITM, the YaleGALE participants and their families were whisked away to the airport to continue to Mumbai.
The next day of this whirlwind tour, Monday, January 12, YaleGALE along with IIT Bombay produced a full day pan-IIT conference on alumni leadership at Powai, Mumbai. Welcome remarks were given by Prof. D.V. Khakhar, Director of IIT Bombay, and Sharon Houle Randall ’98, followed by overviews of current alumni programs by Ben Slotznick ’70, ’73 Dra (for Yale) and Prof. Ravi Sinha, Dean of Alumni and Corporate Relations at IIT Bombay (for IITB). The day-long conference included four sets of breakout sessions for a total of fourteen panel discussions. A rousing debate on social media followed a working lunch. The full conference agenda can be found here: yalegale.org/forums/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/YaleGALE_IIT_Bombay-proceedings.pdf.
Attendees included 39 participants from four of the IITs. As a special feature, all panels (and the debate) included panelists from the IITs including: Prabhat Munshi, Dean of Resources and Alumni IIT Kanpur, Chinna Boddipali, Managing Director, Institutional Development at IIT Kharagpur, Damayanti Bhattacharya, CEO, of the IITB Alumni Association, Dipti Datye, Executive Office, Dean of Alumni and Corporate Relations Office of IIT Bombay, Shubash Mishra, Dean of Alumni Affairs and External Relations, IIT Guwahati, Sarang Nandedkar, Officer on Special Duty, Dean of Alumni and Corporate Relations of IIT Bombay, and IITB alumni, Ashok Kamath, Ali Contractor, U. N. Gaitonde, Paresh Vora, Kirat Patel, Dipak Sheth, Ashok Kalbag, Shrikant Rao, Deepak Patil, Urjit Yajnik, Ashank Desai, Shridhar Shukla, K. K. Iyer, Dipak Patil, Ramchandra Bhatkar, Dipak Seth, and Kiran Shesh. Later that evening, IIT Mumbai hosted a dinner reception at the Meluha Fern Hotel, in Powai.
With a little time to rest up and see the sights, the YaleGALE crew was back to work on Friday, January 16. YaleGALE participants met with students and alumni of Ashoka University for high tea at the Nehru Memorial and Museum, in New Delhi, followed by a lecture on “Democracy and disillusionment” delivered by Professor Abhijeet Banerjee of MIT. Afterwards an elegant dinner reception was held at the home of Ashish Dhawan ‘92, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Central Square Foundation and a Founder and Trustee of Ashoka University.
The next day, YaleGALE traveled to the campus of Ashoka University in Kundli, Haryana (metro Delhi) for a day-long conference at Ashoka University’s impressive new facilities. During the bus ride to the conference, Dr. Pramath Raj Sinha, Senior Advisor of India of the Albright Stonebridge Group, and Founder and Trustee of Ashoka University, gave the YaleGALE group background information on Ashoka University and Indian higher education. Once reaching the campus, morning coffee and tea were served followed by conference opening remarks from Sharon Houle Randall ’98 as well as Dr. Sinha. Over 50 people attended representing over 30 institutions including 4 IITs. Mark Dollhopf ’77 led a Leadership Development session. A series of workshops with twelve breakout sessions ensued. The working lunch included a panel discussion with Indian Higher education leaders on “The Future of Education in India”. The summations of the breakout sessions were given by conference attendees. The conference concluded with a networking conference of high tea. The full conference agenda can be found here: yalegale.org/forums/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/YaleGALE_Ashoka_Delhi_proceedings.pdf.
But that was not the end of the day. YaleGALE participants were given a short tour of the campus, after which they attended an inspired student art show and reception, an exuberant student talent show for their homecoming, and a scrumptious concluding dinner. Many thanks to Nimit Mehta, Manager of Strategic Initiatives at Ashoka University for all his hard work. In addition, the YaleGALE in India program was organized with the assistance of Kathy Edersheim ’87, Chairperson of YaleGALE, and Far Horizon, India.