Interview with Michael Hanke, Vice Rector for Teaching and Learning at the University of Liechtenstein

I first met Michael on my planning trip to Liechtenstein.  He was not only a gracious host, but an efficient an effective partner in planning the YaleGALE Alumni Leadership Forum in Liechtenstein.  After the event, when I got back to the States, I was able to reconnect with Michael to get his post-Forum impressions. – Ben Slotznick, Producer YaleGALE in Europe 2014

Q: How did you first learn about YaleGALE?

A; I first learnt about YaleGALE when you contacted me. In fact, I had never heard of any such initiative before.

Q: Why were you interested in having a YaleGALE exchange – what did you think it would accomplish?

A: Since our university is – as a university – very young with only quite few alumni, we are in the process of establishing alumni relations and a corresponding culture. Therefore, the timing of this YaleGALE exchange was ideal to learn from your experience as alumni – what to do and what to avoid, how to approach students and alumni, how to get them involved,…

Q: Prior to the event, how did colleagues and students react to the idea of the forum?

A: Prior to the event, colleagues and students needed some time to understand what the exchange will be about, and why Yale alumni travel around at their own expense spreading the idea and spirit of alumni relations.

Q: How did the forum event compare to expectations? Should it have been longer? Shorter? Or structured differently?

A: The forum met our (high) expectations, and from the feedback by participants, the length was “just right”. Also the structure, with sessions and panel in the afternoon, followed by the dinner, was very much appreciated.

Q: What other topics – additional or different – should have been discussed (perhaps if there was more time)?

A: There is one topic that was not addressed and is still intensely discussed: The special situation of our institution given its history, meaning that it produced lots of alumni over the past 50 years, but many of those do not really identify with today’s university. Therefore, in essence, we only have roughly 500 alumni who graduated from our university in its current form. Integrating “old” and “new” alumni seems to be quite difficult.

Q: How did colleagues and students react to the forum event? What were their comments and “take-aways”? Did any colleagues or students come away with a different perspective on alumni relations?

A: Both colleagues, students, and alumni who attended in the afternoon and/or in the evening reacted very positively. We are confident that a number of the “soon-to-be-alumni” who attended will spark activities. For some of my colleagues, who advocated a higher degree of control of alumni activities by the university, it was interesting to see that “enabling” and “supporting” may be better alternatives.

Q: What kind of follow-up with Yale alumni would be most worthwhile?

A: In terms of follow-up, I can think of different possibilities depending on the target group: For our alumni, I think it would be great to have a similar event again in the future (hopefully with a higher share of alumni among the participants). For our university staff in charge of alumni relations, attendance of alumni-related events like the YaleGALE@Yale will be an interesting opportunity to understand even better the success factors behind fruitful alumni relations.

Q: Did the exchange spark ideas for any new initiatives at University of Liechtenstein?

A: Yes, the exchange sparked a number of ideas, particularly among the soon-to-graduate students. We hope that many of them translate into activities to “get things going”! Thanks once again!