This visit to New Mexico Highlands University on May 1, 2015 was one of the first forays of Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange (YaleGALE) into a focused consultation by a small team with one university. Ben Slotznick ’70, ’73 Dra produced this event with his usual intensity.

YaleGALE at Highlands 2015 workshops were intentionally scheduled to run in parallel with an AYA Leadership Forum for Yale Club Presidents being held in Las Vegas, New Mexico, the home of Highlands. Yale alumni who participated in the YaleGALE consulting at Highlands also participated in the Leadership Forum. (The Leadership Forum involved many more Yale alumni than the Highlands program.) In addition, the conjunction of events permitted both to conclude with a joint scrumptious barbeque at the local ranch of Joe Staley ’59 on the next day, May 2.

Joe Staley, Will Wootton, and Ben Slotznick in front of a YaleGALE sign outside the Kennedy Gallery at Highlands

The YaleGALE program started over morning coffee with a group of 20. Then, after welcomes and introductions by Ben Slotznick ’70, ’73 Dra, and Will Wootton, Vice President of Advancement for Highlands University and Executive Director of the Highlands Foundation, the group got down to business. Morning breakout sessions focused on two topics: (1) re-energizing a long-but-not-continuous student tradition of freshmen climbing Hermit’s peak and engaging alumni in that tradition and (2) developing a mid-autumn festival that could involve students, alumni and the greater Las Vegas community.

Workshop sessions were held at the Kennedy Gallery and Highlands’ Foundation Offices. In addition to Ben Slotznick, YaleGALE facilitators consisted of Mark Dollhopf ’77, Executive Director of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), Joe Staley ’59 (who also serves on the Board of the Highlands Foundation), Alex Hanna ‘92, President of the Yale Club of New Mexico, and Jerri Udelson ’73 MPH, Treasurer (and Past President) of the Yale Club of New Mexico.

Juli Salman and Alex Hanna in discussion at a workshop at Kennedy Gallery

By the end of the morning, both workshop groups had honed specifics of the projects, determined next steps, and set a date to meet again. For each project Highlands participants volunteered for specific tasks such as soliciting support from community businesspeople, incorporating the project into freshman orientation, and checking on necessary permits. “Las Vegas Days” was chosen as the name and overarching theme for the mid-fall festivities.

Participants from the two break-out sessions reported their successful deliberations in plenary. Everyone was so engaged in the discussions, it was hard to break for lunch. With two successful workshops under their belts, the group continued their conversations over the meal. (The regional fare wouldn’t have been complete without requisite red and green chili sauces.) As lunch concluded, Mark Dollhopf ’77 engaged the group in an inspirational and interactive dialogue on the power of volunteers.

After lunch the group met in plenary to discuss possibilities for implementing a lecture series on Southwest history. Again, specifics were developed, next steps were determined, volunteers agreed to do them, and the date for a follow-up meeting was scheduled. After a successful day of workshops, Ben Slotznick ’70, ’73 Dra thanked the group for their efforts, and reminded them of the sustaining energy that volunteer groups bring to any task.

Attendees included Will Wootton, Vice President of Advancement for Highlands University and Executive Director of the Highlands Foundation, Bill Garcia, Foundation Board President, Jay Moore, Foundation Board 2nd Vice President, Ray Litherland, Foundation Board Treasurer, plus Foundation Board members, Joe Staley ’59, Pauline Rindone, Eileen Madrid, Joe McCaffrey, Carlotta Lockmiller, and Antonio Lopez, guest Aileen Garcia, Highlands faculty Prof. Peter Linder, and Highlands Foundation staff Corie Weaver, Sean Weaver, Juli Salman, Jim Mandarino, and Darlene Chavez.

Linda Staley at the microphone at Belden Ranch, in front of musicians

The group met again the next day for a Saturday night barbeque at the Belden ranch, hosted graciously by Joe and Linda Staley. Tables groaned with comestibles served ranch-style – accompanied by dancing to the sound of a local country western band. All was washed down by a specially prepared beer from a local micro-brewery dubbed “YaleGALE Ale”.

Beer tap handle with the words "YALE GALE ALE"

Special thanks to Nory Babbitt of AYA who organized the AYA Leadership Forum for Yale Club Presidents, and made meshing the two programs seem a piece of cake.