What a trip! With four exciting conferences in three different Indian cities – and three different regions of India – YaleGALE was able to interact with representatives from a number of segments of Indian higher education. Yet, consider that India is the most populous country and has the third largest higher education system in the world. So we sampled only a small slice of a very large pie – even though we were able to meet with over 180 people from over 70 institutions. Their dedication and thoughtful approach to advancing higher education was inspiring.
We found active and vibrant alumni associations, often self-organized and self-managed by the alumni volunteers. Our delegates appreciate and relate to this system because it has been a tradition at Yale for over 200 years. And we found educational institutions increasingly reaching out to their alumni associations and working in concert with them to promote opportunities for the educational institutions and their graduates – again, very similar to what we experience in the U.S. We found alumni organizations that had been contributing significantly to their alma maters, but interested in doing more.
There are so many ways that YaleGALE delegates could relate to the alumni in India. We found a strong interest in promoting doctoral programs as a way to enhance the international reputation of India’s already excellent universities and institutes – so familiar! And perhaps most exciting, we found new private universities, interested in bringing both liberal arts and other styles of university experience and engagement to India.
Thanks to the organizing skills of hosting institutions, we met dedicated civil servants looking to promote what is best for Indian higher education. Throughout our trip, we talked with Indian businessmen and entrepreneurs looking to give back to their country and their alma maters, and bring the vibrancy and innovation of the private sector to university and institute. We appreciate this too because Yale was named after such a businessman, Elihu Yale, once Governor of Madras.
Did I say it was exciting?
We found globalization wherever we went…in industry and technology – as well as in higher education itself. Many of the Indian university professors, administrators, and businesspeople that we met had gone to graduate school in the United States or Europe, and came back to India. Some had gone to undergraduate school abroad, and came back as well. The broad perspective and the depth of understanding of so many cultures made for rich and engaging conversations.
In one sense, globalization is not new. After all, Elihu Yale worked for the British East India Company over 300 years ago – and that company was global if nothing else. However, the volume and speed of transaction flows in the twenty-first century is unprecedented. That includes not only goods and services, and not only technology, but also brain power. University and institute students and graduates can travel the world – and go where there are the greatest opportunities – either for education, or for the job opportunities afterwards.
So what does this have to do with alumni relations?
Alumni relations is not just about providing services to alumni. It is about creating a familial bond among students and a lifelong bond with their educational institution. Alumni are part of these institutions and their cultures – especially when alumni come back and give back. Given the opportunity, universities, institutes, and other educational organizations can learn as much from their alumni as their alumni did from them. That will not only help these institutions remain competitive in a global education economy – it will help them lead it.
Ben Slotznick ’70, ’73 Dra
Chair, YaleGALE Communication Committee
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Exchanges