The Volunteer Consulting Service (“VCS”), established in 2014 as an extension of YaleGALE’s outreach to universities world-wide, recently completed an engagement at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, Latvia (“SSE Riga”).
SSE Riga—founded by the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden but now operating independently in Latvia– is one of Europe’s leading business schools, offering undergraduate, graduate and executive education programs in business and economics. It was one of the host institutions in 2013 during the YaleGALE Baltics program and later sent representatives to the annual YaleGALE @Yale Conference in New Haven in both 2013 and 2014. In 2015, SSE Riga applied to VCS for consulting assistance with its strategic planning process. Following approval of its application, work began in preparation for a VCS visit in August of 2016.
The VCS consulting team was composed of VCS Chairman Lynn Johnson ‘61, Susanna E. Krentz ‘80, and Brian D. Wynn’73. Vincent Sharkey ‘66, participated in pre-trip planning and discussion.
After months of advance planning via teleconference sessions with Dr. Diana Pauna, SSE’s Pro-Rector (Chief Academic Officer), the VCS team of Johnson, Krentz and Wynn left their respective homes in Albany, N.Y., Chicago, Illinois, and Toronto, Ontario to travel to Riga. On arrival on August 14, the three “Yalies” enjoyed a welcome dinner hosted by Dr. Anders Paalzow, Rector, and Dr. Pauna, Pro-Rector. Also attending were Maira Rjabinina, Alumni Affairs Manager, Maris Simanovics, Alumni Association President, and Tina Kukka, Alumni Association Board member.
A busy schedule followed over the next three days (August 15 – 17) that included individual interviews with SSE administrators and alumni leaders, a short presentation by Johnson, Krentz and Wynn on Yale’s “friend-raising” approach to alumni relations, and a series of plenary and break-out sessions on issues previously identified as important for strategic planning in alumni relations at SSE Riga.
The Planning Conference was well-attended. The 32 participants included several past and present members of the Alumni Association Board, representatives of SSE Riga’s regional alumni chapters in Lituania, Estonia, Muldova, Belarus, the U.K., and Sweden, and other alumni leaders. Four senior administrative officers also participated, including the recently appointed Executive Vice President for Development at SSE Riga, Yuri Romanenkov. Mr. Romanenkov received his B.S. degree from SSE Riga in 2007 and his MBA from Harvard in 2014, after which he worked as a senior consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. He took up his new post at SSE Riga on August 15, the first day of the VCS-SSE planning conference.
Conference sessions were marked by lively discussion on matters such as strengths and weaknesses of past and current programs, a vision for SSE Riga Alumni Relations 5 years from now, program areas that might be initiated or expanded, barriers to overcome, and action steps for the future. An analysis of stakeholders revealed a need to place more emphasis on graduate program alumni as well as alumni in the regional chapters. It also called attention to the need to clarify the respective roles of the SSE Riga administration and of the Alumni Association Board.
Dr. Anders Paalzow, Rector of SSE Riga, stated at the close of the conference that the event “more than met expectations” and was “extremely beneficial with long term impact.” Pro-Rector Diana Pauna called the conference “an excellent learning experience” and praised the VCS consultants for their “emphasis on facilitation, rather than prescriptive speeches.”
Conferees assessed the experience as “Very Useful” (89%) or “Useful” (11%) in formal post-event evaluations. One participant summed up the comments of many participants with this statement:
“It brought in experience and put it in the SSE Riga context. It was highly inspirational and very professionally run.”