The YaleGALE Volunteer Consulting Services (VCS) visit to Trent University between May 19 and May 22, 2015 was the first stand-alone team of Yale alumni volunteer consultants to provide services as a Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange program. The team was led by Lynn Gunnar Johnson ’61, an experienced consultant, management professor and veteran of nine YaleGALE international exchanges. Other members of the team consisted of Katy Wells ’91 JD and John Scales ’54, with significant pre-visit guidance and input form Kathy Edersheim ’87, Chair of YaleGALE.
Trent’s interest in the YaleGALE VCS developed from Trent’s participation in the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Forum @Yale during November 2014. The Forum was attended by Lee Hays, Trent’s Director of Alumni Affairs. Ms. Hays’ enthusiastic participation in the Forum and conversations during the Forum between Ms. Hays and Dr. Johnson sparked a subsequent application by Trent for consulting assistance. The University, based in Peterborough, Ontario, was embarking on a strategic planning initiative and Ms. Hays felt that those efforts would benefit from an early interaction and exchange of viewpoints with YaleGALE volunteers.
The VCS team arrived in Toronto on May 19, 2015, from Albany, Pittsburgh, and Austin. They were greeted by Ms. Hays and by Brian Wynn ’73, a Toronto attorney and past YaleGALE participant.
The team then met with Trent alumnus and prominent businessman David Patterson. Over dinner Mr. Patterson described the founding of Trent University 50 years ago, its unique position among Ontario and Canadian universities, and some important differences between U.S. and Canadian higher education. This introduction to Trent proved an important foundation for subsequent interactions on campus.
The next day, on May 20, the YaleGALE team arrived at Trent’s main campus in Peterborough, Ontario. They began by facilitating meetings and conducting interviews with alumni and representatives from the administration. The conversations captured feedback and input from a cross-section of Trent stakeholders, including Trent’s Alumni Strategic Leadership Team (SLT), other active alumni, university administration, and past and present university Board Chairs. Participants from Trent’s Alumni Strategic Leadership Team included Julie Davis, V.P. External Relations & Advancement; Lee Hays, Director, Alumni Affairs; Joanne Sokolowski, Manager, Alumni Relations & Convocation; Jess Grover, V.P. Governance, TUAA Council; and Vidal Guerreiro, Councillor, TUAA Council. One on one interviews were conducted with Tony Storey, former Trent Alumni Affairs Director and with Karen Sisson, Trent Alumna.
The Yale volunteer consultants then traveled to the Peterborough home of Tom Symons, Founding President of Trent, who graciously answered questions and shared some enlightening history about Trent and the Peterborough community. The day ended with a relaxing and spirited group dinner including the VCS and SLT teams at a popular local restaurant.
On the second day of the visit, May 21, the YaleGALE VCS team met with members of Trent’s External Relations and Advancement Portfolio staff, including V.P. Julie Davis, and then conducted a one on one interview with Ms. Davis. The rest of the day involved additional one on one interviews with Bob Taylor-Vaisey, President of the Trent U. Alumni Association (TUAA); Adam Guzowski, Past President of the TUAA; and Paul Wilson, former Trent Athletics Director.
On the final day at Trent, the Yale volunteers conducted a breakfast interview with Bryan Davies, Trent Board of Governors Chair. They then crossed campus to the banks of the beautiful Otonabee River to interview Leo Groarke, Trent’s current President. Mr. Davies and Mr. Groarke both offered helpful insights into Trent’s current opportunities and challenges. Afterwards, the YaleGALE consultants made their way to the home of Erica Cherney, former Board of Governors Chair. Ms. Cherney continues to be very involved in the Peterborough community and shed more light on the University’s opportunity to stay connected to its founding city. Returning to campus, the Yale VCS team held a final group meeting with the Trent SLT, presenting some initial impressions and gathering some SLT reactions and feedback.
Based on assessments from the three days of meetings and interviews, the VCS team submitted a Joint Consultation Report to Trent containing observations and recommendations for advancing alumni development. According to evaluations turned in by Trent participants, the YaleGALE visit generated many ideas for the strategic planning process and a heightened enthusiasm for alumni engagement. As one Trent participant stated: “I have immense admiration for the spirit of this exchange. Generous and good-hearted. The canvassing of insight, advice and opinion, then distilling it to a synthesis of key priorities, will benefit the alumni relations program significantly.”
If your university would be interested in taking advantage of this YaleGALE program and would like to be a Host Institution for a VCS visit, please contact Kathy Edersheim at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lynn Johnson at email@example.com.