This coming October brings not only the start of the professional baseball post-season playoffs (the most important sporting events in the U.S. during the Fall), but also the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Leadership Weekend. From a JHU alumni governance perspective, the annual meeting of the Alumni Council on October 6 and 7 is the linchpin of the weekend.
The Alumni Council is the governing board of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association. It is a University-wide representative body comprised of 64 representatives of the University’s individual schools (Arts & Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Peabody, Carey Business, Public Health, SAIS, Nursing and Education) and includes a student representative. Alumni Council members are selected annually through a process that solicits the Divisions to identify alumni who have actively participated and supported individual schools as well as folks who have been engaged in the activities of the Alumni Association. The selection is intended to result in a representative balance of graduates from each of the nine degree granting divisions (the tenth division, the Applied Physics Lab, does not grant degrees).
This October meeting will be particularly significant. Johns Hopkins University has been famously decentralized in many aspects. During the past few years, the University, under President Daniels’ leadership and with the support of the Board of Trustees as well as significant philanthropic efforts such as the Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships, the One University initiative is underway to capture the significant common strengths of the faculty and academic endeavors across the schools while supporting the unique focus that each school brings to its mission in providing knowledge to the world. The Alumni Association has “been in that business” for a long time. The Alumni Council, in particular, was established by President Muller in 1988 as a means of promoting communication between the University and all of its alumni.
This year’s Alumni Council meeting will sharpen the focus of the Alumni Association in promoting the One University vision through more active engagement of alumni from all divisions of the University. It will celebrate some of the truly impressive recipients of Alumni Association awards and tend to the business of the Alumni Association, including ratification of a budget and refocusing of committee efforts and agendas. However, a substantial portion of the meeting will be devoted to a discussion about a strategic plan that will be focused on increasing engagement between the University and all of its alumni through communications, affinity groups, regional chapters and other means. It will also focus on increasing the coordination of all University alumni relations staff to best maximize networking, support for both current students and alumni career efforts and communications among the University divisions and with each of the alumni themselves.
It will be a great weekend.
Alumni Reflections on JHU Commencement 2017
June 20, 2017
First and foremost, welcome to all the new Johns Hopkins University graduates to the next phase of your Johns Hopkins career. Please become engaged with the Alumni Association either through a local chapter, a member (or initiator) of an affinity group fitting your interests, or in some other way. Members of the Alumni Council and Alumni Relations staff are looking forward to getting to know you (if we don’t know you personally already) or to get you involved in those activities of your Alumni Association and University that will give you the satisfaction of participation, networking, and even giving back.
As the First Vice President and President of your Alumni Association, Allyson Handley and I were privileged to appear and represent the Alumni Association at many of the divisional and University commencement and award ceremonies during the week of May 22. During that week, I attended the awards ceremony at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the commencement ceremonies for the Schools of Education and Medicine as well as SAIS and the University commencement. Allyson attended a like amount of Ph.D. hoodings and commencement ceremonies, including serving as the speaker for the June Las Vegas destination graduation ceremony for the School of Education online graduate students and their families. Bryan McMillan, the Association’s Secretary, also represented the Alumni Association at a ceremony. We all enjoyed the celebratory mood of the undergraduate, graduate, and professional student candidates and their families as well as the genuine and satisfied joy of the faculty who have educated and guided their students. Allyson, Bryan, and I welcomed the new graduates into “the next phase” of their Hopkins careers and urged them to participate in alumni activities as well as to network with our expanded body of 215,000 alumni located in the United States and all over the world.
The President, Deans, Commencement speakers, and others issued the traditional congratulations, welcomes, and the anticipated urging that the graduates go on to contribute to society as our new advance guard of leaders. Speaking only for myself, however, many of the speakers I heard reflected the observation that our world is troubled and, in many ways, the importance that our new Johns Hopkins University graduates approach their new lives with integrity, a passion for improving the world, and to find meaning in connecting with people through their work.
The importance of recognizing the human significance of data, broached by President Daniels’ story during commencement in Baltimore when he realized that each of the data points he had assembled and organized for a study about the effects of asbestos in Canada represented a human being and often an impaired life, was unintentionally echoed in the powerful address the next day in Washington, D.C. by student Ross Bennett Hurwitz at the SAIS commencement about the need to understand the meaning of the “data sets” the graduates might create. The piercing case made during the SAIS commencement by Darren Walker, the President of the Ford Foundation and an estimable person from a very underprivileged background, about the need in our turbulent times to reaffirm and protect the “Four Freedoms” articulated by Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, particularly the freedom from fear is matched in my mind with the graceful eloquence of Seheri Swint, an African-American Master of Education graduate as she explained (two days before Walker) how her journey from an upbringing in the inner city of Detroit to accomplishment as the top graduate of the high school to which she was bussed had ignited her passion to bring the benefits of education to students of similar backgrounds. Mark Shriver’s message that the School of Education graduates find faith, hope and love in their careers and the actions they perform might have been matched with Frank Bruni’s keynote University Commencement message of the importance of family in supporting the pursuit of an ethical life in a world that some might view as increasingly rude.
Ron Peterson’s (A&S ’70) commencement address to the School of Medicine emphasized the importance of the work of the new doctors and researchers to the health of everyone in our country and the world. His point was reinforced by the oaths administered to all of those graduates that reinforced the importance of integrity, diligence and mindfulness of the folks who either will be directly or indirectly affected by their efforts. These oaths are the Graduate Student Oath and the Hippocratic Oath.
Yes, Commencement and graduation is a time of celebration, relief, fun, exhortation to do well, and festivities. As your alumni representatives, however, Allyson and I were privileged to develop an overview of commencement messages for the motivated and qualified students graduating from OUR University that many do not see. Our alumni, both the newest and those with more experience “outside”, have much to offer and we look forward to our continued engagement with all of you.
You can view my short remarks to graduates on the University-wide commencement video, after a short introduction at minute 33:45.
David P. Yaffe, A&S '74
Alumni Council President
The Alumni Role in Student Training: Mentoring and Internships
May 16, 2017
Hopkins students of all divisions need the guidance and help of their alumni to succeed after they receive their diplomas. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students receive an unparalleled education in their fields; but as alumni, we all know that even a superb education is an important first step towards success in business, the arts, a profession, teaching or academia or whatever endeavor our students pursue. In an effort to meet the needs of students and alumni, the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association launched GoHopOnline.com in February 2016. The intro on the website explains it best:
GoHopOnline.com is a new web-based networking platform dedicated to helping Johns Hopkins alumni connect online with former classmates and like-minded graduates; mentor and coach current students and recent graduates; and expand career connections through insider contacts in top companies. If you haven’t already done so, please consider activating a profile today at GoHopOnline.com.
Mentorship programs that match students with alumni mentors on either an individual or a group basis are run by the Alumni Relations staff at the individual schools as well as through GoHopOnline.com. For example, the School of Education Mentorship Program “offers current SOE students and graduates within the last three years the opportunity to connect with alumni mentors who can contribute to their professional and personal development.” This mentorship program requires application by both students and alumni; individuals are matched through examination and computer algorithms and the program is monitored for performance. Education grads need and crave experienced guidance in preparing for the classroom or other avenues in education. If you have this special talent to be a mentor and want to help, complete a School of Education Mentoring Application.
The Bloomberg School of Public Health has a similar program for the 250 students in the Master of Public Health Program. These students are headed to jobs of greater or different responsibilities with their Masters program, and the guidance of a mentor is particularly helpful. Each of the 250 students in this program is specifically matched. This only covers a fraction of the annual graduates from BSPH; GoHopOnline.com is available for both students seeking mentoring and alumni who are in a position to mentor. For more information regarding the Bloomberg School of Public Health mentoring program, click here, or check out GoHopOnline.com.
Important mentoring efforts are made by other alumni and alumni groups throughout the University. Grammy winning cellist, Peabody grad, and Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Heritage Award Winner Zuill Bailey runs music festivals in the Southwest and Alaska that employ Peabody grads. The Society of Engineering Alumni pairs mentors to students.
GoHopOnline.com is currently being used as a platform for students university-wide to connect with alumni from all divisions on several levels. This is a wonderful way for students to find the expertise they are looking for. Alumni sign up and identify the various ways that they are willing to help. This could include a willingness to introduce students to their connections; a willingness to open doors at their workplace; or it may be as simple as answering a couple of questions about their field. In addition, students, and alumni for that matter, can seek out mentors on GoHopOnline.com.
Internships are a key means for students, whether undergraduate or graduate, to develop job skills, learn something about a business, develop appropriate language to become employable and, perhaps most importantly, decide whether the place of internship is an industry or endeavor that the students want to pursue. Internships are only useful when the supervisor/employer monitors the student interns’ assignments and progress and can provide guidance.
The substantially revamped Homewood Student Affairs Career Center has been reorganized, including the addition of new personnel, and focuses on educating undergraduates to help them become realistic about their post JHU aspirations. The Homewood Student Affairs Career Center is actively engaged in contacting employers to increase the number and quality of on-campus interview opportunities, and similarly to increase internship opportunities.
The alumni and parent communities are the most important partners of the University to develop productive internship opportunities for students. The Parents Internship Network (PIN) enlists parents of JHU undergrads in providing internships. The Alumni Internship Connection (AIC) plays an integral role in students’ career success. Alumni across the country are encouraged to share internship opportunities within their organizations, creating a powerful alumni connection.
The JHU Board of Trustees Student Life Committee has taken an active interest in keeping track of the growth and improvement of the effort to prepare JHU undergraduate students for productive employment and careers. This committee also inquiries into the preparation of graduate students for employment as well. Alumni involvement, in cooperation with the career centers of all nine schools (which can be found here), the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association, the Alumni Relations offices of each school, and the Homewood Parents’ committee is essential to better prepare JHU students for the world beyond. Please step forward and offer your experience, wisdom, and guidance.
David P. Yaffe, A&S '74
Alumni Council President
An Alumni Journey to Unspoiled Nature
April 3, 2017
“Those wolves are magnificent!” That cry uttered in the splendor of Yellowstone Park reflected the excitement of the 17 participants of our Johns Hopkins Alumni Journey on our mid-February Alumni Journey to find the wolves of Yellowstone—and a lot more. Yellowstone’s 2.3 million acres in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, is one of the largest environments where the wildlife is not managed or hunted but left to live (and be studied) in the wild. It is a laboratory for tourists, wildlife experts and enthusiastic naturalists.
Mid-February was a great time for this trip. The wolves and other animals show up well against the snow AND mid-February is wolf breeding season. We learned the habits of wolves and that the chase is about the alpha female’s process to determine the alpha male that will sire her pups. Indeed, the soap opera story of each wolf pack is not fanciful anthropomorphism but real life.
All tour participants were experienced travelers, including veterans of six Antarctica trips as well as almost all other parts of the world. We shared our travel and life experiences that created the connections for a very compatible group. Despite the 5:30 a.m. wake-ups and 6:45 a.m. departures, there were no complainers!
READ THE FULL TRAVEL LOG
The tour organizer specializes in university alumni tours. Our tour leader’s background studied Montana wildlife in college supplemented by years of tracking and studying large game. The similarly experienced and approachable local guides/drivers in each section of the Park were eager to share their knowledge.
The trip started in Jackson, Wyoming and proceeded north through the Park to the Bozeman, MT ultimate destination. At the gate to the Park, we changed to snow cats; vans with oversized and underinflated tires to drive over the snow. The first two+ days of the trip focused on Yellowstone’s unique geology, geothermal features and flora as well as the ecology. The last 2+ days in the Lamar Valley/Gardiner area focused on the animals. The trip culminated at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT with an engrossing description of major advances dinosaur study and a great closing dinner.
This trip’s high standard for my wife’s and my first Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Alumni Journey whets our appetite for more. And we now have great material for stories for our grandchildren!
David P. Yaffe, A&S '74
Alumni Council President
A New JHU Alumni-Student-Faculty Eco-System
February 23, 2017
The alumni of Johns Hopkins University think of the school and its people as many things: a center of academic research and study to produce knowledge for the world; the place where some of us discovered a path or received the professional training we needed; the place where we spent a unique and enjoyable part of our lives. The interactions among students, faculty, staff and alumni that comprise the University community has developed into “more” than that. Technical innovation and entrepreneurship is one of the most quickly growing areas of such interaction and growth. Indeed, “interaction” and “growth” are not sufficiently accurate terms; what is developing is an eco-system of innovation, support, mentorship along with spaces to house these activities, including new innovation hubs near the Homewood campus and in East Baltimore. Much of this activity is being conducted by Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures under the leadership of Christy Wyskiel, Senior Advisor.
The 2017 Ralph S. O'Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund Cohort
Several months ago, I was invited to a lunch with eight undergraduate and graduate students and the advisers on JHU Staff (not professors but advisor/mentors). The students represented included biomedical engineering majors from Engineering, computer science and sociology majors from Arts & Sciences and a Global MBA Student from the Carey Business School. Their experience includes development of on-line tools to connect medical professionals and patients in the delivery of physical therapy services, programs that provide security for enterprise mobile apps and mobile platforms for social entrepreneurship endeavors. They participate in (and have organized) programs like the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund and organizations like the Johns Hopkins Private Equity and Venture Capital Club, the Social Innovation Lab (which supports non-profit and mission driven for-profit social impact teams) and others.
These students represent a growing trend across many JHU divisions, including medicine, public health, business, engineering and others interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. More importantly from a Johns Hopkins Alumni Association (JHAA) perspective, these programs and organizations are actively supported by Johns Hopkins alumni in a variety of ways. Alumni are working with entrepreneurs as strategic and technical mentors, as well as investment and funding partners. This includes a variety of interested alumni working in a variety of related fields and capacities.
For example, Ralph S. O’Connor (A&S ’51) established the fund that bears his name in 2014 to provide financial support and mentorship to undergraduate entrepreneurs. An anonymous JHU alumnus has established the JHU Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Award so that each summer, a select student startup could receive funding to build on the momentum it established during the school year. A recent A&S grad, Paul Grossinger (A&S ’11), has organized the Blue Jay Syndicate which brings together alumni of varying ages and different backgrounds and expertise to evaluate companies formed by alumni, faculty and others with a JHU connection for angel or first round venture financing and mentorship.
Additionally, a robust and growing affinity group focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation in the San Francisco Bay Area is operating with the JHAA’s support, and the JHAA is facilitating the development of a similar type of affinity group on the East Coast encompassing alumni from Boston to New York to the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia areas (including D.C.).
These are but a few of the types of collaborations to support entrepreneurship and innovation involving different elements of the Johns Hopkins University community, including alumni. If you are interested in participating or learning more, please contact Elena Thompson, Sr. Associate Director of Affinity Engagement, Office of Alumni Relations.
David P. Yaffe, A&S '74
Alumni Council President
Did You Know?
January 12, 2017
Mentionings of "Goings-on" at JHU Worthy of Alumni Notice
No matter which JHU division you attended (or more than one), registration and other encounters with student services
may not be among your fondest memories. Stories are legion about the trips between schools required for students to cross-register for classes in different divisions.
Well, JHU is taking significant steps to eliminate those "character building" bureaucratic irritations and thereby improve and, indeed, streamline the student experience. For the last year, the University has commissioned an initiative, called the Student Services Excellence Initiative (referenced officially and colloquially as "SSEI"). This initiative includes task forces of University personnel in areas such as registration, career services, financial aid, and admissions, among others, to identify the inconsistencies among the different JHU Schools and to standardize those areas that are not uniquely idiosyncratic due to an individual school's mission. The task forces are coordinated by outside consultants with clear areas of expertise and minimal overlap to both provide expertise and facilitation skills. The SSEI initiative has identified several areas ripe for standardization, not the least of which are academic calendars and registration, and is studying the technology platforms needed to implement the changes and make processes transparent to students for their use. SSEI also has published a five year schedule for progress in each appropriate area.
This initiative has been co-chaired by Kevin Schollenberger, vice provost for student affairs, and Roy Ziegelstein, vice dean for education at the School of Medicine. Professor James Aumiller from the Whiting School of Engineering has been named director of the SSEI initiative, a half time position for him. This University that constantly strives for excellence is turning that focus to reducing the obstacles that students in all divisions encounter unnecessarily in their pursuit of knowledge and skills. Alumni should be supportive.
I encourage you to reach out to me with your questions and concerns as alumni at JHAA_President@jhu.edu or through Twitter (@JHAA_President) or Facebook.
All the best,