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Harvard Alumni Association Hosts Leadership Conference for Volunteer Training

The Harvard Alumni Association hosted alumni for a conference last week.
The Harvard Alumni Association hosted alumni for a conference last week. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Alex Chou and Ayumi Nagatomi, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 150 Harvard alumni from around the world attended an array of presentations and networking sessions at the annual Alumni Leadership Conference held last Thursday and Friday.

The conference, organized each year by the Harvard Alumni Association, provides attendees the opportunity to connect with leaders from HAA clubs and participate in training sessions on community impact and engagement. This year’s conference, which mostly took place at several Harvard Graduate School of Education halls and the Charles Hotel, was the second in-person iteration of the event since the pandemic.

“The objective is: one, networking; two, cross leverage of ideas; and three, collaboration with other clubs,” said Nuala Walsh, the Harvard Club of Ireland president, who attended the conference.

The two-day conference included presentations by alumni speakers and Shared Interest Group on topics such as volunteer development, partnership building, and event marketing.

Attendees lauded the conference for helping HAA organizations with alumni engagement and recruitment.

Tom L. Osborn ’20, the Harvard Club of Kenya president, said the event allows him to meet informal mentors who he “can reach out to and get advice from.”

The Harvard Club of Kenya, according to Osborn, is “still really young when it comes to building the community and setting up in place the infrastructure to allow for the long term sustainability of the club.”

According to Harvard Club of Toronto president Wendy A. Feldman, many HAA organizations face challenges in engaging their members and recruiting young alumni.

“In almost every not-for-profit, you’re looking at the decline of volunteerism,” said Feldman. “It’s people who are early on in their careers — are really, really busy — who don’t have the hours to spend with volunteer outreach programs.”

To help address these challenges, participants learned about execution of “programming that appeals to people who are 20 and 30, up to 40,” during the conference, Feldman said.

HAA organization leaders also discussed strategies for maintaining the financial health of Harvard clubs at the conference.

“We had very interesting topics around whether the members would pay dues and funds, which I think was particularly interesting — to hear from all of the different clubs and all of the different ways that they were able to survive and thrive without actually charging members,” Walsh said.

During the conference, Walsh said Harvard club presidents also voiced concerns over how the clubs should address international crises, following the debate over Harvard affiliates’ responses to the Islamist militant group Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel.

“The question was asked: should there be a common policy as to whether presidents should speak or not?” Walsh said.

The conference concluded with a reception and seated dinner Friday evening.

“These events, the best thing is always connecting with people from around the world over coffee, or over a meal, or drinks late into the night,” Feldman said.

—Staff writer Alex Chou can be reached at alex.chou@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Ayumi Nagatomi can be reached at ayumi.nagatomi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @ayumi_nagatomi.

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