Cocktails & Conversation: DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION

Featuring Elizabeth Alexander ‘84, Renowned Poet, Author, and Former Chair of Yale’s African American Studies Department


On Feb. 21, YANA hosted an evening at the Yale Club in New York City to serve as the kickoff event following the debut of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force report, which was released in November 2017.

The headlining speaker for “Cocktails and Conversation: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” was Elizabeth Alexander ’84, the renowned poet, author, and former chair of Yale’s African-American Studies Department. Alexander spoke to a standing-room-only audience of more than 200 – and many more who watched the livestream of the event – telling those assembled that “without diverse opinions, you don’t have decisions that are durable.”

“American culture is multi-vocal, and we miss that at our peril,” Alexander continued. “If we don’t listen to the brilliant, diverse voices who are speaking to us in arts and culture, in politics, we won’t understand the country we live in.”

The event also featured remarks from YANA board member Joe DeNicola ’86 ’96 MES; current Yale sophomore Marwan Safar Jalani; and Ken Inadomi ’76, co-chair of the DEI task force, who introduced Alexander.

“What’s the highest purpose of an alumni association?” said Inadomi. “To convey the important values from one generation to the next. And what more important values are there to convey than diversity, equity, and inclusion?” 

Following Inadomi’s introduction, the five-minute video “We Are Yale,” created by Hugo Perez ’93, was shown. “We Are Yale” is available on


  • Some key quotes from the evening:
    • Elizabeth Alexander: Decisions made without diversity of input are not durable.
    • KenChange starts with conversation, and this Report was meant to provoke conversation.
    • KenWhat’s the highest purpose of an alumni association?  To convey the important values from one generation to the next – and what more important values can we convey than diversity, equity and inclusion?
  • The core recommendations of the final report can be summarized as follows:
    • COMMITTING to becoming the leader in DEI, a commitment that starts at the very top, but must permeate down to the individual leaders of SIGs, Boards, Clubs, Committees, etc.
    • ENGAGING young alumni and alumni of color by considering their needs and their optics whenever hosting an event, designing a program, inviting speakers, launching an initiative, etc.
    • BUILDING a leadership pipeline that factors in DEI by keeping a constant eye out for emerging leaders of color and other under-represented populations, and actively cultivating their recruitment and development.
    • BRIDGING across the generations of Yale to harvest the richness of our alumni body – and not overlooking our senior alums who have the time, the resources, and the desire to be meaningfully engaged.
    • MEASURING our DEI progress and impact in an honest and transparent way to help generate the benchmarks needed to identify what we’re doing right and where we need to improve.



Sponsored by The Yale Club of New York City and the Association of Yale Alumni

Co-Hosted by 1stGenYale, Yale Arab Alumni Association, Association of Asian American Yale Alumni, Yale Black Alumni Association, Yale GALA, Yale Jewish Alumni Association, Yale Latino Alumni Association, Native American Yale Alumni, Yale NYC, Yale Women, and the Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance


The Yale Alumni Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was formed in 2016 at the request of the Board of Governors of the Association of Yale Alumni. The task force was given the mission to provide leadership on the development of diversity and inclusion strategies in existing alumni programming, to leverage all forms of diversity to strengthen the alumni network, and to make recommendations for potential new programming and initiatives that might be offered to the Yale alumni community.

Please join us for a special evening as the Task Force presents highlights of their final report, which was delivered to President Salovey in November 2017. Enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres on The Yale Club Rooftop, as we screen a short video featuring Yale alumni and then engage in a facilitated discussion. Elizabeth Alexander ‘84, renowned poet, author, and former chair of Yale’s African American Studies Department will share remarks.



Renowned Poet, Author, and Former Chair of Yale’s African American Studies Department

Elizabeth Alexander is a renowned poet, essayist, playwright, scholar and social justice arts advocate who is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets,  the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and Director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. She previously served as the inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, where she taught for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies Department. In 2009, she composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Her latest book, The Light of the World, was released to great acclaim.