Kristin Urquiza Named YANA Executive Director

We are thrilled to announce that the YANA Board unanimously approved the hiring of Kristin Urquiza ’03 as YANA’s next Executive Director. With more than 20 years of experience as a nonprofit professional, Kristin has achieved groundbreaking policy victories for people and the planet. Notable accomplishments include establishing Baby Bonds in California and contributing to the passage of European Union trade laws to protect Indigenous forest peoples and Nature by ensuring consumer product supply chains are free from deforestation.

At the height of the pandemic, Kristin co-founded Marked By Covid, a volunteer-led survivor movement working to prevent future pandemics, increase funding for Long Covid research, and establish a National Covid Memorial. Her work has been featured across the major media including the New York Times, Washington Post, Scientific American, Rolling Stone, MSNBC, CNN, and BBC. In 2020, she was a guest speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

In addition to her BA from Yale, Kristin earned an MPA in Public Policy at Berkeley.  On a personal note, she is the first person in her family to attend college and is the proud granddaughter of migrant and immigrant farmworkers from Oklahoma and Mexico. She lives in San Francisco with her partner, Christine, and in her spare time enjoys walking in Golden Gate Park with her beloved rescue dog, Blaze.

Kristin can be reached at — please feel free reach out to her with a warm YANA welcome! 

A Note from Kristin: 

YANA plays such a critical role in the Yale ecosystem by connecting social entrepreneurs across generations to scale our impact. This became clear to me after attending the Annual Conference and Gala last year, where I told my family after coming home, “I found my Yale people.” Little did I know then that the opportunity would arise to apply for—and be offered—the role of Executive Director.

I couldn’t be more excited to deepen my relationship with YANA and with the broader Yale community. It’s no secret that we’re facing big issues as a global community, and the world needs us now more than ever. As I step into this role, I’m thinking about how to help you, and in turn, us, be ready to continue to address those challenges. A great chance to connect will be at the upcoming conference and luncheon in New York on October 25. I’ll be there and eager to hear from you!

Many Thanks to Lisa Rieger!

We also express our deepest gratitude to Interim Director, Lisa Rieger ’79 for her exceptional leadership of YANA over the past seven months. Lisa has had a powerful impact on the organization, including expanding the YANA-Dwight Hall Fellowship program to eight fellows this year, leading the YANA chapters, and fostering thoughtful and insightful participation on the Executive Director Search Committee. Her contributions have left an indelible mark. Thank you, Lisa!


Live from NYC

YANA Town Halls provide an ideal opportunity for mission-driven alums to meet each other and exchange ideas and information to help achieve social impact. These events occur live at the Yale Club in New York City AND are accessible via Zoom. Join us from anywhere! 

If attending in person, join us after the program in the Main Lounge to convene and connect over cocktails. You don’t need to be a member of the Yale Club to join us! 

Register now for these upcoming events:

Town Hall – YANA Board Matching Night

July 31 | 6:30pm ET – In-Person (Yale Club of NYC) & via Zoom

Speed dating for nonprofit organizations and prospective Board members! YANA will host its first-ever LIVE Board Matching Night, featuring six Yale-connected nonprofits from YANA’s global network, each making a brief sales pitch for new board members.The missions of these six nonprofits cover one or more of the following areas — youth empowerment, advancement of girls and women, and equitable healthcare. The organizations are based in Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, San Francisco, and Capetown, South Africa and all of them welcome both in-person and remote board members.

Whether you’re looking to join a nonprofit board or simply want to learn more about the compelling work of six amazing social impact organizations, please come by the Yale Club in person or join us virtually — you’ll be sure to leave feeling informed and inspired! 

The event will be moderated by Samantha Heffner ’02, a certified nonprofit board strategist and longtime friend of YANA’s. Contact information will be shared for individuals interested in applying to the boards presented. Though YANA will not be involved in specific board matching, we will connect those interested in applying to the boards presenting.  

The Climate Crisis: Local and Urban Solutions to a Global Challenge

Aug 28 | 6:30pm ET – In-Person (Yale Club of NYC) & via Zoom

Cities currently hold over 50% of the global population, a number projected to rise to 70% by 2050. Two environmental experts discuss the importance of local and urban solutions to climate change.

Peter Boyd is a lecturer at Yale SOM and School of the Environment, as well as a member of the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, the world’s largest coalition of non-state actors taking immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030. 

Sarah Charlop-Powers ’09 MEM is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Natural Areas Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to managing New York City’s 20,000 acres of forests and wetlands. 

Save the Date –Friday, October 25– for two exceptional events!

Join us at the Yale Club in NYC for our second annual Social Impact Conference, Magnifying Your Mission, and our Generation to Generation Awards Luncheon, a fundraising celebration recognizing inspiring lives of impact.

This year we will honor three notable change makers:

Hilary Pennington ‘77, SOM ’83

Hilary Pennington ‘77, SOM ’83

Executive Vice President of Global Programs, Ford Foundation

Demetris Giannoulias ’94

Demetris Giannoulias ’94

CEO, Spring Bank, NY

Caroline Tanbee Smith ’14

Caroline Tanbee Smith ’14

Co-Founder of Collab; Alderman, City of New Haven

Save the Date! It will be a day filled with educational insights, inspiration, and networking with speakers and Yale alumni working towards positive transformation across a wide spectrum of social enterprise initiatives. More details to follow.


YANA Launches New Mentoring Program for Nonprofit Organizations

We now have a new way for Yale alumni and nonprofits to thrive in their social impact missions. Through a facilitated matching process, alumni provide strategic guidance and pro bono mentoring to small, Yalie-led nonprofits around the country who face funding, governance, and operational issues.

This is an amazing chance to build relationships and create community through meaningful engagement!

Bring your professional skills and life experiences to help alumni-affiliated nonprofits!

Whether you have nonprofit experience or not, nonprofits need your help!

Any nonprofit seeking help is welcome to apply!

To learn more visit the webpage and join us via Zoom on Thursday, July 18th at 12:00pm ET for a more detailed discussion about the Mentoring Program, and ways YOU can get involved!

Changing Narratives: David McCullough III ‘17 Discusses American Exchange Project’s Pilot Program and Longterm Vision [Part II]

“You can present a concept, you can show that it has quality, but unless your operations are scalable, you’re not going to get there,” explained American Exchange Project Co-Founder David McCullough III ‘17 at YANA’s June Town Hall meeting. The “there” in this case is uniting a divided nation through weeklong domestic exchange programs between high school graduates of radically different backgrounds. The admittedly ambitious goal of the program founded just five years ago, on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic, is for a million American teens to participate in AEP exchanges by 2034.


The aims of AEP are heady (some might say unrealistic), but the idea that sustained, one-on-one interaction between ideologically and culturally different people can overcome toxic polarization is hardly new.  The American Foreign Service (AFS), the Fulbright Foundation, and the Peace Corps grew out of the same belief in the power of unlikely friendship. After WWII, teens along the ambulance corridor at the German border began to fraternize. Today, the EU spends four billion dollars to fund free exchanges. Senator Fulbright considered the program that bears his name his proudest accomplishment. 

AEP took shape after McCullough returned from his 2016 road trip, which the Andover, Yale, and Cambridge graduate calls the “most profound educational experience of [his] life.”  Explaining the concept to his supportive but initially puzzled parents, he moved home after Yale graduation and “called that world headquarters for three years.” 

After a limited online experiment during the pandemic, when travel was forbidden, AEP piloted the first exchange in 2021 with 20 students, with 11 students from Palo Alto, CA and Wellesley, MA traveling to Kilgore, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. The following week, nine students from the South visited the coasts. The Boston Globe heard of the program and featured the students on the front page. 

After the Southern kids toured Wellesley high school, “the Maserati of public schools” with metal arts and pottery studios, Emerson quotations on the walls, progressive flags that would never, pardon the expression, fly in their Southern schools, and portions of the old library grafted onto the new “to preserve a sense of history”, they began to cry.

The Wellesley kids’ giddiness about their new friends’ visit vanished. They understood instantly the source of the tears: “they got this and we got what we got.” Instead of animosity about “the privileges some enjoy and others do not,” there was empathy. The Southern kids, moved by their friend’s compassion, said, “We just heard from your principal that you didn’t pick to be born here.” Even more striking, they conceded that their high school was to others in their city what Wellesley was to them and it made them wonder what they could do to help the students even less privileged.

The pilot exchange coincided with a controversy in Wellesley over the football team, which plays on Saturdays because the homeowners object to Friday night lights. Baffled, the Kilgore kids asked, “Don’t the parents support the team? Don’t they care about the town?” Their counterparts explained that they do, but that Wellesley parents (like those in the wealthiest Westchester County towns) move away after the last child in the family leaves for college. It was as unimaginable to the Kilgore kids that parents would prioritize their own convenience and comfort over the team’s needs as it was that families would move to the Cape or Boston after one generation.  “We’re never going to be able to talk about politics,” McCullough insists, “until we understand these dynamics.” 

Three weeks into the summer of 2024, there were 500 students traveling on exchanges to 63 cities and towns. With 100 on the payroll and 63 exchange partners, AEP is pausing growth to assemble an A team of advisors, including Lt. Col M.F. Wilonsky, current COO for AEP. “If he can get 10,000 Marines in and out of Afghanistan, he should be able to get kids from Kentucky to California!”  McCullough laughed.

For AEP to become a fixture of life for American high school graduates, it’s essential to provide potential funders (in and out of government) with concrete data that these exchanges have both quantitative impact. That’s where former Davenport Dean Ryan Brasseaux and professor of American Studies at Yale comes in. Brasseaux will be splitting time between Yale and AEP, which is partnering with Harvard, to document the AEP experience, both immediately following the exchange, and over time. The findings have been encouraging, particularly the tolerance for the “disagreeing other.” When students enter AEP, they have little faith in their fellow Americans and next to no optimism about America’s future. After the trip, the positive answers to these questions went way up. When students get some space from “their tribe,” their bias toward the “disagreeing other” goes way down, while their bias toward their own tribe increases.

According to Brasseaux, “It’s not so much that kids have a strong negative view of the other but that they have no view at all.” The example of a student from the Bronx who visited Gloucester, Massachusetts was as revealing as it was amusing. “So how was [the trip]?” “Great!” the boy reported. When asked what made it great, he said, “There were people… I didn’t know there would be people. I thought there would just be trees.”  In an improbable parallel to Saul Steinberg, the Bronx boy believed that America was basically New York and some cities in Southern Connecticut and the rest just trees.

The evidence indicates that AEP exchanges help people treat others not as groups but as individuals. “When a young adult sees Wyoming or Republican on the news,” they have a personal association with the otherwise foreign, unknown entity or place. Too, when students get out of their bubble, they begin to realize and articulate the pressure they feel to conform to every single belief of their tribe. This “we/them” certainty entrenches the toxic polarization AEP seeks to mitigate, if not eliminate.  American adults have lost the ability to “agree to disagree.” Teens may be the way back to a time when people of different political views married one another (that figure was 40% in the 1960s and just 4% today).

Stay tuned for the final of YANA’s three-part series about American Exchange Project and what McCullough and Brasseaux see as one of the biggest obstacles to their work (the smartphone) as well as the economic research by Harvard’s Raj Chetty about how programs like AEP can help spur economic growth.


Meet the YANA-Dwight Hall Fellows

Thanks to your generosity, we are funding eight YANA-Dwight Hall Fellows this summer! These Yale students will gain valuable career experiences while assisting eight nonprofit organizations in the U.S.

Meet two of our fellows, and stay tuned for the rest in future issues!
Merit Onyekwere ’26

Merit Onyekwere ’26

SalivaDirect, Yale School of Public Health (New Haven, CT)

Emma Polinsky ’25

Emma Polinsky ’25

Climate Program Office, NOAA (Silver Spring, MD)

Merit Onyekwere ‘26 is an intern with the Yale School of Public Health’s SalivaDirect initiative, which seeks to improve national and international responses to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases through salivary diagnostics. SalivaDirectTM is committed to ensuring the broadest access to affordable and equitable COVID-19 testing in communities where the need is greatest by creating collaborative relationships with community leaders and organizations. This project offers an exciting opportunity to develop a wide range of microbiological skills in a research laboratory. The work will involve processing clinical saliva samples that are known to be positive or negative for Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). The goal of this project is to increase the accessibility of salivary diagnostic testing as a cost-effective, non-invasive mechanism for maintaining community and individual health.

Along with her extensive work in the lab, Merit will be advocating for the implementation of SalivaDirect testing at healthcare facilities around the state: “Bolstering saliva research allows us to bridge the gap between scientific technologies and real-world implementation, a crucial aspect of public health praxis.”

Emma Polinsky ‘25 is interning at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Climate Program Office in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her work falls broadly under the rubric of climate communications and includes NOAA press releases, research for articles, Capital Hill strategy documents, and state climate fact sheets.  She will also be involved with the Climate Education Program’s near-term priority actions and climate-ready workforce program.  Her work at NOAA, facilitated by a YANA internship, will provide an outstanding foundation for her future work in the field of climate change.