Veena McCoole

  • Bringing A Diversity of Experiences to Yale Athletics: A Profile of New Athletic Director Vicky Chun

    In July, Victoria ("Vicky") Chun will depart her post of six years as Vice President and Director of Athletics at Colgate University to lead Yale Athletics as Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation. Chun is the first female Asian-American to serve as an athletic director in NCAA Division I history, and the fifth female athletic director in the Ivy League. In her new capacity, Chun will oversee 35 varsity sports teams as well as intramural and club sports and facilities enjoyed by many members of the Yale community.

    As Yale's first new athletic director in 24 years, Chun steps into a role long held by Tom Beckett, who is retiring this year. Her rich diversity of experiences include sports administration in the NCAA, national committees, volleyball coaching at Colgate, and conference championships won as both a player and a coach.

    Chun's commitment to academics aligns well with Yale's institutional values. Under Chun’s leadership, for the first time ever, the student-athletes at Colgate outperformed non-athlete students academically in 2016, boasting a higher grade-point average. Chun believes that a powerful combination of academics and athletics can bring together the whole university.

    Although Yale has ten more varsity athletic teams than Colgate, Chun notes similarities between the two institutions. "In terms of recruiting, we are always looking for the same student-athlete," she said. "The sheer size is a difference, but the core values of integrity and succeeding at the Division I level are the same." Chun said she is excited to work with the larger number of student-athletes of Yale's academic and athletic calibre and benefit from the "larger outreach" afforded by Yale's reputation. 

    Chun attributes both her previous successes at Colgate as well as her future hopes for Yale to her leadership as a woman. While gender parity in the realm of collegiate athletic leadership has improved over time, Chun remains in the minority of female leaders in sport. Yet the incoming athletic director sees this as an advantage. "I think there is an inherent trust for a woman leader, because as a woman, you tend to be in tune with where people are coming from without them having to say it," she said. Chun says she felt that her leadership as a woman created more trust among athletes, coaches, administration, and faculty, "through transparency and a lot of communication."

    At Yale, Chun hopes to foster not only a winning athletic program but also one that is healthy and positive from the inside. "I love the external work that comes with being a director of athletics, but my heart is about making sure that the internal is set," she said. "I want people to be happy at Yale and want to work hard for Yale." Chun says she looks forward to meeting with students, staff, faculty, and coaches to hear their opinions on what can be improved. "Tom Beckett has done a wonderful job at Yale for more than 20 years, and I would like to see what he thinks could improve because he has been there," she said. Beyond engaging with the athletic community upon her arrival, Chun hopes to lead Yale's athletic teams to more wins and increase engagement with the surrounding community of New Haven. "I hope I'm able to take the success I was able to achieve at Colgate and bring it to Yale," she said.

    In the past, Chun has only coached women's teams, and she mentioned that she has received comments about having never coached a men's team. Despite this, she believes athletes in general want to win and all need an environment conducive to their success. "My job is to give them, male or female, that opportunity." Chun also mentioned the importance of thorough preparation as a leader representing an esteemed institution. "My preparation for everything is thrice normal because it's one thing to let myself down, but I really can't let Yale – and women in athletics – down," she said, adding that the pressure she faces makes her a better leader.

    "The ultimate goal is to create leaders for society, and when I look at what the Yale men and women are able to do globally, it is incredible," she said. "Being a part of mentoring them and giving them a great experience at Yale so they go out into the world and make great changes is an opportunity that only comes at a place like Yale. I see it as an opportunity of a lifetime."

    - Veena McCoole 19

  • published Where Will You Be on Saturday, May 12th? in Blog 2018-03-31 06:37:00 -0500

    Where Will You Be on Saturday, May 12th?

    At the intersection of Nathan Hale’s declaration, “I wish to be useful” (inscribed in the Memorial Quadrangle) and one of YaleWomen’s areas of focus, Contributing to Society, is Yale Day of Service – this year, celebrating the 10th anniversary of bringing alums across clubs, classes, Graduate & Professional School associations and SIGs, including YaleWomen, together in service to their local communities.

    YaleWomen, especially through our chapters around the world, has a distinctive opportunity to bring alums, families, and friends together, by sponsoring and/or participating in project sites, particularly those that focus on women and children. 

    Elvira Duran ’05, co-chair of this year’s Day of Service and a former YaleWomen Council member, notes that while May 12th is the official 2018 Day of Service date, “Service is needed in our communities and is given by Yale alums in so many ways year-round. This year we strive to achieve our goal of having at least one service site in all 50 states. Can Yale women alums who live in or know alums who live in Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota help make this possible?”

    The Day of Service website offers a wealth of information, from Ways to Participate, to the Organizer’s Toolboxsubmitting a Service Site, Finding a Service Site and much more!

    Do you know that Yale was the first American university to inscribe service to society explicitly in its founding legislation? Day of Service is one of Yale’s compelling pride points! Let’s help make this 10th anniversary an extraordinary one!

    Pictured above, Elvira Duran

  • Blazing the Trail: First Gen Alums and Students Celebrate Their Shared Experiences


    Several years ago, many years after I earned my MBA (then the MPPM) at SOM and a career in investment banking, I made a major career transition to become a school and mental health counselor. My coursework and internship broadened the lens on some of the work I was doing with the AYA Board of Governors to engage alums and current students, in particular, the importance of the sense of belonging in a new academic and social community of college. For first generation and underserved students, the lack of exposure to and knowledge about navigating the way through the college experience, and then life after college, may make the concern about belonging more pronounced.

    I wanted to support Yale’s first gen students and enhance their college experiences by connecting them with alums who could share the stories of their own experiences and provide insights and support by drawing from these experiences. Magda Vergara ’82, my friend and colleague on the AYA Board of Governors (and a founding YaleWomen Council member), shared my passion, and we worked together to make this vision a reality. The outcome: 1stGenYale, a Shared Identity Group (SIG) launched in 2016, which since then has hosted a variety of opportunities for first gen students and alums to come together. (Do you know that 16.6% of first-year students at Yale College – the Class of 2021 – self-identify as first gen?)  

    Join students, alums, and faculty to “Connect. Share. Support.” at our inaugural conference, Blazing the Trail: Being the First, April 13-15, 2018, at Yale. Keynote speakers include Marta Moret ’84 MPH, president of Urban Policy Strategies, a New Haven-based consulting firm that conducts research and assessment in public health, Peggy Kuo ’85, magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York, and David A. Thomas ’78, ’86 PhD, president of Morehouse College.

    We are especially proud of this outcome: net proceeds from the conference will be invested in the Yale College Dean’s Student Assistance Fund to provide for urgent or emergency needs, including such things as purchasing a winter coat, meals when the dining halls are closed, or a plane ticket home for a family emergency. 

    In the words of a Yale woman alum from the Class of 2016: "Being a first generation student was a significant part of my identity at Yale. Over the course of my time in college, this aspect of my identity went from something I was not proud of to something I actively engaged in. Being a part of this new first-gen alum community has allowed me to further open up and engage and understand this part my college experience. I am so humbled to be a part of the inaugural efforts to strengthen this segment of the alum community!"

    Please do not hesitate to contact us at if you have any questions or need additional information.

    Lise Pfeiffer Chapman ’81 MBA is the immediate past chair of the AYA Board of Governors.

    Pictured, from left to right: Lise Pfeiffer Chapman and Magda Vergara

  • Whence Came Yale Women’s Leadership Initiative

    Origin stories are like myths. They are probably true at their core, but the details become fuzzy and sometimes unbelievable, as they are told over and over again. Experts say that one’s memories actually change every time one retells them. The following founding story of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Yale is a true memory - one that has been recalled and retold many times, because of the beauty of what came later. 

    In the spring of 2006, Allison Pickens woke up in the middle of the night in her dorm room in Swing Space and scribbled a bunch of thoughts on post-it notes that she stuck to her desk. For months, she’d been imagining a campus organization that empowered women leaders. She often found herself lonely, as one of the only women in her classes and clubs, which typically focused on debate. Having attended an all-girls school for middle and high school, she had belonged to a different world, in which women ran all the school organizations and didn’t hesitate to participate loudly in class. She wanted to build a new environment at Yale. But it was hard to know who to talk to about it and where to start. 

    Later that semester she went to lunch with her friend and FOOT companion Tamara Micner. Tamara was Editor of the Herald, and she excitedly mentioned a story she was working on with author Alexandra Suich, who was also a journalist at the Globalist. Alexandra was writing about the challenges that women faced in attaining leadership roles in campus clubs and student government. Allison read the article and knew she had found kindred spirits. Suddenly an idea that had felt unattainable entered the realm of possibility, as she realized the prospect of working with a team of women who had similarly believed that the Yale community needed to change. 

    Marissa Brittenham was Vice President at Yale College Council, and someone whom Allison had always admired as a member of YCC. After a student government meeting, Allison approached Marissa and Rebecca Taber (who later became the first woman YCC President in 7 years) and shared an idea to start an initiative that fostered women’s leadership on campus. 

    Soon after, the five women sat together on the lawn in Berkeley College and mapped out the vision and charter for what became the Women’s Leadership Initiative. Never would they have imagined that 12 years later, after the founding story had long been forgotten, the organization would still be thriving. 

    -- Allison Pickens ’07.  After graduating from Yale College in 2007 with a BA in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, Allison Pickens, the founding president of YWLI, earned her MBA at Stanford University School of Business.  She is the Chief Customer Service Officer at Gainsight in San Francisco.

    Haleigh Larson followed in Allison’s footsteps, serving as YWLI’s President in 2017.  Haleigh will graduate from Yale College in May.  She will take a gap year before entering an MD/PhD program in order to focus on refining her interests in genetics and aging research, as well as pursuing an interest in science and health policy writing. Longer term, she plans to work in clinical genetics, hopefully helping to lighten the burden of Mendelian disorders and devising novel ways to do so, while contributing to the resolution of the complicated genetic tech legal bundle coming down the pipeline. She reflected on how her YWLI experience has shaped her life.

    While walking out of the 7th annual YWLI conference as a first year in the spring of 2015, I chatted about the unique value women add to a medical team with an inspiring physician, and mother of a wonderful young woman who would later serve as one of WLI’s Vice Presidents during my term. During that day I listened to women from myriad disciplines and a variety of ages speak about making mid-career U-turns, double minority leadership and balancing life as medical professional. Not long after walking back to my room, I wrote an email to the WLI board asking how I could get involved planning next year’s conference. Fast-forward one year, and alongside an incredible team, I helped organize WLI’s largest conference to date. 

    Apart from the wonderful relationships and career guidance, WLI’s open discussions on what being a woman and a leader really means attracted me. I knew that I had a minority point of view on the topic – to me, being a leader didn’t necessarily entail running a Fortune 500 company or being some type of Wall Street CEO, but was more of a combination of traditional leadership, character and personal development that encourages and positively influences the development of those around you. 

    More than anything, I was motivated by WLI’s tradition of empowering young women to become leaders both here at the University and wherever their ambition and dedication take them. Our world is tumultuous, or rapidly changing to say the least, and discussions about women, women’s rights, women’s leadership, etc. are happening every day. In the midst of all this, it was difficult to define exactly what I wanted our focus to be during my year as President. Providing outstanding networking opportunities, mentoring relationships, and inviting inspiring speakers to help our fellow undergraduates achieve their ambitions was a no-brainer. But above all this I wanted to emphasize the ethic of a woman who finds strength from developing her principles and herself.  My time at Yale helped me realize that it is one thing to take advantage of a bevy of opportunities, but using those resources to help inspire an individual vision, develop your own initiative, and share that with others was something completely different.  Inspiring Yale’s undergraduate women to develop their resourcefulness and personal vision, with the support of our shared fundamental mission, was something I actively worked to encourage.

    --Haleigh Larson ’18

    Haleigh Larson ’18 and Allison Pickens ’07 contributed to this article. 

    Pictured, from left to right: Kate Walsh '77 and '79 MPH, Eve Rice '73, Ming Min Hui '10 and Lynn Oberlander '87

  • All Yale’s Treasures Will Be Yours Once Again! Yale for Life

    On March 10th, Kathy Edersheim 87, founding YaleWomen Council member, posted on YaleWomen’s Facebook page: “Check out the fabulous opportunity to join a week-long, intensely-educational, delightfully-social and possibly life-changing educational program at Yale this summer, Yale for Life. Yale for Life is the only alum education opportunity to be a true Yale student once again: living with alums in the undergraduate dorms (they're better than you remember!); taking thought-provoking and highly-participatory discussion seminar classes back in good old Linsly-Chit (with its lovely Old Campus views) with Yale's finest and most-engaging professors; and studying, communing, and socializing with many other "alum scholars." For more information and to register, click here.

@yalewomen/@YEItweets digital media, @yaledailynews reporter, Sevenoaks/UWCSEA alumna, former @BoF intern, KAΘ & granola enthusiast. hmu: