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Connected & Engaged

Nancy Alexander

When Nancy Alexander '79 B.A., '84 helps students and residents of New Haven contribute their time and energy to filling real needs in their shared community, she leads with a strong belief in our collective capacity to agree on paths forward.

Born into a theater and film family, Nancy Alexander learned early on that the pathway to business success—and life in general—crosses the land of empathy AND cross-cultural understanding.

Nancy is a Yale SOM graduate from the class of 1984, and an organizational development consultant and coach. She came back to New Haven to earn her business degree because she believed in the commitment of the school to “educate leaders for business and society.” This was her second academic experience in Connecticut, because a few years earlier she had also graduated from Yale College with a BA in Sociology. Then, she is a “double blue,” as some members of our community describe her, owing to her two degrees from our liberal arts school and research university in New Haven. 

But her affiliations to Yale and Yale SOM are not the only connections she cherishes, as someone imported from the public schools and subways of New York. “Many of my fondest memories,” Nancy shares, “are about exploring New Haven and the surrounding area with my college roommate, who showed me Hamden and Sleeping Giant, Westville, and Guilford. Later I loved to pick up a loaf of bread or a chocolate croissant outside of Atticus and Book Trader Cafe after they closed, or take a walk under the city’s magnificent canopy of trees.” She continues, “It felt like I had university life AND a real life in New Haven.”

Her capacity to explore and belong at the same time surely led to our connection a few years back as I was looking for Yale alumni to mentor our entrepreneurial students at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. Her life experiences and knowledge were what we needed to support many of our students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines who were seeking innovative ways to solve real-world problems. 

Her connections to the City of New Haven, for example, as board chair of Long Wharf Theatre, as a member of the Connecticut Arts Alliance, or as a founding member, and chair, of the Community Fund for Women & Girls, spoke volumes about the support she could provide to students looking to bridge their realities at Yale and the needs of the larger community.

But she also demonstrated her commitment to keep Yale connected with itself at key moments of its history, for example, through her work as an alumna supporter of the Women Faculty Forum, as co-founder of YaleWomen, and as a board member of Dwight Hall at Yale, where she served for eight continuous years helping Yale students address the root causes and effects of inequity and “put legs under their desire to make things better.”

So in the midst of this pandemic, I went ahead and facilitated an introduction to Georgia Hirsty ’22, who is an entrepreneurial student and changemaker focused on developing equitable and high-performing teams through her DEI consulting venture called Frailty Myths. And their engagement couldn’t have been much better!

This is what Georgia shared about her engagement with Nancy: “Her expertise in the same field that we are in has provided invaluable insight around understanding the industry and how to navigate it best. She has given us great perspective on what clients would likely be looking for and how to better frame our problem statement. This has included practicing our pitch with her and receiving very helpful feedback on our presentation, our slide deck, and our follow-up plans. She has been a very helpful sounding board as we work through challenging issues while providing a great deal of perspective and by asking really great questions.” 

The connection between Frailty Myths and Nancy is still ongoing and has long outlasted its assigned mentorship period.

During a recent announcement of a new collaboration between Yale University and the City of New Haven, Dean Kerwin Charles shared that “Yale’s thriving is tied up with New Haven’s success.” It is also with the help of many SOM alumni like Nancy Alexander, Justin Elicker, and others, who align their connections AND engagement on top of their rigorous academic training at Yale, that we can make this vision more real every day, even if sometimes it feels that we have just begun climbing another 14,000-foot mountain or running another marathon. 

But Nancy —whose name means “grace, helper of mankind”—has climbed seven of these mountains and completed two marathons! So, onwards we go for Business AND Society.

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How has your SOM experience aligned with your vision of life? Would you be willing to mentor a Yale SOM student? If you are interested in sharing your story with our community or in mentoring current Yale SOM students, please contact the Alumni Advisory Board at ysomaab@gmail.com.