Meet the new Director of LSE Advancement

Chris Yates started as the new Director of LSE Advancement this September. (This includes oversight of alumni relations.) We asked him to answer a few questions about his new role.

Chris Yates started as the new Director of LSE Advancement this September.  LSE Advancement was formerly called the Office of Development and Alumni Relations (ODAR for short).  The AFLSE board was delighted to have Chris participate in its recent board meeting, where he shared developments at the School and learned more about the AFLSE.

Over the past 25 years, Chris has worked with and led development and advancement teams at the University of Southern California, Stanford University and Caltech. He is a frequent speaker on topics relating to charitable gift planning and has a long record of service to the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (formerly the National Committee on Planned Giving), having served two terms as a board member and as president.

We asked him to answer a few questions about his new role at LSE.  Here are his responses:

What excites you most about your new position?

Firstly, the opportunity to join an institution at the forefront of the social sciences, with its associated standing and history. I have absolutely no doubt that effective teaching and research in the social sciences is going to help solve some of the most pressing and complex challenges in this century – so where better to work than a world leader in the field?

Secondly I am extremely eager to start interacting with our global and exceptionally talented alumni base. LSE alumni tend not just to be successful, but also remain intellectually engaged, always open to enhancing their understanding of the world. I certainly aim to ensure that we are the ones that enable that enhanced understanding.

Finally leading the Advancement operation specifically is an exciting challenge. The School’s leadership has identified a strategic vision in which an outstanding Advancement operation must form a key pillar. It is up to me to help the School realize that vision – and a key aspect will be broadening and enhancing ways in which we engage with alumni. 

How does your role compare to your previous roles at U.S. universities? 

This role is by far my most comprehensive and exciting. It is the first time I have led an entire Advancement operation and had oversight for alumni relations. And furthermore, the work I conducted with alumni and friends at US institutions was mostly located within its borders. Here we have a much more global set of constituents – tapping into that wide range of experience, discourse and talent is of great appeal to me.

And, as I mentioned, the focus on social sciences is fairly new to me – while there is perhaps some analogy with Caltech’s focus on the natural sciences and technology in that regard, it is a very different proposition than USC and Stanford.

Do you think your job is more difficult at LSE?

Well there’s certainly a heightened sense of responsibility for me with regards to results and leadership. And we have a long way to go to match many of the measures that define success at our peer institutions and in the US. However I would certainly prefer to look at it as a more broadened challenge rather than a more difficult job, and I think we are already putting into place a number of new approaches that will allow us to make good, even rapid, progress.

In some ways the context of working here at the School and here in the UK does perhaps make certain things more challenging, but I think in other ways it is easier. For example, there is said to be a culture here in the UK of being more hesitant about the idea of fundraising, and I do think it is important that we enhance understanding of our alumni about how the School is financed so they will have a greater appreciation of the case for giving to their alma mater, so that is one such challenge.

But on the other hand, I am at an institution with an incredibly high standard when it comes to research product and dissemination. It is also an institution capable of attracting all manner of wonderful individuals, whether to work, study or deliver a talk. It can surely only make my job easier when the School can attract anyone from Aung San Suu Kyi all the way through to the most talented social science undergraduates in the country to contribute to this incredible center of discourse.

How are LSE alumni different from alumni at U.S. schools? 

I suppose this is something I am going to learn more about fairly quickly! I do of course have some first impressions, such as the fact that here in the UK universities have historically not tended to instill quite the same extent of institutional loyalty which often defines the US experience, whether that be through class affinity, events such as reunions, sports teams or philanthropy. 

In terms of LSE specifically, here we have a very urban campus which perhaps lacks a proper alumni center. Furthermore the global distribution of our alumni means we have to work especially hard to improve our outreach and provide outlets for interaction and communication. But I know across this LSE ‘diaspora’ are many vibrant alumni communities and associations that have a long history of supporting the School and fostering local engagement.

Critically, our alumni are especially motivated intellectually – eager to maintain a connection with the School that enables learning and debate. In this sense, this provides the perfect context for our alumni relations and overall Advancement operations to really cement that sense of loyalty. We have some highly engaged alumni and alumni groups around the world, such as AFLSE.