Meet-Up in Los Angeles: New Bridge Alumni Reunion 2023
By Purvi Patel, Raze Baziani, Innokenty Burshteyn, Nicole Jackson, Alyssa Llamas, Roby Mercharles, Anthony Pacheco, Catt Phan, and Laura Vogel
This fall, Atlantik-Brücke’s New Bridge alumni had the chance to come together for the second annual New Bridge Alumni Reunion in sunny Los Angeles. Almost 60 alumni from seven American as well as one German cohort joined in discussions on “Global Challenges and Local Solutions” and left the weekend with a renewed commitment to transatlantic relations and the New Bridge Program itself.
The program was kicked off with a welcome reception at the rooftop of a local brewery that set the stage for old friends and fellows to reconnect and building new connections across cohorts. The group was joined by transatlantic experts who provided another layer of insight and expertise to the gathering: Professor Abraham Lowenthal, President Emeritus of the Pacific Council on International Policy and Founding Director of Inter-American Dialogue, journalists from ARD Los Angeles, including Katharina Wilhelm and Andreas Hain, Dr. Oliver Hartmann, Director of the Thomas Mann House, and John Harpole, Consultant at Spencer Stuart and Atlantik-Brücke Young Leader alumnus from 1999.
The second day started with further introductions. An icebreaker led by New Bridge alumni led the group through a series of activities that encouraged connection across cohorts. The group reflected on similarities and other unique ties to create cohesion and greater camaraderie within this big group of different people. Afterwards, Ambassador Nina Hachigian, Special Representative for City & State Diplomacy for the U.S. Department of State joined the group for a keynote on “Global Challenges and Local Solutions”, moderated by an alumnus. The conversation offered a thorough introduction to subnational diplomacy. Ambassador Hachigian also shared reflections from a decades-long career in national security, diplomacy, and public service while also highlighting narratives about creating roadmaps in new positions in diplomacy and building international relationships amidst a challenging political climate. Additionally, alumni had an opportunity to ask about career advice and about how to create global ties at the municipal level.
A lunch discussion with Andrea Sasse, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany to Los Angeles, instead focused on “Local Decisions, Global Impact”, highlighting the upcoming U.S. general election and its implications for Germany and the transatlantic relationship. In the very lively discussion afterwards, Consul Sasse shared how deeply she cared about the individual upholding democratic principles: “You don’t have to fight for democracy on a global stage. It’s more about standing up when you know something is wrong.” Having taken part in a fellowship herself, Consul General Sasse emphasized the lifelong impact, friendships, and resources a participation like this can have on one’s life and urged the New Bridge alumni to stay connected and engaged.
Devon Adams #NBP5
“It’s always good to bring people together who can share different perspectives and experiences. I appreciate how civil the fellows are in sharing differing opinions. We may not always agree and sometimes our views are challenged, but we always learn from each other.”
During the afternoon programming, the group was honored to have local activists, community leaders, and change makers join to lead different roundtables on the topics of gender equity and LGBTQIA+ rights, migration, and climate justice and environmental action. The conference room buzzed with enthusiasm as everyone had the opportunity to share various viewpoints and ideas. Alumni from the field took the lead in preparing and moderating these different sessions. In the session on gender equity and LGBTQIA+ rights, alumni discussed disparities that stem from data collection challenges and potential solutions with Tony Hoang, Executive Director at Equity California, Matthew Inouye, Manager of Policy and Community Engagement at The TransLatin@ Coalition, and Holly Millburn-Smith, Co-Executive Director at City Hub and Network for Gender Equity. On migration a discussion was facilitated with Zack Mohamed, Deportation Defense Organizer at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project and Anthony Ng, Program Officer at the Weingart Foundation, who spoke about the services and resources their organizations provide to immigrants in Los Angeles, a “sanctuary city.” During the conversation on climate and environment, Molly Kawahata, Founder of Systemic Impact Strategies & Former White House Climate Advisor, Justin Marquez, Senior Partnerships Manager at Elemental Excelerator, and Alvaro Sanchez, Vice President of Policy at The Greenlining Institute conveyed the importance of partnerships and messaging to institute systemic solutions to the climate crisis.
Brianna Dimas #NBP7
“It was nice to get outside of our main industries and see how we can work together to solve big global problems. I therefore really enjoyed the three sessions on migration, LGBTQIA+, and climate issues.”
These in-depth conversations emphasized the need for great leaders who inspire change and help set the stage for innovative solutions. Thus, the reunion also provided a platform for the group to exchange ideas about leadership, one’s own journey, lessons learned, and ideas for the future as part of the next part of the programming. Alumni shared their definitions of leadership, identified leaders they admire, offered tips on setting boundaries, and discussed leadership development opportunities. They recognized the strength of being a part of the New Bridge network and how their participation has an everlasting impact on their journey.
The last part of the program on this day brought the Alumni a little bit closer to the stars – as a visit to Los Angeles would not be complete without experiencing a bit of Hollywood! Accompanied by excellent tour guides, the group explored the Warner Brothers Studios. The tour included a stroll down streets lined with building facades featured in countless movies and TV shows; a behind-the-scenes look into the making of CW’s “All American” and impromptu photo shoots on the sets of Friends, Gilmore Girls, and The Big Bang Theory. An overall fun experience even for alumni who had never heard of Stars Hollow before.
A new Alumni Council being elected in December 2023
The last day of the conference was concluded with discussions on ways for alumni to stay involved with the program and have a further impact on the transatlantic dialogue. Various ideas were brought forward as taking part in upcoming events, connecting with our partners, supporting New Bridge programming, taking up speaking engagements as well as facilitating industry-based networking. Last year’s elected Alumni Council proudly presented an overview of activities and accomplishments of 2023, such as the launch of the Alumni Spotlight Initiative or the New Bridge Buddy Program. With a new council being elected in December 2023, the group is excited to see new ideas implemented and to further engage with each other.
After three days of forging new connections and reviving old ones, debating a range of topics, and engaging in meaningful conversations, alumni had a hard time to part their ways. However, they left with a renewed sense of inspiration and excitement for a new year of New Bridge.
The NEW BRIDGE PROGRAM is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany, funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), and by the Federal Foreign Office (AA) and the Joachim Herz Foundation.