About the Conference
The American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders Conference was initiated in 1990 to create person-to-person exchange and foster mutual understanding among the next generation of leaders in Switzerland and the United States.
Held in Switzerland each year, the conference brings together approximately 50 Americans and Swiss aged 28-40 for a week of intensive discussion and exchange on a broad range of current issues of importance to U.S.-Swiss relations; meetings with high-level diplomatic, government, business, media, and cultural leaders; and excursions to Switzerland’s beautiful mountains and historic landmarks. Participants are selected based on nominations by trusted advisors of the American Swiss Foundation. Because this is the Foundation’s defining program, the selection process is extremely competitive.
The Young Leaders Conference is made possible through the generosity of corporate and individual sponsors and Swiss International Air Lines, which provides travel sponsorship for U.S. participants.
Over the past thirty years, more than 1,400 alumni have participated in the Young Leaders Conference. To view previous classes, click here.
"The Young Leaders Conference was started 30 years ago by Ambassador Faith Whittlesey and the idea behind it was a great one, it’s to bring 25 young Americans and 25 young Swiss to Switzerland for a week and see what happens. It’s sort of a mini-Davos…. The United States has no better friend than Switzerland and what our foundation tries to do, is to really strengthen those ties."
Robert Giuffra YL 1996
“Cooperation in a fragmented worked this is what brought us up here this week, if there is one organization that has proven over the last years that it builds bridges, brings people together, and fosters cooperation it is the American Swiss Foundation, and if there is Ambassadors who embody all of that, it’s the Young Leaders of this American Swiss Foundation.”
Bettina Schaller YL 2011
"It is my honor and obligation to contribute to the better understanding between our two sister republics through my personal engagement with the Young Leader Alumni Foundation Board. In our challenging world, it is so important to build personal bridges beyond the official bilateral channels to improve our mutual understanding.’’
Dr. Rene Buholzer YL 2003
‘’When I think back to “my” YL conference in 2021, I experience a deep sense of gratitude thanks to the many insightful discussions with complementary characters of inspiring leaders. Still today, I can sense the heartbeat of our class, be it via online communication or in-person gatherings. In my capacity as a board member of the YLAF I would like to contribute to further strengthening our precious network among all of our 1400+ alumni through new initiatives.’’
Dr. Flurina Pletscher YL 2021
‘’I have great memories of the Foundation and they are all related to the people who were sharing this great experience with me. A varied group of American and Swiss professionals exchanging ideas and opinions on different topics, whilst having the opportunity to visit my own country. And of course there is also the “after-Foundation” that is equally interesting and relevant and that consists in building a network that is extremely precious from a personal and professional perspective.’’
Dr. Manuela Bernasconi YL 2011
‘’While having started my career in typical Swiss manner as a Banker, I am an entrepreneur at heart and get a of satisfaction from helping future entrepreneurs realizing their vision as I believe that startups play a crucial role in the future of the Swiss economy (and the world for that matter). It‘s the passion for entrepreneurship and the realization of the importance of a vibrant startup ecosystem for our country, that I try to bring to the YLAF Board. The YLC was an unforgettable experience, which allowed me to enter a very special circle of friends that I cherish until now, almost going 20 years. This organization can play an important role in bringing together people, not „just“ the Sister Republics.’’
Michael Stucky YL 2003
‘’The one thing about the conference that surprised me was the bond. Not just between us Young Leaders but the bond between Switzerland and the United States. Seeing the kinship, especially at this time during what it going on in Europe, was so powerful and is why I was so honored to go. Switzerland and all the people that I met will always be a part of my life.’’
Chike Aguh YL 2022
‘’To have President Ignazio Cassis address us the Alumni Dinner was a huge nod to us in America to say the Swiss are serious, they want us to be their partners. Getting to sit with the President at dinner and have the opportunity to get to know him on a more personal level, that’s not an opportunity that I have had, or most people have had, to share that experience with such a wonderful leader. It was a top 10 best personal, professional experience I’ve ever had in my life.’’
Josie Tomkow YL 2022
‘’The Young Leaders Conference was a fantastic way to get to know a lot of different people with different mindsets, but what I hadn’t prepared for was how strong our bonds would be afterwards – not just friendships on a personal level but helping each other in our daily lives.’’
Deepak Mohan YL 2022
‘’One of the questions that I send to ask repeatedly at meetings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on which I serve is one that I wrote down in my notes from the Young Leaders Conference. It had to do with what your opponent could do. In my notes, I wrote: 'Don't ask about someone's intent, ask about their potential.' So I ask, 'Can they or or can't they?' instead of 'Will they or won't they?.’’
Sen. John Barrasso YL 1990
‘’Phenomenal experience and humbled to have been part of the Young Leaders Conference. Extra bonus: Explored the Swiss's robust apprenticeship ecosystem to compliment our work in the U.S. on workforce and economic mobility. Thank you American Swiss Foundation!.’’
Manny Lamarre YL 2018
‘’Humans crave connectivity. It was a breath of fresh air to be with a thoughtful, diverse group of people that think differently from you. Nothing beats the power of having a discussion and not worrying that it's being recorded [so] that you can share and get to know people on a deeper lever and understand them as human beings.’’
Pierce Bush YL 2021
‘’The thing that I take away [from my Young Leaders Conference experience] was the camaraderie and the exchange of ideas. It truly opened my eyes to the power of combining stable robust capitalism and stable robust political systems.’’
Kevin Conroy YL 2010
‘’[Having] great, long chats with the Swiss and American Young Leaders was something that I thought was really special.’’
Anna Soellner YL 2007
The American Swiss Foundation (ASF) fosters economic, cultural, political, and personal ties between the two countries through citizen-to-citizen direct diplomacy. ASF’s flagship Young Leaders Conference focuses on promising young people from both countries who will shape public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic in the years to come. ASF’s goal is to inspire these Young Leaders to continue the centuries-long Swiss-American friendship through active engagement with one another.
The alumni included in the curated lists below are influential government officials, entrepreneurs and business executives, media professionals, academics, and public policy experts dedicated to promoting deeper friendship and understanding between the two “sister republics.”
The Young Leaders Alumni Foundation is an independent non-profit organization that works to support the American Swiss Foundation in its outreach in Switzerland. YLAF hosts and supports educational and cultural events in both countries to give alumni an opportunity to stay up-to-date and learn more about the important Swiss-American relationship.
Alumni of the Conference now number over 1,400 leaders in both countries. Their strong personal relationships based on shared experiences in the Conference contribute to the continued excellent relations between the United States and Switzerland.
Bettina Schaller | Young Leader 2011 | The Adecco Group
Michael Stucky | YL 2003 | Teggwings
Gabriela Lippe-Holst | YL 2005 | Acqupart Holding AG
Members of the Board
Dr. Manuela Bernasconi | YL 2011 | Nestle Nespresso SA
Dr. René Buholzer | YL 2003 | Interpharma
Dr. Alain Cahen | YL 1999 | Labor Team W AG
Alexis Lombard | YL 2011 | Banque Landolt & Cie
Dr. Flurina Pletscher | YL 2021 | Roche