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.
“Beyond the mutually-beneficial partnerships derived and enhanced by ASF, there is an inherently human component. The American Swiss Foundation is not only building cultural bridges between nations with a common history, but among like-minded individuals. I cannot overstate the role ASF has had in my life as a catalyst for incredible friendships with Americans and Swiss people alike. Some of the bonds I built in Buonas will last a lifetime. And ASF still serves as a convener to keep those friendships alive.”
“The Young Leaders Conference was started 30 years ago by Ambassador Faith Whittlesey. The idea behind it was a great one, to bring together 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. What our foundation tries to do is to really strengthen those ties.”
“Cooperation in a fragmented world is what brought us 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. If there are Ambassadors who embody all of that, it’s the Young Leaders of the American Swiss Foundation.”
“It is my honor and obligation to contribute to the better understanding between our two sister republics through my personal engagement with the YLAF Board. In our challenging world, it is so important to build personal bridges beyond the official bilateral channels to improve our mutual understanding.”
“When I think back to my young leaders conference in 2021, I experience a deep sense of gratitude, thanks to the many insightful discussions with inspiring leaders. Still today, I 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.”
“I have great memories of the Foundation and they are all related to the people who were sharing this 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 persists in building a network that is extremely precious from a personal and professional perspective.”
“Phenomenal experience and humbled to have been part of the Young Leaders Conference. An extra bonus was exploring the Swiss's robust apprenticeship ecosystem to compliment our work in the U.S. on labor and economic mobility. Thank you, American Swiss Foundation!”
“Humans crave connectivity. It was a breath of fresh air to be with a thoughtful, diverse group of people who think differently than 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.”
“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.”
“Having great, long chats with the Swiss and American Young Leaders was something that I thought was really special.”
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 | ETH Zürich
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