The UK Alumni Association in partnership with the UK International Center and the Office for China Initiatives (OCI) has launched the China UK Alumni Club. The club will engage, connect, serve and celebrate UK alumni and friends living in China.
Huajing Maske, director of the OCI, played a vital role in the formation of the club. “Establishing the China UK Alumni Club and managing China alumni relations have been the top priorities for the OCI,” says Maske. “With the number of Chinese students on campus close to 37 percent of our international student body, it is high time we create the China UK Alumni Club.”
The creation of the club began in 2019 when Maske and Sue Roberts, associate provost for internationalization, visited Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and had dinner with two UK alumni during the visit. While proposing the idea of a Chinese UK alumni network, one of the alums set up a UK alumni group on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform. By the end of the meal, more than 200 UK alumni living in China joined the group. By the next morning, 500 members had joined and reached the group’s capacity. Maske and Roberts quickly realized the need and potential for the networking opportunity.
“We are very excited to see this club formed. There is tremendous energy and goodwill among our Wildcat alumni in China, and we look forward to seeing programs and initiatives they will develop,” says Roberts. “Our alumni in China will have a network to share their memories and work together to support UK, UK students and their families.”
Maske says the benefits are multifaceted. First, it will provide a platform for Chinese alumni to stay connected to UK and share memories from campus with fellow graduates. “After students leave UK and enter the workplace, they realize what a precious experience they had at UK,” says Maske.
Second, it will provide a network for career growth, mentorship and professional connections. Third, it will assist in the university’s recruiting efforts by connecting alumni with prospective students. “The reputation of a university in the eyes of a former student is one of the most important factors for a Chinese high school student and their family when choosing a university.”
Jill Smith, vice president for alumni engagement and executive director of the UK Alumni Association, supported the vision of the China UK Alumni Club since its inception and is excited to add the international club to the Wildcat network. “We now live in a global society where international engagement is vital in order to successfully reach our alumni,” says Smith. “I hope this club provides opportunities for our alumni in China to experience the engagement and connection that our domestic alumni clubs have been able to offer for years.”
The formation of the China UK Alumni Club will bring the total number of active UK Alumni Association clubs to 67.
Two alumni events were planned in Beijing and Shanghai in March 2020 but were cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. However, Maske says she was earnest in not letting the circumstances prevent Chinese Wildcats from connecting. “Whether we are in a pandemic or not, we will keep Wildcats everywhere informed and connected so no matter where they are, they can gather to celebrate UK, its people and ideas, its goals and achievements, its heritage, and its plans for the future,” she says.
In October 2020, a virtual reunion event was held with more than 80 UK alumni currently living in China along with UK staff and 2020-2021 UK Alumni Association President Hannah Myers. She says she was impressed with the enthusiasm of the alumni and their love for UK. “Hearing from UK graduates from across the world and how much they enjoyed their time at UK was extremely heartwarming and one of my most memorable moments so far as president of the UK Alumni Association. I commend the volunteers that made this dream a reality and it is a great testimony to the power of our alumni,” says Myers. “I look forward to the positive impact the club will have on alumni in the country, as well as the university.”
Gu Huaming, president of the China UK Alumni Club, helped establish a governance structure and bylaws for the club. The UK Alumni Association Governance Committee approved the request to formalize the club in January 2021. “We are excited to be part of the UK Alumni Association network. With the establishment of the China UK Alumni Club, we will reach out to the thousands of alumni and friends in China,” says Huaming. “We look forward to building a platform for our local alumni and promoting our university in China.”
Bruce Zou, secretary of the China UK Alumni Club, is also looking forward to connecting with more Wildcats. “If it were not for my time there, there’s no way I’d be excelling at my profession,” says Zou.