Emergency ward to hospital board

Jenny Taing

Jenny Taing is giving back to the University that gave her opportunities

Jenny Taing remembers sitting in the emergency department of the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital. Her mother had an inflamed eye, and she had taken her in for treatment. The situation, which demanded a four-night stay, was confronting enough. A further layer of complication was that her mother, a Vietnamese refugee, did not speak English.

That experience in the emergency ward was a pivotal moment for Ms Taing, who decided that the best way to improve a situation was to get involved.

In 2012, the University of Melbourne law graduate and senior lawyer at ASIC joined the Eye and Ear Hospital’s board – at 29, the youngest-ever director.

Her attitude of getting involved and making a difference is now bringing benefits to the University and its students. “There was a time when I thought it’s time to give back to the University,” says Ms Taing.

The University has given me so many opportunities in life. Tertiary education has really been empowering for me and has been an opportunity for me to have a platform to speak, and to have a voice.

Ms Taing is a deputy president of the Alumni Council and chairs the Alumni Council Giving working group, which has a focus on engaging alumni and encouraging new participation in giving. In 2015, the working group launched an initiative aimed at raising funds for students suffering financial disadvantage. It was peer-to-peer – Ms Taing, for example, wrote to former students from her time at the University.

And while the University benefits from very significant gifts, the focus was on the impact of smaller gifts: a donation of $10 would pay for a student’s telephone and internet costs during the busy exam period, $30 for a week’s transport, and $50 for a critical course textbook.

As a result of this initiative, alumni who feel passionate about supporting students have contributed $27,000 — benefiting hundreds of student who seek assistance each year.