Strengthening ties: Deans visit Southeast Asia

Nothing can replace the value of physically coming together to reestablish old connections. In early May, University of Melbourne staff visited Southeast Asia to strengthen ties to the international alumni community after many years of absence due to COVID-19.

Jakarta-based alum Adina Aksari who attended the Indonesia Alumni Reception described the atmosphere as “incredibly enjoyable, warm, friendly, and filled with nostalgia.”

Professor Paul Kofman, Professor Julie Willis and Professor Mark Cassidy – Deans of the Faculties of Business and Economics, Architecture, Building and Planning, and Engineering and IT respectively – travelled across Southeast Asia to deliver keynote addresses at each location and connect with alumni.

In addition, the Alumni Association President at each of the events in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta spoke on behalf their local alumni community.

But most importantly, the events were an opportunity for alumni to network with one another, University staff, and other special guests in attendance over drinks and a buffet dinner.

Strong alumni leadership

In Kuala Lumpur, the alumni reception was held at Le Meridien, and alumni began arriving and mingling in the early evening.

Among the attendees were some high-profile guests, including The Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Dr Justin Lee, CEO of Asialink Business Mr Leigh Howard and former Minister of International Trade and Industry Dato' Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed.

During the evening’s formalities, Malaysia Alumni Association President Lee Yun-Han proudly shared some words about the recent accomplishments of the association, and the value in staying connected with fellow alumni.

Malaysia Alumni Association President Lee Yun-HanMalaysia Alumni Association President Lee Yun-Han speaking at the KL alumni reception.

“With nearly 700 members, we are Malaysia’s most active alumni association of a foreign university by far, and we organise multiple events in a year for our members, ranging from social events, seminars, and our flagship annual dinner,” said Lee.

“It has become a valuable platform for professional and personal networking, relevant to alumni of all ages and disciplines.”

Lee also reflected on the association’s strong connection to the University, even through the difficulties of COVID-19, and shared his intentions to continue growing the association into the future.

“I have been actively involved in the Alumni Association for more than 15 years, and I have seen the relationship between the University and the Alumni Association grow from strength to strength,” said Lee.

“Even as committee members and University staff come and go – the spirit of collaboration has never been stronger.”

Reconnecting to Melbourne

At the Singapore event, alumni gathered at the Sofitel to reminisce on their time in Melbourne, stay connected with the University and forge new professional connections.

The new Australian High Commissioner to Singapore Mr Allaster Cox attended, along with local Trade Director from the Victorian Government Trade and Investment Office Mr Jason Fuller.

Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning Professor Julie Willis addressed Singaporean alumni during the event, starting with a reflection on the University’s long history with its Asian neighbours.

“The earliest record we have of a plan to attract students from our Asian neighbours dates back to 1937,” shared Professor Willis. “By the 1950s we were regularly welcoming students from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to study with us.”

attendees mingling at the KL alumni reception Attendees mingling at the KL alumni reception.

Professor Willis also spoke to some of the ways that the University encourages its students to learn from the knowledge and expertise of those in Southeast Asia.

“Singapore is also a popular destination for University of Melbourne students, and since 2014, 10 New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipients have travelled to Singapore as part of their undergraduate overseas experience,” she said.

With so many new projects and developments taking place at the University since the Deans’ last visit, Professor Willis took the opportunity to update alumni on some of the key milestones.

“One successful collaboration we are particularly proud of is our Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership – a joint initiative by the Faculty of Business and Economics and Melbourne Business School to educate Indigenous business leaders,” shared Professor Willis.

Professor Willis also shared an update on the new Student Precinct at the Parkville campus, the progress on the forthcoming Fishermans Bend facilities for design and engineering, and the transformative gift from philanthropist Mr Geoff Cumming that will establish the Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics within the Doherty Institute.

Reminiscing and networking

The last stop on the Dean’s visit was Jakarta, where alumni came together at the Westin Jakarta to reestablish old connections and expand their networks.

The Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Ms Penny Williams PSM briefly addressed alumni during the formalities of the evening.

Alum Adinda Aksari felt immensely grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with her peers and reflect on university memories.

Attendees at the Jakarta Alumni Reception.

Attendees at the Jakarta Alumni Reception.

“I feel like I could represent the sentiments of many fellow alumni who also long for the campus and our friends, as we reminisced about our college days, and some even expressed their desire to return to learning.”

Adinda said her personal highlight of the evening was learning about some of the University’s achievements over the past few years, including the Parkville campus redevelopments. “I was impressed that the University of Melbourne not only managed to survive during the pandemic but also took the opportunity to regroup and rebuild,” she shared.

Beyond catching up with old friends, Adinda seized the opportunity to make important professional connections that can benefit her and the broader community.

“Through casual conversations, I had the chance to collaborate and work together with alumni whom I hadn't known before in a professional setting,” said Adinda.

“It indirectly brings ‘family’ together, helping us connect and create tangible impacts that will hopefully be beneficial for our careers and our contributions to the wider public.”

Opportunity for growth

Moving forward, Adinda hopes to enjoy many more alumni events in Jakarta that bring her closer to the University community she is proud to be a part of.

“Our alumni community is filled with remarkable individuals who possess outstanding abilities and good character,” she said.

Adinda believes all University of Melbourne alumni around the world can take something valuable away from events like the Alumni Receptions held throughout Southeast Asia.

“I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to reconnect with their local alumni community as a means of personal growth, gaining support, and advancing their careers.”

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