Sophie Wang is grateful for the joy and friendships that volunteering through the Beijing Alumni Association has brought into her life. What’s more, it helped her share her innovative design work with industry peers.
A few years after completing her Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne in 2012, Sophie learned about the volunteering opportunities available to her through the University’s Beijing Alumni Association.
“I attended an event held by the University in 2015 where I met Jessie Wong who had just established the Beijing Alumni Association,” explained Sophie.
“I was drawn in by the friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere at that event, so I told Jessie that I would like to join.”
Sophie (left) and Jessie (right) at a 2019 Beijing Alumni Association event.
Now in her seventh year being involved in the Beijing Alumni Association, Sophie says it’s that same sense of comradery and friendship she felt at the 2015 event that continues to be the highlight of her experience.
“We are a group of likeminded people and everyone in the group always tries their best,” shared Sophie. “I'm always moved and encouraged by their spirit and am so glad that we’ve all become good friends.”
Bespoke alumni activities
Sophie is currently Vice President of the Beijing Alumni Association, where she leads the team in organising alumni events and passes on University of Melbourne announcements and invitations to alumni.
Her favourite event to organise is Run with the Dean. Conceived by the Beijing Alumni Association in collaboration with the University, it was first organised in response to the alumni community’s appetite for more active social activities.
“Our alumni are young, enthusiastic and lovely people. They want to get together, but they don't always want to sit down to eat and drink,” explained Sophie.
Run with the Dean is held by several alumni associations across China each year. At the Beijing event, alumni gather at the Beijing Olympic Forest to socialise, network and run 5km together.
University of Melbourne alumni attending the 2022 Run with the Dean event.
“We are the first alumni association to organise a sports activity in China and this year we had nearly 120 alumni join Run with the Dean,” said Sophie. “I'm really proud of the event, and I’m really proud of my team.”
Sophie also organises the Welcome Home event each year. It’s first and foremost a party for recent graduates returning to their home city but also a forum where they can get advice on settling back into life in Beijing.
“At Welcome Home, we welcome recent graduates and share information like how to find a job in Beijing, how to find an apartment, and other living skills.”
Building professional skills
Aside from organising fun and unique events for her alumni community, Sophie works as a Senior Architect at the Architectural Design and Research Institute of Tsinghua University.
It’s an institution committed to sustainable urban development in China, and Sophie says the project she is most proud of is Fourth Generation Residence – China’s first ‘vertical forest’ residential project.
“It brings green colour to the whole city, so the whole city is not a concrete forest, but just like a real forest,” explained Sophie.
Mock-up images from the Fourth Generation Residence project.
It wasn’t long before Sophie’s industry peers became interested in the techniques her team used to build the pioneering residential tower. That’s when Sophie’s newly acquired event coordination skills became useful.
“I suggested that we could hold conferences or meetings and gather these clients together,” said Sophie, “and during that time when I was organising those events, I gained the ability to coordinate them from the work I did in the Beijing Alumni Association.”
Sophie’s new skills were certainly impactful. She introduced thousands of people to her innovative and sustainable design through the conferences, and even benefitted from having the project publicised on multiple mainstream news channels in China.
Expanding her reach
With Sophie’s career and social life going from strength-to-strength, thanks in part to her volunteering experience, she is eager to continue building the association and its impact.
“I hope we can get more alumni to join this family so we can share valuable information with them.”
And Sophie isn’t letting the pandemic get in the way of growing the community. “With COVID-19 ongoing, we can't hold too many in-person events, so we are starting to plan some online activities like a computer game competition and online yoga.”
Motivated by her experience with the Beijing Alumni Association, Sophie is also considering expanding her volunteering efforts to focus on another passion.
“I would like to volunteer in women's career development in the architecture field, because at the moment, it is a very male-dominated field,” said Sophie.
“Architecture work is really hard and many people give up. So, I want to encourage more female architects to provide great design to cities.”
With her hardworking and generous spirit, there’s no doubt that whoever Sophie seeks to help through her future volunteering efforts will benefit greatly.