The UK International Center always pursues the connection between its alumni no matter where they are geographically. During 2020, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association and Office of China Initiatives hosted its first-ever virtual China Alumni gathering on October 30. The event was originally supposed to be held in-person in both Beijing and Shanghai, China past March, but had to be converted to a virtual setting due to COVID-19.
Huajing Maske, executive director of the Office of China Initiatives, along with the UK International Center leadership and the UK Alumni Association, decided it was time to host a networking virtual event to bring Chinese alumni together and create opportunities to build a community for our international alumni across the globe, who may be hundreds of miles away from Kentucky.
"There is this need for connecting within alumni but also networking,” Maske said. “Whether they have a job or are looking for a job, professional networking is always important. We want our China alumni to still feel connected to UK, no matter how far they are right now (physically).” Maske explained that one of the most important goals of hosting alumni gatherings is to keep alumni engaged, involved, and connected - with the university and with each other.
The event was successful in engaging 85 alumni from across China on the Zoom call. The event featured remarks by Provost David Blackwell, Sue Roberts, associate provost for Internalization. Other special guests included the deans of the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Gatton Business and Economics and Engineering, as well as a few alumni and current student panelists who shared their success stories and experiences at UK with the group.
Vivienne Zhang, who graduated with a mass communication degree in 2004, stated that it was really important for her to participate in this event in order to reconnect to UK’s alumni network.
“I could revisit memories about my friends and those old good moments that we had in Lexington,” Zhang said.
Zhang also mentioned how good it is to contribute to the university and help keep building the Chinese alumni community as a way to express gratitude for what she was provided while being a UK student.
“I always appreciated the opportunities given to me by the University of Kentucky,” Zhang said. “Back to then, it was my first time going out of China and I had gotten a full scholarship by UKY. If the university had not been so generous, I couldn’t have achieved my dream. That is why, I always appreciate these kinds of chances to allow me to open my eyes to get along with the international society and bring back my social and professional skills.”
Bruce Zou, who graduated with a bachelor of business administration degree in finance in 2016 and earned his master’s of arts in international commerce and diplomacy in 2020, said how beneficial this event was in order to exchange ideas among faculty, staff and alumni.
“It was great to have all the official attention from the Provost, UKY Confucius Institute and International Center,” Zhou said. “That shows how much they care about international students’ life. It was really welcoming and inclusive. I felt very moved by how much effort the school is putting into this to make it more embracing for Chinese students on campus.”
Zou also said these kinds of encounters are important for young alumni like him to network and find a mentor, adding that there also are a lot of global resources shared that are really useful whether you are a junior or a senior.
As a result of the event, the China alumni are currently discussing the establishment of UK’s first UK China Alumni club. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is currently limiting in-person events in the U.S., the UK International Center hopes to host an in-person alumni gathering event soon, whenever it is safe to do so.