Information Services Office   4.11.2012


Ms. Connie Au, Director of Alumni Affairs
(Photo by Keith Hiro)
Newsletter No. 406 > Thus Spake... > Ms. Connie Au on Alumni Affairs

Ms. Connie Au on Alumni Affairs


What are alumni affairs about?

'Connecting alumni' sums up the work of the Alumni Affairs Office (AAO). Students study, make friends and get inspired in university. They pursue different paths after graduation but their connections with their alma mater do not end here. It's a virtue to be grateful to the soil that nurtured you. We initiate connections with graduates to help them express this sentiment, and to pass on love and care from CUHK. This keeps them informed of the University's growth and fosters bilateral communication. Another aspect of alumni affairs are the internal links among alumni groups. There are currently 150,000 CUHK alumni, with an age difference of 50 to 60 years between the youngest and the oldest. They belonged to different academic departments and have different professions. Together this group could potentially make up a massive and sustainable learning community where there's frequent exchange of experience and know-how.

Could you talk about your work?

Maintaining and updating a large database is crucial and it never ends. To strengthen alumni's sense of belonging, we publish and dispatch some 90,000 copies of the Chinese University Alumni Magazine every quarter to keep them informed of the latest at CUHK. When there are important developments, such as the new 3+3+4 curriculum and the Shenzhen campus, we host seminars to let them know more about the situation and to express their views. A major part of our work is keeping close and systematic communication with local and overseas alumni groups. Prof. Michael Hui and I recently paid a visit to associations in Australia and New Zealand, and reported CUHK’s recent happenings to them. We have also been helping mainland students set up such associations in mainland China, to help extend their relations with the University and with Hong Kong. I have launched a series of luncheons and dinner gatherings in the hope of bringing graduates together so we can discover everyone's forte and build a network of synergy and knowledge exchange.

Times are changing. We need to re-evaluate and adjust our direction, such as using online media to boost communication. We need to stay abreast of the times. When other alumni and I discuss seminar themes, we favour the more topical issues, such as the job market and market needs faced by students graduating in five years.

Is being an active and veteran CUHK alumna an advantage for managing alumni affairs?

Definitely. The Chinese University has a different structure from other universities. Someone who didn't study here would have to spend time familiarizing themselves with its organization, procedures and network. As a veteran graduate, I have mastered all these already. I do not need to invest time in building relations. Networks don't come about overnight. Almost all of my friends are CUHK graduates. I've known some of them for decades. When I need help, all I need to do is pick up the phone.

Do years of experience in education facilitate your current job? How?

I had been with the Education Bureau for close to 30 years. Then when Hong Kong's education reform was well underway, I took up the reins of a new secondary school. I started from zero—setting the school's vision, systems and curriculum; recruiting the teachers, mobilizing the parents, helping students build confidence and diversifying their growth. That took me 11 years and the school finally received accreditation. I had to think of ways to highlight the school's strengths, motivate my colleagues to give their best, and know when to stick with our principles rather than blindly follow the government's new policies. That was a solid experience. I learnt that a leader must have vision and must dare to innovate. She must have a clear mission and action plan to lead the organization and the stakeholders down the right path.

It's often said the CUHK graduates have the most distinguishable characteristics among those of local institutions. Do you agree?

I do. CUHK students are good at thinking independently, so it's only natural that they speak up no matter what fields they are in. Our alumni hold a diverse range of beliefs and value systems, and these should all be respected and tolerated in a free society. My responsibility is to try to see things from their points of view, and to relay to them the facts and the supporting data. I'm just an ordinary person without great achievements. I can only say I would not be what I am, if it wasn't for CUHK. I received a lot from my alma mater, including the subtle ways in which my thinking was shaped. How can I not be grateful?

Are you someone who can't be idle? What would you be doing if you hadn't taken up employment at CUHK?

There are three stages in a person's life—learning, earning and returning. Having entered the third stage, I focus on doing a good job at the AAO. I love my job with a passion. It's a manifestation of my love of life. As long as my health and my family commitments would allow it, I will not be idle. If I hadn't joined CUHK, I would be giving talks, training school principals, sharing my views of team building and shaping of a school culture. I would also be giving talks to parents, and be involved in community affairs. My record was concurrently holding 17 public posts. Due to my job, I had withdrawn from a few alumni committees that I would have happily continued to serve if it wasn't for my new engagement.

How do you feel after more than half a year on the job?

I'm very happy here and I'm grateful for the opportunity to give back. Through my work, I've got to know quite a few alumni and reconnected with friends I hadn't met in years. I learnt a lot from them. My challenge is finding the right mindset and means to deal with unprecedented requests and tricky issues arising from this immense group of former students. The University is celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 2013. It's a time for graduates to reminisce and rekindle the flame, and to become more involved in the University. I'm hoping for more harmony, consensus and solidarity, and a better understanding of University policies.

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