April 19, 2017

Collaboration evident during Asia-Pacific alumni conference

Asia-Pacific planning group
Tommy Hung Chan/Provided
Members of the Cornell Club of Hong Kong who served as the core volunteer organizer team for the Ninth Annual Asia-Pacific Leadership Conference gather during the April 7-8 event in Hong Kong.

The Ninth Annual Asia-Pacific Leadership Conference drew more than 160 university faculty, leaders and alumni to Hong Kong April 7-8. Fifteen Cornell Clubs and communities were represented, including ones from China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, India and Vietnam.

Jim Mazza ’88, associate vice president for alumni affairs, described the event as “remarkable.”

“To have so many people in one place from throughout the Asia-Pacific region is just extraordinary to me, if you think about how far people had to travel. But I think that they do that out of a love for Cornell. They all feel connected to each other. This is a unique conference,” he said.

Many returning attendees commented on the consistent growth of the conference (just 28 people attended the conference’s inaugural year in 2007). The success of the conference also is due to the opportunities to network and hear expert insight on various fields, attendees said. According to Provost Mike Kotlikoff, “Part of that is interest on the part of Asia alums, and it also [is due to] the increasing amount of content that we’re providing.”

Raymond Kwok ’02, president of the Cornell Club of Hong Kong, emphasized the appeal the university delegation holds for distant alumni. “Over the years, a lot of people have learned about what we’re doing over here in Asia,” he said. “It’s a virtuous cycle. The more faculty are involved, the more interesting the event becomes and the more volunteers and participants in Asia would like to join.”

Asia-Pacific panel
Tommy Hung Chan/Provided
The theme of sustainability carried through the conference, including the panel discussion topics. More than 160 faculty, university leaders and alumni attended the two-day event.

Updates on radical collaboration, Cornell Tech, the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, student life and other aspects of Cornell were eagerly received. University faculty and administrators present included Mazza; Kotlikoff; Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering; Dan Huttenlocher, founding dean of Cornell Tech; David Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future; Hirokazu Miyazaki, director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies; Greg Morrisett, dean of Computing and Information Science; Fred Van Sickle, vice president for alumni affairs and development; and Jeremy Wallace, associate professor of government.

Other speakers included Cornellian experts in e-commerce, finance, health care, tech and more, who spoke about leadership and global issues.

The event was held immediately following and in the same venue as the Cornell-hosted “Sustainability in Asia: Partnerships for Research and Implementation” meeting, which was organized by the Atkinson Center and the Einaudi Center.

The theme of sustainability carried into the panel discussion topics of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Conference, which included “From the Hill: Radical Collaborations for Results,” “Opportunities in an Uncertain World,” “Technology Leadership and Innovation” and “Cornell Tech, Designed for Impact.” Panelists emphasized the critical value of teamwork. For example, the “Radical Collaborations” panel featured many of Cornell’s interdisciplinary projects, and Huttenlocher spoke of the “myth of the individual” in founding great companies, attributing all success to the team.

Similarly, Mazza noted how Cornell communities across Asia have become stronger as a result of collaborative efforts. “Here in Asia, I think there’s a kind of connection alumni feel because they’re all invested in each other’s successes,” he said. “We want the group in Korea to be as successful as the group in Hong Kong and as successful as the group in Singapore. I think that kind of coming together and helping each other has been a big part of the success.”

One session was dedicated to updates from each Cornell Club. Though clubs vary in size and maturity, their collective experiences allow volunteer leaders to learn from each other. Common challenges include intergenerational alumni engagement and renewing leadership, while common strengths include diverse programming and alumni with a wide range of interests.

The weekend’s success showed that the Big Red Spirit thrives across countries, generations and professions, said Alice Chan ’01, a newly inducted member of the Cornell Asia Alumni Leadership Advisers. “Cornell people are very united,” she said. “This community didn’t stop after graduation; it’s with me my entire life.”

Robin Zhang ’18 (along with Trevor Kahl ’19 and TJ Ball ’19) attended the conference on behalf of the Cornell International Affairs Society thanks to the sponsorship of the offices of the Vice Provost for International Affairs and International Alumni Relations.