Building a better UQ

Q&A with BEL Alumni Ambassadors

BEL Alumni Ambassadors Chad Hardy, KY Wong and David Young

The Faculty of Business, Economics and Law (BEL) is represented globally by around 70 enthusiastic, passionate Alumni Ambassadors from nine different Ambassador councils around the world – from Brisbane to London and everywhere in between.

Alumni Ambassadors act as links between the BEL Faculty and more than 70,000 BEL alumni worldwide. Their focus is on working together to build strong ties with fellow alumni, current students and industry, and to advance the mission and reputation of the Faculty and the wider University.

Importantly, initiatives like the Alumni Ambassador program allow the Faculty to show support to and stay connected with BEL alumni even under the most extraordinary or difficult circumstances – such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

During their most recent visit to Brisbane, we asked four ambassadors about what their respective councils are working on, why they feel it’s important to invest in student success, and why giving back can be mutually beneficial.

Meet the Alumni Ambassadors

Honnus Cheung, Bachelor of Commerce (1992)

Honnus is the former Chair of the Hong Kong Ambassador Council. She is also the CFO, Asia Pacific and GM, China for Travelzoo, a global travel media and e-commerce company.

Chad Hardy, Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (2013)

Chad is the Deputy Chair of the Brisbane Ambassador Council. He is also the founder of Snowater, a clean energy technology company.

KY Wong, Bachelor of Economics (Honours) (1988)

KY is the Chair of the Singapore Ambassador Council. He is also the Assistant Vice President, Treasury at Genting Singapore Limited, a leisure, hospitality and integrated resort owner and developer.

David Young, Master of Business Administration (2017)

David is the Deputy Chair of the London Ambassador Council. He is also a Director at River Partnership, a global executive search and consulting firm.

This is an image of Honnus Cheung

Honnus Cheung

Honnus Cheung

This is an image of Chad Hardy

Chad Hardy

Chad Hardy

This is an image of KY Wong

KY Wong

KY Wong

This is an image of David Young

David Young

David Young

This is an image of three Alumni Ambassadors sitting together during an activity at the Alumni Ambassadors Conference.

Alumni Ambassadors at the BEL Leadership Conference for Ambassadors 2019.

Alumni Ambassadors at the BEL Leadership Conference for Ambassadors 2019.

Can you tell us about some of the Ambassador councils’ recent initiatives and activities?

Honnus Cheung: In Hong Kong, we attend a pre-departure event for new, first-year international students and their parents to familiarise them with what to expect when they land in Brisbane. This event gives them first-hand information and initial connections before they start at UQ. We believe this will be useful to them if they don’t know anyone in Brisbane or Australia.

Chad Hardy: Recently, the Brisbane Alumni Ambassador Council has been working with the Student Work Experience Program, a fantastic program facilitated by the BEL Student Employability Team. The team has come to us to help double the size of the program – we leverage our alumni connections and engage directly with industry to provide these kinds of opportunities to students.

David Young: In London, we focus a lot on the quarterly Global Connection evening. We have found that a lot of Australians like to meet over a beer or a drink and exchange ideas and advice. So there's a very informal and quite fun network that we’re establishing on that side. We’re also working closely with the BEL Faculty on a more formalised way of connecting alumni through a mentoring program known as UQ Alumni-to-Alumni (A2A).

KY Wong: In Singapore, one of the events we organised in February last year was a homecoming reception for our recent UQ graduates. We welcomed them into our fold to try to guide them now that they’re starting their new careers and re-integrating into the Singapore workforce after living in Brisbane for three to five years. We’re helping them figure out who to talk to, how to get an interview and who’s who in the zoo in Singapore.

What would you say are the main priorities for our Ambassador councils at this time?

KYW: We have discussed how the University connects with alumni as well as society as a whole and how we improve on that. I think we have done it quite well in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. It’s high time we rolled that out to other centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

DY: We have talked about how important it is to build a thriving alumni community. And if you look at the example of some of the best universities out there for alumni networks –Harvard, Stanford, Yale – they have a huge, sophisticated global network. UQ can go in that direction. So we have talked about how we can aspire to those types of communities.

CH: At a high level, a lot of what we focus on is alignment among the global councils. By bringing together the chairs, deputy chairs and council members we are able to go out and create a strong bond with our alumni to build a stronger alumni network.

DY: The alumni community in itself is important to build but also helping to fulfil the philanthropic goals of the University is central to that goal.

HC: We need to get out there and connect with the Faculty. Some of us are far away from Brisbane and we'd like to know the latest developments at UQ. That’s why it’s good to meet with staff and the Vice-Chancellor to hear the latest updates, especially in our Faculty. When academics ask us advice about what’s happening in industry today, we can share the latest developments with them and they can put that industry perspective into their courses. Because when you develop a course for the students, you also need to know whether the course is too academic or whether it’s practical for them to use when they go to work.

This is an image of a group of Alumni Ambassadors during an activity at the Alumni Ambassadors Conference

Alumni Ambassadors at the BEL Leadership Conference for Ambassadors 2019.

Alumni Ambassadors at the BEL Leadership Conference for Ambassadors 2019.

Why is it so important for BEL alumni to engage with our current students and invest in their success? How do both parties benefit from this exchange?

HC: I think alumni should always try to engage with current students and new graduates, especially to give advice based on our years of industry and life experience. If they have any questions, we can share our experiences with them. In this way, they don’t need to walk through the whole process that we walked through. They may be able to pick up some useful tips to answer their questions and resolve their issues. As alumni, we benefit because we get to know more people from a different age group – because to a certain extent when you’re more senior, you only hang around people on your level. You also need new ideas; that’s why I talk to new graduates to learn what they think because business is very robust and fast moving. I need to think how they think instead of relying on my perspective.

KYW: Engaging with current students allows us to share our wealth of experience and hope it rubs off on the student population to some extent! It also sends a message – ‘hey, we were in your position a few years ago; you will eventually find your way’. On the personal side, I found that UQ changed my life. This is my way of giving back to the University.

CH: It’s mutually beneficial because every time you contribute back to the UQ brand and you benefit an existing student, that feeds itself into the long-term value chain. Every time you give back, you tend to get something valuable as well. You might not get a direct payback, but in the flow of everything it builds a bigger, better, stronger UQ brand and we all benefit from that.

DY: Giving back is central. Alumni are also motivated to want to help UQ students because that's going to reflect better on the University, and a better reputation for the University is beneficial for both current and past students. As students become alumni, we’re hoping to maintain and increase that motivation. As Chad was saying, it moves in a virtuous circle.

This is an image of two Alumni Ambassadors talking and laughing. There are several other Ambassadors in the background.

Alumni Ambassadors at the BEL Leadership Conference for Ambassadors 2019.

Alumni Ambassadors at the BEL Leadership Conference for Ambassadors 2019.

What have you gained personally and professionally from your time as an Alumni Ambassador?

CH: My main benefits have been getting to know other fantastic, passionate people from a similar background who want to be engaged as alumni. That’s the biggest thing I've been able to take away – great relationships with great people.

DY: I would say I’m quite privileged to be part of this group. Looking around at our last Ambassador conference in May, there are some incredibly impressive people who are part of the alumni network. These are men and women at the top of their profession who are giving away their time, valuable advice and professional insights on a volunteer basis just to give back and nurture the next generation of UQ students.

HC: When we meet new students and a different generation of alumni, it widens our horizons from a networking, industry and job perspective. It’s also good to know others who have the same ties with UQ. We have some great memories of the UQ campus and our student life. 

KYW: As I said before, UQ changed my life and therefore being an Ambassador is about trying to give back to society and to UQ. I just want to be connected with my old University, and this is one avenue of how I can do it. Moreover, it’s a great platform to network and meet friends.

What would you say to encourage other alumni to give back to UQ, whether they contribute financially or give their time as an Ambassador? How can they get involved?

CH: You can make a real impact in the lives of the people around you if you’re giving financially to scholarships and disbursements. This can truly bring someone into university who otherwise wouldn't be able to do it. If you’re donating time, you have the benefit of creating a positive relationship and developing your mentoring capacity, or just a general connection with someone who might need someone more senior in their field.

DY: UQ is at the leading edge of a lot of great things. If you think about the philanthropic work they're doing in relation to dementia care, in relation to the Great Barrier Reef and scholarships and many other really great causes, I pose the question: why wouldn't you want to be part of that? You’re able to benefit in a number of ways when you receive a university degree at UQ. The prestige of the University, the research, the causes supported, your networks, friendships and so on. Knowing that you can contribute to all this in a meaningful way by being an active member of the alumni community is so important and rewarding. We encourage you to get involved simply by making yourself known to your local BEL alumni community. We now have 18 growing communities around the world!

KYW: The benefits of scholarships are obviously well known, but I think there are also benefits to having access to a network of like-minded people. UQ has produced great graduates who became captains of industry and you end up being plugged into that network. I can travel to Hong Kong and Shanghai and London and say ‘hey, I'm here – which of my uni mates are around?’ I think that’s a valuable thing, especially when I'm trying to get a job in London, or in Hong Kong or anywhere else.

HC: It’s important to give back to the University and society. As students, we gained a lot from UQ and our professors – knowledge, friendships, networks, industry experience. What we can do is offer our time and share our industry knowledge, networks and insight with students or new graduates who might find this information useful.

Are you interested in becoming a BEL Alumni Ambassador?

Find out more about the program.

This is a close-up image of the sandstone in UQ's Great Court