In conversation with The University of Manchester (South East Asia) Centre (UOMSEA)

How our alumni community is working together to build a radically better future

It is time for radical change. A new era of progress, hope, and opportunity are upon us, where we work together towards a better future, an inclusive rather than exclusive approach that values everyone’s contributions no matter how small they might seem at first glance. This is what universities can provide with their expertise in fostering dialogue between different groups within the community at large (both online and offline). Alumni are essential participants in the process, influencing future generations by promoting beneficial social change.

Social responsibility and a commitment to positive social impact have always been core values of The University of Manchester. Now, The University of Manchester (South East Asia) Centre, University of Manchester Alumni Association of Singapore (UOMAAS) and Manchester Business School Alumni Association of Singapore (MBSAAS) is carrying on that tradition by making a difference in the world; one person at a time. We have committed ourselves to enriching lives beyond just classrooms with mentoring and philanthropy initiatives that will affect others for generations through our community-building efforts across Asia.

Alumni networks may be a valuable tool for future students in the region, but they can also be active participants in local community development. As a result, Bee Ing Lim believes that the objective has never been more important: “Our alumni community is highly diverse, well connected and engaged in bringing our core social responsibility value to life. We have many opportunities to work with our alumni community – these are exciting times.

In this spirit of learning, The University of Manchester (South East Asia) Centre spoke to some active members of our alumni, including Wayne Soo, Stanley Sia, Kavickumar Muruganathan, Dr Pang Chin Hong and Tang Hian Seng, to talk about what building a better future means to them. 

We asked an important question – how can alumni help fix existing systems and advance new ideas?

Here are some areas we discussed:

Empowering local communities

The secret to UOMSEA’s success in ‘living’ its social responsibility mandate is that we have incredible people that make this possible. In practice, looking at our alumni’s collective commitment to building a better future meant using this community to support people from all walks of life. A realisation that led to the President’s Challenge Fundraising Event – Art & Bowling Charity Day 2022, a cornerstone of this mission. 

This event gives a tangible example of the ‘action’ we take to give back to society.  The President’s Challenge 2022, celebrating UOMSEA’s 30th birthday, brings the University of Manchester Alumni Association of Singapore (UOMAAS) and Manchester Business School Alumni Association of Singapore (MBSAAS) together.  It focuses on “supporting lower-income families” and seeks to empower these families with skills and opportunities. The theme of ‘Empowering lives, Uplifting communities’ resonates with the university’s values.

Dr Pang Chin Hong,  President of UOMAAS and Senior Vice President at Frasers Property, is a green advocate and change-maker who believes in positively impacting the environment and society.

For Dr Pang, community empowerment is about making people believe in equal opportunities to shape their lives and achieve greatness.  “The President’s Challenge is a great opportunity for alumni to continue a long-held tradition of giving back. We can help lower-income families by imparting valuable skills they require while discovering opportunities for a brighter future. We have a part to play as members of this community.” 

When delivering positive outcomes in local communities, we need to work together. “This means gathering collective energy, ideas and resources from kindred spirits around us to create amplifying impact for the betterment of the communities,” says Dr Pang.

The importance of social good 

Society has experienced a significant social awakening in recent years, which has led people to reassess many aspects of their lives. This shift in perspective presents an opportunity for those in a position to effect change, such as Stanley Sia, the Board Chairman of SATA Commhealth. 

As an alumnus of UOMSEA, with its strong tradition of social responsibility, Stanley says his interest in seniors’ healthcare has grown during his time with the charity. As a digital finance practitioner, he leverages his professional focus to consider how technology can improve health service delivery.

SATA Commhealth – a charitable healthcare organisation to care for the health of seniors and the vulnerable in the community – shows his learning in action.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, it quickly responded to the community’s needs to provide healthcare services to the seniors and vulnerable.  It did so with innovations like the mobile medical electric vehicle to offer vaccinations to at-risk seniors within the community and teleconsultations for those unable to commute physically.  Sia proudly shares that, in 2021, the organisation served 128,000 beneficiaries, a dramatic increase from 42,000 in 2019.

His work is an inspiring example of how one person can use their platform to create positive change in the world. “Being part of a university with such a strong history of social responsibility inspired me to think about how I can pay forward the learning and work alongside my alumni network to create a better impact in society,” he says.

Social good requires finding the right allies and rallying them through alumni social channels and events.  As a recipient of CASE (The Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Europe Volunteer of the Year Award 2017, Hian Seng Tang strongly believes that the UOMSEA network can transform lives and society by “getting buy-in from members to action initiatives that do great work.” For Hian Seng, “There is much to learn from the large alumni network and their diverse backgrounds. And so many benefits to our collective belief in social change. The knowledge of alternative perspective is invaluable to creating a positive impact.” His involvement in UOMSEA charitable events calls on the engaged alumni network to rally around and give back with initiatives such as ‘art jamming’ – a Charity event for which proceeds directly support local communities and generate a massive response across the region.

Mentoring can add deeper value 

The ability to mentor has always been seen as a valuable skill, but it has become essential in today’s increasingly competitive and diverse job market. With the ever-changing workforce landscape, UOMSEA  recognises the need for students to have access to mentors who can help them navigate this new terrain. 

By pairing recent graduates with seasoned professionals, we provide a wealth of knowledge and experience that can help individuals upskill and prepare for future challenges. In addition to providing mentorship, UOMSEA also offers a variety of resources and programmes that can help alumni stay ahead of the curve and positively impact their communities.

Wayne Soo is the Founding President of MBSAAS and its current honorary advisor. He has assisted start-ups and mentored businesses in the area with his “learning by doing” spirit. “When you consider how new industries are emerging, we must ask what new talents are required to stay competitive at work,” says Wayne Soo, discussing the BACECamp mentorship program established between MBSAAS and ACE (Action Community for Entrepreneurship). The BACECamp programme is a significant commitment to the region’s development of a vibrant entrepreneurial start-up environment.

The mentorship programme aims to help young entrepreneurs thrive. The initiative will strive to provide young entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s competitive market. Wayne stressed how essential it is for us to find people who want to build a better future and collaborate with them to equip our future leaders with the right talents. Young firms will have access to resources and assistance through this programme to convert their innovative ideas into profitable enterprises.

Wayne and other alumni, such as Kavickumar Muruganathan, offer a wealth of support to current students, including career guidance, networking opportunities, interview coaching, and more. This valuable support allows students to confidently enter the job market with the skills and resources they need to succeed. 

Kavickumar Muruganathan, a prominent alumni member and advocate of social change, is driving the green agenda in Singapore through his various high-profile and award-winning ESG initiatives and businesses.  His time at UOMSEA  fostered an “all-around approach” to what he does and equipped him well for the future. He believes in the power of knowledge transfer, expertise and experience to future generations. He says, “I mentor numerous start-ups in the sustainability space, looking to positively impact society and the environment. I also mentor fresh graduates looking to establish a career in sustainability and mid-career professionals keen to move into the sustainability space.” 

Alumni also contribute directly to the various programmes, including the MBA, of which Wayne Soo has brought three charity organisations on board as clients in the Business Inquiry projects. “Our MBA students gain greater awareness and understanding of current social issues by including charitable organisations as clients in the Business Inquiry project,” he adds. Students have feedback likewise that getting involved in such initiatives has had a positive impact and motivated them to give more towards developing a better society.” comments Wayne. 

A Radically Different Future

The world is changing. And in this time of significant change, it is more important than ever for alumni to come together and use their collective power to make a difference. They are the foundation of any university’s success. They organise fundraisers and serve their time to make a difference in their communities. Volunteering and philanthropy foster community involvement and strengthen alumni/student friendships. They also serve as a valuable pillar of support for the institution. Alumni help to ensure that the university can continue to provide an outstanding education by getting involved and giving back. As the world evolves, the role of alumni becomes even more essential.

The President’s Challenge is one way our alumni community does so.  But it is only the beginning. UOMSEA offers a strategic fit between professional, personal and academic ambitions and a shared principle to consider its alumni’s impact on the world. As we look to the future, we must continue to find new and innovative ways to engage our alumni community and empower them to make a positive difference.

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