A Rewarding Journey

Together, UTS’s alumni community will continue to make extraordinary achievements around the world.

Kristy WhiteIt was an extraordinary celebration when Zyralyn Bacani stepped on to the stage at her graduation ceremony in late 2016. As she received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Journalism), Bacani became UTS’s 200,000th graduate. That’s no small feat. The occasion is not only a milestone in the university’s history; Bacani and her fellow colleagues have joined a vibrant international community of alumni, which includes Origins graduates from a number of antecedent institutions that transformed into the UTS of today.

Many of these innovators and leaders continue to work with UTS to share its vision, nurture a new generation of students, and make a difference around the world.

“There’s a sense of pride for the institution in the alumni community, where alumni act as our advocates and ambassadors, and they’re really proud to do so,” says Kristy White, Deputy Director of Alumni Relations.

Since joining UTS last September, White has been working on new ways to engage with, inform, and further develop the community. The Alumni Advantage program, an initiative her predecessor oversaw that gives UTS graduates a 10 per cent savings on all degrees, signed up nearly 300 applicants for further studies at the year’s start. More exclusive benefits are coming in 2017.

“Two key catchwords come to mind,” says White about her vision: “to make sure that UTS has a sense of relevance and meaning in the lives of our alumni population.”

Changing lives around the world

UTS alumni are inspiring and changing lives in wide-ranging fields over the world. A lifelong commitment to the fight for human rights, democracy and empowerment of women garnered Sekai Holland the Sydney Peace Prize in 2012. The former Zimbabwean Co-Minister of State for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration continues to campaign for a country built on peace, justice and freedom. In Australia, she founded the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the late ’60s, supported the Aboriginal community and was an activist in the early environmental movement.

Technology entrepreneur and author, Adrian Turner, is the CEO of Data61, Australia’s largest data innovation group within the CSIRO. Prior to this, he co-founded the Silicon Valley-based enterprise, Mocana, which specialises in security systems, apps, and connected devices. He was also the chairman of Advance, a not-for-profit network that connects 20,000 expatriate Australians across 90 countries. Turner is now racing to help Australia build new industries for the digital age.

“There’s a sense of pride for the institution in the alumni community, where alumni act as our advocates and ambassadors.”
– Kristy White

Troy Lum co-founded Hopscotch Films in 2002, and is recognised as one of the world’s top 50 young film executives. He got his start at Dendy, and was instrumental in snapping up the local rights to The Blair Witch Project and Amélie. Hopscotch has since become eOne Films Australia, where Lum continues as its managing director.

Last year’s UTS Chancellor’s Award recipient, Dr Frances Hughes ONZM, is the first CEO of the International Council of Nurses appointed from the Southern Hemisphere. The federation comprises over 130 national nurses’ associations working to ensure quality care and policies globally. Dr Hughes also consults on nursing, policy and mental health with the World Health Organization, governments and non-government organisations.

A focus on volunteerism

White envisages a broader culture of volunteerism at UTS for alumni to give back in meaningful, relevant ways.

“You can give back with your work, your wealth or your wisdom,” says White.

A pilot online e-mentoring platform launching later this year enables alumni, regardless of geographical location, to provide their time and expertise to current students.

Volunteering opportunities abound at alumni network and chapter events across Australia and the globe. These engagement events now provide opportunities in professional development, networking and thought leadership.

A 2016 London event, for instance, was organised by local alumni featuring an academic from the UTS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to discuss Brexit and its future implications.

White adds that new graduates returning to their home country greatly benefit from the participation of local alumni. “They’ve been away for three, four, maybe six years” she explains. “Quite a lot of them are returning without a professional network. So providing that UTS alumni network in the first instance as a bit of a soft landing for them is something that adds value.”

Enhancing communications and experiences

Current students also need nurturing. A new program, Alum From Day One, will connect with them to foster future engagement. There are three components, White explains: firstly, it will increase alumni messaging throughout the student experience to raise awareness and convey the value of being a member of the alumni community. That way, when students graduate, “they understand what we are there for, what we can offer, and why they should stay connected.”

The overall graduating experience will be enriched. “It’s a milestone moment,” White says. “We’re already working closely with the Graduations Unit on how we can enhance graduations to make them more meaningful and really sing.”

The third component involves professional development and coaching for those who are about to graduate or who have just graduated. Some programs being considered include setting up an effective LinkedIn profile, interview dos and don’ts, and dressing for success. “Basic stuff,” says White, “but something that I think is very relevant and helpful to young alumni.”

She is also ramping up social media and online channels to improve alumni communications. Chinese UTS groups on WeChat may have heard her Lunar New Year greetings earlier this year in Mandarin (White lived in China and talks the talk). Changes to the monthly alumni newsletter and the Events page on the alumni website will tailor content to be relevant for domestic and international readers.

She’s looking forward to the response from a new section inviting alumni to share their journey since graduation and their memories of UTS, and facilitating access to new initiatives in the future.

“We have a great team here,” says White. “It’s a small but a mighty team. In Alumni Relations we have a lot of fun and work really hard; our alumni are busy people, and we really want to have a meaningful and relevant presence in their lives.”

Story by Amos Wong
Photography by Kevin Cheung