China first up as KI starts international alumni networks
Karolinska Institutet is now starting organised international alumni networks for its overseas students. At its launch, the first of these, KI Alumni China, already has 50 members.
“As alumni, we can provide a reliable platform for KI in the Chinese healthcare sector,” says Claire Ye, newly appointed alumni ambassador to China.
Until now, Karolinska Institutet’s (KI) various departments have kept contact with their own overseas alumni in a variety of ways, but now KI is investing in an overall strategy for maintaining relationships with former students from around the world. On 22 January, a launch event was organized at Solna campus with over 100 participants.
“Alumni are truly our most important tool for building collaboration and recruiting international students. We now have a structure in place for these contacts,” says Maria Masucci, deputy vice-chancellor for international affairs at Karolinska Institutet.
She is also delighted to be able to offer students a basic professional network after graduation.
Megan Osler, alumni coordinator at KI, is responsible for the practical administration of the project. She hopes that KI Alumni China will provide a working model for alumni networks in other countries. This year will see the launch of an alumni network in Vietnam, while Megan also sees a solid basis for future networks in Uganda, USA and Brazil.
“The key is to have an ambassador in place, something we have in Vietnam,” she explains, and underlines that this is a voluntary position, even if KI can meet the costs of the organisation.
It is no coincidence that China was first. Claire Ye from Shanghai completed her Master’s degree in bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska Institutet between 2008-2010. Today, she works as senior manager of marketing, products and services at a newly opened private hospital that has gone from 20 to 500 employees in only two years. In 2012, Claire began to get in touch with KI alumni to create a network. There are currently around 50 members in various sectors of Chinese academia and business, all educated at KI.
“When I returned home, I wanted to maintain contact with KI and wished that there was a network,” she says.
Claire Ye sees several purposes behind KI Alumni China:
For alumni, it is valuable to maintain contact with others who share the experience of studying at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden:
“The experience the few of us share is unique, particularly once we have returned home.”
It may prove even more important for current and future Chinese KI students:
“They will be able to get advice from us about how they can get the most out of their time at KI, and how they should go about choosing a career once they return home,” says Claire Ye.
For KI, this will be an important platform for student recruitment and collaboration with Chinese universities, hospitals and, eventually, businesses.
“We want to build bridges for KI between Sweden and China, including commercial ties. This requires a little more effort but in the long-term will prove really valuable to Sweden and KI,” says Claire Ye.
She believes that KI alumni can provide reliable contacts for Swedish businesses that wish to enter the Chinese life science and biotech markets.
Ole Petter Ottersen, KI’s vice-chancellor and a guest at the dinner, concurs with Claire Ye’s assessment:
“Karolinska Institutet has a clear ambition to maintain contacts with our Chinese students and alumni,” he says.
For testimonials by Chinese alumni on the value of maintaining contact with KI after graduation, you need look no further than many video greetings from members of KI Alumni China played at the launch in Aula Medica. One of these was from 76-year-old Xu Qunyuan, previously a researcher and head of neuroscience at Capital Medical University and former Chinese Minister of Health. Between 1981 and 1988, he was one of the first Chinese doctoral students at KI.
Together with Megan Osler at KI, Claire Ye and three other KI alumni in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen will now prepare an annual activity plan for the alumni network in China. Daily contact will mostly take place on social media, primarily on WeChat.
“As a rule, we are people with fully-booked calendars, so it is a challenge to arrange meetings that sufficient numbers can attend,” says Claire Ye.
Megan is delighted to see that organised collaboration is now underway:
“Karolinska Institutet is a relatively small university in a northern corner of the world. However, because such a large proportion of our education programs are in English, KI is an excellent choice for overseas students. Our alumni are an important channel for reaching out to them.”
Text: Ulrika Fjällborg