Jenny Chan has recently sponsored Teaching and Research Excellence awards for the College of Business. We met Jenny and talked about her view of professional education, and the role of alumni in contemporary Hong Kong.
From her office high in the Lippo Centre Jenny Chan looks out over the very heart of corporate Hong Kong. As CEO of Lippo Securities Jenny is the model of a top level business professional. But being brought up in a family of five, times were sometimes hard. Only the eldest child could be sent to university - in the USA. And for the others, Jenny included, university education was not an option. So when more recently the opportunity to study on CityU's EMBA came along Jenny was delighted:
"Career people tend to be rich on experience and observations, but we don't necessarily have the theory to back it up. The EMBA was an opportunity to get a great theoretical grounding in business."
After her positive experience on the EMBA, Jenny decided to go ahead and sponsor annual College of Business awards for teaching and research excellence.
"The faculty on our EMBA showed a lot of patience and passion. We were true learning partners - this was teaching from the heart. There was a willingness to accept that theories don't always fit, and to exchange ideas. This is a way of giving something back."
The College of Business multimedia centre is named after Jenny's late father "Chan Hok Yan Multimedia Studio." He belonged to another earlier generation who didn't have so many opportunities to study at university. "My father educated himself as a self-study accountant. He would have been proud that I completed my EMBA at CityU."
Through the EMBA Jenny has built up contacts in the US, and works on the Advisory board of the Asia Business Centre at the UC Berkeley. The alumni organisations are active, recently having met up in Singapore and with the next meeting scheduled for Shanghai.
With regard to corporate philanthropy she sees that the landscape is different in the west. In the US there is a greater willingness to donate, but the large endowments often come from the very wealthy. Here in Hong Kong, where alumni-building is in its early days, the wider role of alumni should not be ignored. "We all have contributions to make, and not necessarily just financial."
Jenny is doing her bit to build bridges between the workplace and the university. She encourages people to take up opportunities and to study on shorter executive education courses. For the future she thinks it quite possible that alumni might also work together with faculty as teachers. On short term executive education courses alumni can contribute lots from the experiential side of business. And she is a great believer in meeting people.
"Both in teaching and business I think the personal touch will always be important. Web conferences can only tell you so much about how someone feels. You need to get face to face once in a while."
Finally, we have hopes of seeing Jenny back at CityU, whether in a studying capacity or perhaps teaching on the executive education courses she finds so beneficial. Time is always precious but Jenny sends a clear signal to people to keep studying, and to encourage alumni to contribute - in whatever ways they can.
"I think we need to think about the meaning of success. Motivation can be very narrowly conceived. The younger generation forgets - or simply is not aware - of the struggle of the previous generations. It is easy to criticise - but more difficult to make a meaningful contribution."
We thank Jenny for her great generosity in setting up these awards for the College, and wish her the very best in her future work - and study.