Hong Kong hosts unique alumni society

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By Jessica Stones

When Simon Tsang graduated from Ryerson’s civil engineering program in 1990, he thought he was done with school forever.

He moved back to his native Hong Kong in 1991 and settled into adulthood, working at the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation’s design management department.

But when Ryerson Alumni Association administrator Jane Knight arrived in Hong Kong in 1996 to meet with Ryerson grads living in the area, Tsang jumped at the chance to get involved in starting an alumni chapter in Hong Kong.

“She tried to contact as many of us [grads] as she could find,” he says on the phone from his office in Hong Kong. “We all thought it was a great idea.” He has been vice-president since its inception in 1997, when Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse officially launched the chapter.

The Hong Kong alumni chapter is the only one of its kind for Ryerson. Most chapter members are Chinese who immigrated to Canada and decided to return to Hong Kong to work after graduating. Others are English-speaking Canadians who moved to Hong Kong to pursue careers.

“We are a special group,” Tsang says. “We get together for dinners after work, we have a sports night, karaoke—we tried to have a hiking day but that didn’t work out. I guess people don’t like hiking.”
Group members also help recruit Ryerson students and participate in education fairs in Hong Kong, handing out brochures and talking to parents of potential students. “We are working to promote the school internationally,” Tsang says.

Although there are approximately 400 Ryerson grads living and working in Hong Kong, Tsang says his chapter has only managed to successfully contact about 90. Compared to the 20,000 University of Toronto alumni in Hong Kong. Ryerson has a relatively low profile.

“U of T has such a big presence here,” Tsang says. “It’s important to increase awareness of Ryerson.”
While increased awareness is good for the school, it’s also been critical to the alumni. When a  university is widely known and respected, the alumni have more credibility.

Although Tsang never thought he’d be representing Ryerson on the other side of the world from the engineering wing of Kerr Hall, he says he enjoy the connection he still has with the school. Every year he visits Toronto, and Ryerson, to meet with the alumni association and see what’s new.
“I like Ryerson,” he says. “It feels good to still be a part of it.”

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