W&M visits Hong Kong

By Kelly S. Holdcraft July 4, 2016

Alumni, students, parents and W&M staff gather together to celebrate Tribe Pride in Hong Kong.

Photo courtesy of Kelly S. Holdcraft

We were an international university at our onset” rings true as colleagues from William & Mary travel across Asia to gather alumni, students and parents together to celebrate Tribe pride.

The first stop is Hong Kong, with its deep bustling harbor, dense landscape of skyscrapers and thick summer humidity. On Monday, June 13, Jim Hunter ’85, P ’19 hosted alumni, and current and incoming students and parents at a reception in his EY offices. Jim warmly welcomed guests and provided a view into how important William & Mary is and has been to him and his family.

“My whole outlook on my academic focus really changed and developed while I was at William & Mary and was incredibly impactful on me. Since leaving the ’Burg in 1985 . . . I have always maintained a connection with William & Mary. It was partly because of the experience that I had but it is also in large part because I want to see William & Mary become all that it can be. Being able to explain the history of the school to people here in Asia really makes me proud of how important William & Mary has been in American history and in global academic standards. I am also very proud that my son (Ian Hunter ’19) now goes to William & Mary.”

Vernon Hurte, senior associate dean of students and assistant to the vice president, and director of the Center for Student Diversity greeted the audience from the Dean of Students Office. He also introduced fellow W&M colleagues and travel mates: Mark Sikes Ph.D ’15, associate dean of students and director of Parent & Family Programs; Lauren Garrett ’02, director of First Year Experience; Sani Silvennoinen, executive director of regional and international advancement; and Kelly S. Holdcraft, senior director of alumni engagement.

Hurte welcomed incoming undergrad Lila Szweda ’20 and her parents Elise and Eric Szweda, and incoming M.B.A. student Angus Yau M.B.A. ’18 into the wonderful Tribe community of scholars and leaders. Vernon discussed how “in Student Affairs, we are in the business of helping all of our students to flourish, to find their way and to find their path. We are excited to welcome students this fall and to be a part of the beginning of their journey in adding to the William & Mary tradition and the great work they shall continue to do.”

Angus Yau, who received his undergraduate degree at the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University, is heading back to the Hampton Roads, Va., area from Hong Kong to study the Real Estate Path of Distinction in the full time M.B.A. program at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Lila Szweda is a graduate of Hong Kong International School where she and Ian Hunter ’19 sang in the choir together. Lila is excited to study marine biology at William & Mary, and it was her interaction with VIMS Dean John Wells, along with the opportunity to study with and research alongside VIMS professors that helped her choose W&M over Tulane University.

William & Mary Professor Mike Tierney ’87, P ’15 provided alumni, students and parents in Hong Kong with an engaging look at AidData projects, including their collection, curation and publication of data on Chinese development projects in Africa. He continued to highlight how William & Mary “helps students learn things that they can’t learn as a 19-year-old attending another university.” Throughout his discussion, Tierney gave examples of how the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations (ITPIR) and AidData empower their students as research partners. In 2012, when William & Mary was chosen by USAid as one of seven major universities to receive significant funding as a development lab, the AidData team had Alena Stern ’12 present their data at a conference in Washington, D.C. While the other universities brought up deans and white-haired professors, William & Mary trusted their student to be the voice of their team. In fact, Rajiv Shah, head of USAid was seen turning to a colleague and saying in admiration, “Is that a student?”

At the close of the event, Ian and Lila were asked to lead the group in the singing of "Alma Mater." Members of the Tribe could hear the “Hark Upon the Gale” from across the globe.