Global Huskies

Alumni communities foster UW spirit worldwide

In 2014, Morgan Thompson, ‘02, and his wife moved from New York to Zurich, Switzerland. After settling in, he decided to seek out other UW alumni living in Zurich. His wife, an Indiana University alumna, had connected with a small but lively Hoosier community in Switzerland, and Thompson hoped to find a similar network of Huskies.

After reaching out to the UW and researching on LinkedIn, Thompson discovered that while there were approximately 100 UW alumni in Switzerland, they’d never come together as Huskies. So he organized the first-ever Switzerland Huskies meet-up. The inaugural event, dinner at a local restaurant, took place in January 2016 and attracted a small but diverse group of Switzerland-based alumni. Few of them knew each other prior to getting together, but they enjoyed the opportunity to meet and share memories of the UW. They’re now planning a year’s worth of events they can do as an alumni group: Swiss chocolate and wine tastings, outings to hockey games and a possible summer alumni barbecue. They even hope to host an Apple Cup event in the fall, provided they can figure out how to work around the nine-hour time difference.

Switzerland Huskies alumni gathering

Switzerland Huskies celebrate their first alumni gathering.

This newly-formed Switzerland Husky community is one of 10 alumni networks outside the United States. Like U.S.-based communities, global chapters have sprouted in areas where there are UW alumni interested in and excited about staying connected to the UW. These chapters reflect where Huskies come from before entering the UW as students and where they relocate after receiving their degrees. From small, emerging clusters in places such as Zurich and London, to formally organized chapters as in Beijing and Bangkok, global Husky communities are motivated by building and growing UW community: linking alumni abroad to each other and to the UW.


Building community

Hyun Kim, ’85, ’90, is president of the UWAA Korea chapter. Established in the early 1970s, it is one of the largest and oldest international chapters. There are more than 1,000 UW alumni in Korea, and Kim says that while many of them have wonderful memories of and strong feelings toward their alma mater, they don’t always know how to connect with the UW from so far away.

Kim sees UWAA Korea as a key link to bolstering this bond. “If we can have a strong Husky community in Korea, we can better support our alumni and, in turn, give back to the UW more effectively,” he says.

In addition to providing a support framework for UW alumni abroad, many international alumni chapters also work to develop close ties with current and prospective students and their parents. Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, ’89, serves as president of the UWAA Beijing chapter. She has lived in Beijing for nearly 20 years and has observed the chapter transform largely due to a diversifying student body. Early on, she says, the Beijing Husky community functioned as a way for expatriate alumni to meet each other and stay apprised with what was happening in Washington and at the UW.

Alumni celebrate Husky spirit in Shanghai

Hong Kong Husky Randy Chan, ’06, UWAA Thailand president Somboon Chaya, ’78, and UWAA Beijing president Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, ’89, show their Husky spirit.

However, as more Chinese students attend college in the U.S., she has noticed her chapter’s community expanding. “For students currently studying at the UW who will return to China after graduation, this community will be their base,” she says. Harris-Simpson believes that UWAA Beijing will provide a space for graduates to continue their Husky experience and share it with others. “They will be the future leaders of UWAA Beijing, and we current leaders see great value in helping our young alumni grow into leadership roles,” she explains.


Growing a global Husky family

Like UWAA Beijing, several international alumni communities understand their “Husky family” as much more than just alumni. Chapters, such as UWAA Japan and UWAA Singapore, work with UW registered student organizations to host annual summer student send-off events, where incoming UW students and their families can meet current students and parents, in addition to alums.

Kim says that UWAA Korea is eager to be a resource for recent graduates. His chapter follows a formal leadership structure, in which senior alumni hold administrative offices. Young alumni are encouraged to serve in secretarial roles, where they work closely with and learn from the higher ranking leaders. This gives younger alums the space to cultivate leadership skills, and older alums an opportunity to mentor younger generations, Kim explains.

In addition to building community in their countries, many chapter leaders are actively working to develop relationships with other global chapters. In November 2015, 25 leaders from eight international chapters came together in Shanghai to participate in the first global UW alumni leadership conference.

2015 Global Alumni Leadership Conference attendees

President Cauce honors alumni leaders at the 2015 global alumni leadership conference in Shanghai.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce attended the event and presented the chapter presidents in attendance with appreciation awards to thank them for their outstanding leadership. Recipients included Sean Liu, ’87 (Shanghai), Su Cheng Harris-Simpson, ’89 (Beijing), Lui Tong, ’90 (Hong Kong), Somboon Chaya, ’78 (Thailand), David Satterwhite, ’79, ’94 (Japan) and Elaine Cheo, ’80, ’82 (Singapore).

During the conference, leaders shared their best leadership practices and their chapters’ alumni engagement success stories. They also discussed their goals for future growth and activities as well as their collective interest in helping the UW strengthen its brand internationally by creating the most welcoming and inclusive global network of UW advocates.


Being a World of Good

The UW is one of the best universities in the world, ranked “most innovative” by Reuters and No. 11 globally by U.S. News & World Report. Its relationship to the rest of the world has never been stronger than it is today. Much of that is owed to the global alumni communities who have helped lay the groundwork and continue to support it through engagement, community-building, volunteerism and financial contributions.

“A Husky network is important anywhere,” say Thompson. “While we Switzerland Huskies might have been at the UW at different times and studied different subjects, we have the common thread of UW and all of those shared experiences that go with being a Husky to unite us.”

Huskies worldwide

Alumni worldwide unite for events and activities, such as this recent Pac-12 NCAA viewing party in Shanghai.

Such ties often result in lifelong relationships. The most rewarding part of Harris-Simpson’s experience with UWAA Beijing has been the continual opportunities to connect with old friends and meet new ones through the chapter’s growing network. And UWAA Korea leaders work hard to celebrate their members’ achievements by honoring outstanding alumni and commemorating significant milestones in members’ lives. “When there is a wedding for our members, our chapter leaders will send a congratulatory note, and when there is a funeral, we will attend or send our official flag to express our condolence,” says Kim.

At the core of all global Husky alumni groups is a commitment to community. “It’s been a rewarding challenge to organize people to come together with the purpose of creating goodwill for the UW and its alumni,” says UWAA Thailand chapter president Somboon Chaya. “Through our chapter activities, we seek to demonstrate happiness, and for us, happiness is being part of the Husky family,” he says.


Learn more about global Husky communities.