Office of the President

November 11, 2019

Our global alumni network lets us tackle big ideas all over the world

Ana Mari Cauce

One of the great virtues of being a large, global research university is the worldwide network of alumni whose deep connections to the University of Washington remain strong long after they graduate. So many UW alumni are lifelong learners whose intellectual curiosity only grows after they receive their diplomas. Their engagement with the UW goes beyond a Facebook group or once-a-decade class reunion. Thanks to this global community, we have unique opportunities to share the quest for knowledge and discovery far beyond our campuses. This weekend, I was honored to take part in one such opportunity: Converge Taipei, the fifth of our annual summits held in cities throughout the Pacific Rim. Previous summits have been held in Shanghai, Bangkok, Bejing and Tokyo.

As is typical with alumni events, Converge summits provide an opportunity for our alumni and supporters to connect and re-connect in a fun environment — old friends share memories of time spent in classes and club activities, new graduates meet with those more established in their fields, and alumni leaders from across Asia exchange tips and ideas about what has worked best in their chapters. But Converge is much more — each year we pick a topic of special relevance in today’s society and we do a deep dive, modeling the type of life-long learning that is one of our UW signatures.

This year’s Converge summit focused on the future of artificial intelligence. It was inspiring not only to hear directly from some of the UW experts, innovators and pioneers who are changing the face of AI, but also to witness how their presentations sparked conversation and curiosity among the summit’s attendees, which included alumni, friends and partners from across the region.

The summit brought together UW researchers from a wide range of disciplines, working on an array of AI-related topics. Experts from the Allen School shared recent examples of work advancing the role of AI in health and medicine, like robotics designed to increase independence for people with disabilities. And researchers from the Information School shared findings on the ethical and policy implications of this rapidly evolving field. It was a powerful demonstration of how AI research benefits from the UW’s talent for interdisciplinary thinking to advance our understanding of a critical issue.

While in Taipei, I also had the privilege of meeting with leaders and scholars at National Taiwan University. The NTU faculty is home to a number of UW alumni and the university is also a member of the Academic Network of universities that support and collaborate with the Global Innovation Exchange. The visit was an inspiring reminder of the potential for collaboration among universities across the globe.

From events like Converge to academic partnerships, this trip demonstrated once more how the UW’s alumni, faculty, students and staff are taking on the really big questions that society faces. I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s summit and loved meeting members of our incredible alumni community who are representing the UW on the global stage.