Comets in China Strengthen Ties Through Social Media App WeChat

  • Dr. Hasan Pirkul, dean of the Naveen Jindal School of Management, spoke to more than 100 UT Dallas alumni in China during a visit to Beijing in October.

Within the last few months, alumni living in China have welcomed a dean from UT Dallas to the country for a visit, raised thousands of dollars for scholarships, and spread the proud news on social media that fellow alumnus Dr. Aziz Sancar PhD’77 won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Much of this new activity among Comets in China has been inspired by connections made through WeChat, the mobile app of choice for hundreds of millions of users in China, where Facebook and Instagram are unavailable. The Naveen Jindal School of Management’s (JSOM) WeChat account is part of an effort to connect with 1,800 graduates in China —  a push that has led to new alumni chapters in Shanghai and Beijing, and crowdfunding for a scholarship to benefit students.

Hua Bai, a master’s student and China native, runs the Jindal School’s WeChat account. The posts, all of which are in Chinese, provide a new and popular link between UT Dallas and the channel’s approximately 1,300 followers.

“When students graduate and go back to China, they can’t use Gmail, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram,” said Bai, who is double-majoring in marketing and information technology and management. “So it was very difficult for us to reach out to alumni. Our alumni had an amazing experience while they were here so they value the opportunity to stay in touch with JSOM.”

JSOM WeChat Interface with China

The Jindal School's WeChat account is part of an effort to connect with 1,800 graduates in China —  a push that has led to new alumni chapters in Shanghai and Beijing, and crowdfunding for a scholarship to benefit students.

This fall, alumni responded enthusiastically to WeChat posts about the possibility of a visit from Dr. Hasan Pirkul, dean of the Jindal School. More than 100 graduates attended two receptions for the dean. Some asked for selfies with Pirkul, while others said that they took the day off from work to attend.

“Distance cultivates nostalgia, and it was evident in the stories that these alumni shared about their UT Dallas experiences during the alumni networking receptions,” said Erica Yaeger, assistant dean of development and alumni relations for the Jindal School. “The Jindal School wants to be a vital partner in the success and personal growth of our alumni, including those who are many miles from campus.”

Jun Zou MBA’98, CFO of iDreamSky, spoke to alumni at the Shanghai reception about the impact UT Dallas had on his career.

“Exposure to the Jindal School’s student body with its diversified cultural backgrounds helped me to be more inclusive and understanding in future work,” Zou said.

“The faculty are not only willing to give guidance in the classroom but to also walk the extra mile to help students,” Zou said. “For example, the late Dr. Connie Konstans referred me to his contacts for internships and full-time positions, from which I landed my first full-time job post-graduation.”

After the receptions, graduates formed Beijing and Shanghai alumni chapters.

Many of these alumni are working to make the transition from living in China to studying at UT Dallas easier for the next generation. They’re doing this by raising funds for an endowed scholarship for students in the Jindal School.

Alumni are using the University’s crowdfunding platform, Impact UTD, for the fundraiser that ends on Feb. 8, the start of the Chinese New Year.

“Our hope is that the scholarship will allow students coming from China not to worry as much about tuition and other expenses, along with adjusting to a new culture thousands of miles from home, but to focus on learning,” said Jason Liu BS’01, MS’06, founding president and advisor of UT Dallas’ Chinese Alumni Network.

So far, alumni, students and friends have raised approximately $5,000 toward the project’s $12,500 goal. Once the goal is met, matching funds will be used to meet the $25,000 minimum required for an endowed scholarship.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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