A virtuous cycle: Building an alumni community in Malaysia
Malaysia-based graduate Charis Wong is following in the altruistic footsteps of Sir John Monash, providing young working women with the support and networks they need to succeed.
Monash has always aspired to prepare graduates with knowledge and skills framed by social awareness. It’s a vision for higher education, inspired by Sir John Monash (after whom the University is named), that benefits the wider community.
Charis Wong personifies that aspiration. She graduated from the Malaysia campus business school in 2015 and now works in the advisory team for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), providing commercial due diligence, market assessment and business strategy services related to merger and acquisition transactions.
She enjoys her job – from its pace and international breadth to the ability to create impact for her clients – but she defies business stereotypes centred on self-interest.
Inspired by the Monash spirit, Wong in 2016 co-founded the Monash Malaysia Business Alumni Chapter (MMBAC), a platform to connect, empower and develop fellow alumni and the broader community in Malaysia.
“Adopt as your fundamental creed that you will equip yourself for life, not solely for your own benefit, but for the benefit of the whole community.” – Sir John Monash
Among the beneficiaries are young working women struggling to advance, refugees for whom tertiary education can seem an impossible dream, and fellow Malaysia-based alumni who are simply keen to develop business skills.
“Mentorship is extremely important, especially for women, as it provides support and networks that they need to succeed,” she says. “That’s something we provide through our flagship program, Thrive, which is targeted for women, with two elements: capacity-building workshops and a mentorship program.”
The chapter also hosts events that allow the alumni themselves to continue learning, in line with the University’s motto, Ancora Imparo (“I am still learning”).
To this end, it receives support and advice from Monash Malaysia staff, particularly School of Business senior school manager Dr Justin Xavier and external engagement associate director Ridzuan Repin. This includes involving industry leaders in curated leadership workshops. “I actively look to learn from people ahead of me in their careers,” Wong says. “I want to identify how they accomplished what they have so I can improve what I do.”
Through the alumni chapter, personal growth is then translated into a virtuous cycle, she says – in which better-informed alumni can more effectively benefit the wider community.
“I want to give back to the community, especially people less privileged. Being a part of the alumni chapter brings me one step closer to this goal.”
The chapter’s outreach also extends to the broader alumni community via a Facebook group, with visitors to Malaysia invited to attend social events such as lunches, dinners and hikes on Malaysia’s impressive trails.
“I feel it means something to be a Monash graduate,” Wong says. “I’m a firm believer in the strength of the alumni network and the need to increase engagement, especially in Asia.”
That fervour isn’t unique to Wong – it runs in her family. Her parents met while studying at the Monash Clayton campus; her mother graduated with a degree in economics, and her father, in computer science. “Monash didn’t just educate my family but [also] provided opportunities for personal growth, exposure to wider opportunities and strong connections to industry.”