Bay Area Alumni dinner marks first of many events

KAUST students celebrate during the end of the University's seventh graduation ceremony as they become alumni.

More than a dozen Bay Area KAUST alumni gathered to mark the first of many alumni events in the area on April 1 in San Francisco.

There are 184 graduates currently living in the United States, and of these, 47 are located throughout California. What makes these grads unique is that many of them are from the University's founding class and are considered as KAUST pioneers.

“This group of alumni selected KAUST before we had a campus and before we had faculty,” said David Yeh, director of international affairs at KAUST. “As my colleague Brian Moran has often reflected, 'they are geniuses as they had the foresight to see what we were going to be before we even realized it.'''

The Bay Area alumni were among the first 200 students to attend KAUST, coming from all over the world and representing the start of the international spectrum of what the University is today. The dinner reacquainted them with each other and was the start of future global alumni engagement in the area and beyond.

'A heritage no one else can claim'

“These early students didn’t give up—either on us or on themselves. They challenged themselves to do better and better. They share a heritage that no one else can claim, and that’s pretty unique. They helped form what KAUST is today with their insight and contributions into what we could become as a community. They laid the foundation as the two founding classes of scholars and discoverers,” Yeh said.

A number of the alumni are now postdoctoral fellows at Stanford University, Sandia National Labs and the University of California, Berkeley. Others are working at organizations including Acumen, DataFox, Pinterest, Triple Ring Technologies, Oracle America and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Some are carrying forward the entrepreneurship and innovation practices that are so important at KAUST by either starting their own business or working for startups.

Throughout the dinner, held at Roy’s Restaurant in San Francisco, alumni and KAUST colleagues shared stories and updates and solicited feedback about how KAUST Alumni Affairs can design Bay Area events, communicate with alumni and provide interesting networking opportunities.

The launch of an alumni platform

With over 1,275 KAUST graduates spread out around the world, the University's Alumni Affairs is making it a priority to reinvigorate alumni engagement. This April, the team launched Rapport, a new online alumni community, and they plan to increase alumni involvement in a number of ways over the next three years.

“We are looking for alumni volunteers to work as ambassadors at student recruitment fairs. We are also looking for global chapter leaders and speakers—both virtual and in-person—to talk at KAUST events,” Yeh said.

A KAUST U.S. alumni chapter is planned to launch within the year, along with a U.S. alumni-organized KAUST reunion planned for the summer of 2017.

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