China alumni chapter gives back to KAUST

KAUST staff members using masks donated by the KAUST China Alumni Chapter. Photo by Hugh Gyetvai.

​Alumni and friends from China have sent anti-pandemic materials to assist the KAUST community during the COVID-19 crisis. Two Health Guard Robots, 2,000 disposable face masks, and the provision of technical advice are among their contributions.

Alumnus and volunteer leader Jian Pan, M.S. 2011 and President of the China Alumni Chapter. File photo.

Alumnus and volunteer leader Jian Pan, M.S. 2011 and President of the China Alumni Chapter, contacted Alumni Affairs in late March to ask how the Chinese alumni community could support KAUST. Their offer of support came just as the KAUST community started adapting to its new COVID-19 norm.

"When I read Jian's email I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the KAUST Chinese alumni community who at the time were still going through their own turmoil," said Lea Sublett, Manager of Alumni Affairs.

For the last four months Alumni Affairs has regularly checked on the well-being of alumni.

Members of the KAUST Department of Alumni Affairs speak with members of the KAUST China Alumni Chapter via Zoom.

"This started in February with an email to alumni in China telling them we were thinking of them, extending to alumni in-Kingdom and internationally as the pandemic spread," said Sublett.

One of the updates included the video of President Chan addressing the KAUST community. Pan explained that after watching the video, the Chapter Executive (Wang Lei, Yan Feng and Felix Lau) became concerned about the KAUST community. As they deeply understood the situation they decided to mobilize their alumni and friend networks to support KAUST.

"The video sparked an impressive response among Chinese alumni and many reached out to ask how they could help KAUST. Some alumni offered useful suggestions – for example Li Lixin, Yu Yuanlie and Gao Yangqin identified reliable mask manufacturers," Pan said.

Alumni Paying it Forward

"When Jian first contacted me, KAUST was at the height of its response hibernating facilities and other significant activities," KAUST Director of Health and Safety Erik Talley said. 

"Jian and the Chapter offered to help in any way possible; from donating necessary personal protective equipment to robot technology solutions that have been successful in China," Talley continued. "Their level of interest and engagement in protecting their alma mater showed me how significantly KAUST made a positive impact. Alumni are the lifeblood of an institution's continued success serving in many different ways."

The Chapter's support of the KAUST COVID-19 response included the donation of 2,000 disposable face masks from the Chapter's strategic partner, the Hangzhou Association for Science and Technology (HAST). This association is the main supporter and sponsor for the Chapters' annual KAUST Alumni Talents Matchmaking Meeting Event, an event where alumni share their technical expertise with enterprises, industrial parks and government entities.

(Left to right) KAUST President Tony Chan, Director of Health and Safety Erik Talley, and Manager of Alumni Affairs Lea Sublett stand with a shipment of masks donated by the KAUST China Alumni Chapter. Photo by Hugh Gyetvai.

"The masks donated by HAST are of great benefit, as before COVID-19 masks were not used in laboratories. Most masks are being provided to Principal Investigators during their lab reopening meetings to assist with startup, since masks are now required when working in laboratories. Face masks with teddy bears on them are being deployed in the child care programs," Talley said.

Two epidemic-inspection robots from Hangzhou Shenhao Technology Co. Ltd. are on their way from China. Known as the Health Guard Robot, its functions include temperature screening and facial recognition while wearing a mask. These robots are manufactured by Shenhao Technology where KAUST alumnus Xiong Junjie is Vice President.

Technical advice from Chinese alumni to KAUST through the Handbook of COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment was providedThis has included their advice on air sterilization and sterilization products from alumnus Fang Weijie, and information and contacts for virus detection kits from alumnus Wang Hai.

"China and Eastern Asia were further along in the pandemic by the time Saudi Arabia was impacted. The technical documentation provided by the alumni was helpful in comparing our current and planned strategies to institutions that had already been through these events," said Talley.

Volunteer Leadership – Alumni Support to KAUST

After Saudi Arabia, China is the University's largest alumni community. Pre-COVID-19, 10 volunteers who serve on the Chinese Alumni Chapter hosted regular activities throughout China including the annual Alumni Talents' Matchmaking Event and, last year, the KAUST10 Reunion in Shanghai. These volunteers along with former students, staff and their families, contribute hundreds of hours every year as volunteers and as global ambassadors of the University.

"It is my honor to be involved in the Chapter, and support KAUST as it has supported me and my fellow alumni," Pan said.

As a future goal, the Chapter's vision is to build its capacity to become a conduit for KAUST to engage with government, academic and corporate institutions, and to continue to support meaningful interaction between alumni living in China as well as internationally.

"It is our pleasure to offer our help at this time and all of us would like to see KAUST return to normal," said Pan. "It shows that our alumni can start to give back to our alma mater, and also illustrates the success of KAUST's education for previous students."

KAUST President Tony Chan stands with a shipment of masks donated by the KAUST China Alumni Chapter. Photo by Hugh Gyetvai.

"Alumni are at the heart of a university's continued success. It's great to see the involvement of alumni in the University community in Saudi Arabia and internationally. On behalf of the KAUST community, I would like to thank our Alumni Chapter in China for their generosity," Chan said.