Published December 12, 2013
Wei-Loon Leong, a double alumnus of UB, has returned to Buffalo from China eight years after his graduation to be the university’s first director of international alumni relations.
Leong brings with him expertise in international education marketing, project management and business development, and has a global perspective that he says will help him deal with the many different experiences, cultures and values that prevail among 230,000 UB graduates from more than 130 countries.
A native of Malaysia, he earned a BS in electrical engineering from UB in 2003, and an MBA in 2005 from the UB School of Management. Since his graduation, he has helped the expansion of an American manufacturing operation to China and held management positions at a major international school in Beijing, where the market is quite competitive and dynamic.
During that time, he served in a voluntary capacity for the UB Office of International Education as its China liaison for student recruitment and alumni development.
Leong will report to Nancy Wells, vice president for development and alumni relations. In his new position, he will work to strengthen relationships between UB and its overseas alumni constituencies in support of the university’s recruitment, development, research and teaching efforts.
“His experience and notable skill will permit him to make vital contributions to our work in all of these areas and we are delighted to have him,” Wells says.
Stephen Dunnett, vice provost for international education, also praises Leong’s unique skill set. “Wei Loon also has extensive experience in Asia, where most of our international alumni live; familiarity with the UB Alumni Association; and is well prepared to advance our alumni and development efforts overseas.”
Leong says the job is just what he hoped for.
“After eight years working in Beijing, my wife, Xiaoli, and I were looking for a place to settle down and raise a family,” he says.
“Like many professionals living in Beijing, we lived in a high-rise apartment for many years. Buffalo has a very different environment, but one we were seeking. There are many comfortable homes with lawns, yards with lots of kids running around outside. It reminds me of how I grew up, and that is very appealing,” he says.
“There is appeal, too, in Buffalo’s economic metamorphosis and the fact that much of it evolved out of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the new medical school. Things are changing here, and UB has been an impetus, but the city is still manageable for its residents.”
Leong says he was impressed as well that UB’s strategic plan, Realizing UB 2020, recognizes that the challenges and opportunities faced by this university are determined, in part, by the larger forces taking shape on the national and global levels.
“The fact that one of the UB 2020 goals is to enhance the visibility, value and reputation of UB at the international level means that the full force of the university will be behind our international alumni efforts,” he says.
“So it is with gratitude and appreciation toward UB, which helped me become who I am today, that I was pleased to return and serve my alma mater. I believe in the future success of UB and the potential UB has globally.”
Leong’s principle job will be to strengthen relationships between UB and its overseas alumni in support of development and recruitment efforts, and to open up internship, research and career opportunities for the graduates who will be UB’s new alumni.
“First, I will have to identify, locate and communicate with all oversees graduates, with special focus on potential leaders in various countries,” he says, “and to generate interest, I’ll make field visits to nations or regions that have a critical mass of resident alumni.”
He points out that many alumni are from Canada, India, China and Malaysia, but there are growing populations in Turkey, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico and the United Kingdom. UB has alumni throughout Europe and South America, he says, as well as in Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, Nigeria and Kenya.
“To encourage a continuing relationship with our international students, we need to nurture their loyalty with postgraduation career support here and in their home countries,” Leong says. “That would strengthen our mutual ties and encourage them to do the same for future graduates. Building a network of UB alumni who assist other UB alumni also will further improve our reputation with potential students and their parents.”
Leong also offers his insight as to why UB is so popular among Asian students.
“UB is widely known to students and their parents in Asian countries for offering the best value for the money. That’s it in a nutshell. In Asia, reputation is established and spread by word of mouth much more than by advertising and commercial promotion,” he says, “and UB has decades of positive word of mouth going for it.”
“Because UB has been a presence in Asia for more than 30 years, we have alumni throughout that region who graduated 20 or 30 years ago. Many of them have attained positions of power and prestige, which further enhances our reputation,” Leong says.
He notes many overseas alumni attribute their success to their UB education, as he does. “The more satisfied graduates we have,” he says, “the stronger our alumni base and the more solid our reputation in that region of the world.
“I can tell you that when President Tripathi visited China as part of his UB 2020 tour, there was phenomenal interest and excitement among UB alumni communities in the cities he visited because they continue to hold UB in high esteem and want to continue their relationship with the university. I am no exception.
“This job will be a challenge,” he says, “which is what makes the effort worthwhile. It also gives me an opportunity to employ my strongest skills in service to an institution for which I feel deep gratitude and pride.”