'It's All About Community': Award-Winning CAA Taiwan Reflects on Club's Success

For Chris Wei, the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) of Taiwan is all about community.

The 1990 Columbia Engineering and Business School double alumnus said the club—which was founded in 1989, but has history that spans more than 50 years—welcomed him "with open arms" upon his return to Taiwan after graduation.

"It was a no-brainer," Wei told The Low Down of his decision to get involved immediately.

The club's success and reputation for fostering a strong Columbia alumni community abroad has carried on through the present day—CAA Taiwan is the international winner of this year's Regional Club of Excellence Award.  

                                                                                (A May 2017 golf outing)

Wei said he considers himself lucky that the club leaders at the time he joined were such great role models; by the time he assumed the president role two years ago, he didn't have to "invent many things," because the organization is so well-run.

"I feel blessed that we have a long history and a young generation of alumni that keeps things flowing nicely," he said.

Wei explained that in recent years, Taiwan has had many students attend Columbia, which has resulted in an influx of new members who return to their home after graduation. The club currently has about 2,000 members.

                                                       (Celebrating SIPA's 70th anniversary in March 2017)

"We're lucky that we have energetic and global-minded young alumni," Wei told The Low Down, explaining that the new members have brought in another "level of energy" which complements the experience of the seasoned members.

This mix of several generations of alumni has allowed CAA Taiwan to have an excellent balance of traditional, but creative events.

"It's a group effort," Wei said of the event and programming planning.

                                                                           (2017 student send-off event)

The club has a mix of larger, signature annual events, including a fall dinner, a summer send-off for Columbia students, and an Ivy Ball with fellow Ivy League schools, as well as smaller, more frequent events like networking receptions and lectures.

A member favorite is the club's version of a happy hour, which features a cocktail reception that kicks off with a talk by a Columbian who is an expert in their respective field. Recent examples include an Engineering professor who spoke about artificial intelligence, as well as an alumni diplomat who spoke on the current US-China relationship.

Wei said the club welcomes any Columbia faculty or alumni leaders visiting from other areas and tries to take advantage of any opportunity to connect with them.

"It makes us more visible in the international alumni community," he said.

                                                                   (An April 2017 community outreach event)

Wei said the club's leadership board has an open mind when it comes to new suggestions, which has contributed to the success of dozens of events. He also attributed speaking with alumni leaders from other clubs to their growth.

"We learn a lot by talking with alumni clubs," Wei said. "We find out what we're missing and how we can improve."

The club president said he and fellow CAA Taiwan members look forward to the annual Columbia Alumni Leaders Weekend (where Wei and team will accept their Regional Club of Excellence Award in October) for the opportunity to speak with hundreds of alumni in the same place.

"More often than not, there is no textbook answer (to an issue)," Wei said. "It is helpful to talk to different clubs because everyone is facing a different challenge."

                                (CAA Taiwan board members have dinner with Columbia Business School staff)

Wei has enjoyed his tenure as president so far, and recommends volunteering in a CAA Regional Club as a great way to both network and give back to the University.

"'Why should I volunteer?' young alumni ask. What are the benefits?'" Wei said. "You don't necessarily get anything, but once you're in the process and do something for the community, you will see the community will give you back something."

Learn more about Wei and his fellow board members here, and RSVP to join the club at its next event, the 2017 CAA Taiwan Annual Dinner, here.

Like CAA Taiwan on Facebook.

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