Connecting the Alumni Community

Two MMS graduates are giving back to the University through service to the Alumni Council

While graduation marks the end of one relationship with the University, it also signals the start of a new one. As an alumnus there are lots of ways to stay connected to your alma mater, from attending events to supporting current students and research through philanthropy. Melbourne Medical School alumni Dr Joseph Doyle (BAHons 2005, MBBSHons 2005,) and Dr James McGann (BBiomed 2011, MD 2015) choose to give their time as members of the University of Melbourne Alumni Council. We spoke with them for this edition of Chiron.

Alumni Leaders’ Forum 2016 
Front row (L-R): Gloria Goh, Shu Qing Tan, Florence Lee, Claudia Tan, Bryan Tan, Ken Watanabe, Georgina Harvey, Crystal Zhang, Jaclyn Birtchnell Middle row (L-R): James Allan, Phemie Wong, Ling Mien Yeo, Kerry Rock, Sarah Banks Back row (L-R): Jin Xu, Nick Yan, Peter Sutherland, Sophie Watson, Hendro Widjaya, David Goodridge, Catherine Brown, David Laidlaw

Representing the University of Melbourne’s alumni community is no easy task. It’s a hugely diverse group, culturally, academically and professionally. And it’s truly global—there are Melbourne graduates in 170 countries around the world.

But for Dr Doyle, appointed president of the University of Melbourne Alumni Council in early 2017, it’s vitally important that this community is represented. “There is merit and value in alumni speaking directly to alumni. We need an alumni voice,” he says.

Six Council members are elected by alumni, two are representatives of the University (who serve on the Council as non-voting members), and the remaining members are recommended by the Vice-Chancellor and appointed by University Council.

They are kept busy, with meetings held at the Parkville campus six to seven times per year, as well as working group/sub-committee meetings every other month. An annual planning meeting determines the Council’s areas of future focus and it reports annually to the alumni body and University Council.

This year, the Council’s focus is clear: creating deeper, more meaningful connections with and within the alumni community.

To do this, members are focusing on two main projects. “First, we want to work out how we can engage with alumni and find out what they want from the University,” says Dr Doyle.

“Our job is to find ways of connecting, and then staying in touch, with alumni which means talking to them consistently over time.

”Second, we want to try and establish good connections with alumni associations in our region. We haven’t always had open channels of communication all the time with these groups.”

There’s a plan in place to publish meeting agendas and use social media to encourage alumni to participate in discussions, which will open up the workings of the Council to the wider community.

And links with alumni outside Melbourne are being strengthened. In December, the Council participated in the University of Melbourne Alumni Leaders’ Forum, which was attended by the leaders of Melbourne alumni associations in Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, UK, US and Sydney. Hosted in Parkville, the Forum involved two days of discussion about how the associations can best represent University of Melbourne alumni across the globe.

“The Alumni Council now needs to ensure follow-up with each of the participants and associations,” says Dr Doyle. “There are also a number of other local Australia-based alumni groups and we want to connect with them as well so that channels of communication are open and regular.”

The Council is relatively new, having operated for about five years in its current form. But its members’ passion for the task ahead is clear. “We are still finding our feet but have great aspirations,” says Dr McGann, now in his second year on the Council.

One of those aspirations is to support the alumni of tomorrow: today’s current students.

A mentor program is being introduced across the University, based on the established program within the Melbourne Law School, and the Council is helping to facilitate its rollout.
”We see great value in expanding this program to all faculties,” says Dr McGann.

“Law and medicine have clear pathways into a profession, but arts and science are more difficult to navigate. A mentor program will assist with that.”

Dr McGann joined the Council as a student representative
in his role as President of the Melbourne Medical School Student Ambassador Program when he was in the last three months of his medical degree.

He saw the benefit of engaging with alumni for networking and advice. “If we look at ourselves compared to other universities around the world—particularly many in the US—our alumni are not as engaged as they could be,” he says.

He says Council members know that increasing engagement will be hard. “Our program is not a one-year or a five-year endeavour. We are conscious that activities are not only about getting programs up and running quickly but about setting the foundation for a good alumni community into the future,” he says.

Both Dr Doyle and Dr McGann are clear about giving back as their reason for dedicating time to the University of Melbourne Alumni Council, but they also recognise there can be personal rewards.

Dr McGann says: “While Council involvement requires a significant time commitment by its members, the reward
is in the meetings themselves, which are really interesting.  They involve robust and stimulating discussion about what could be done. Working groups are then more focused and result in more actionable programs.”

Dr Doyle says he has always felt very grateful to his alma mater, which set him up for his vocation. “The first university degree is very influential in anyone’s career path. Volunteering in this role is my way of giving something back. And you also learn skills that are very important for your work, together with a little professional development through exposure to and understanding of how universities work.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the work of the Alumni Council should contact the Advancement Office on  + 61 3 8344 1746 or by email at alumni-office@unimelb.edu.au

Dr Joseph Doyle graduated with honours in Medicine and Arts from the University of Melbourne in 2005. He is an infectious diseases physician and clinical researcher with interests in the epidemiology, prevention and management of HIV and viral hepatitis. He is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine. His current academic and clinical roles are now with Monash University and the Alfred Hospital. Prior to his election as President of the Alumni Council, Dr Doyle was a member of University Council, the Board of the Faculty of Medicine and the Committee of Convocation, the former alumni representative body. He has served on the Alumni Council since 2011.

Dr James McGann completed his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne in 2015 and worked at the Austin Hospital for his internship year. He is currently undertaking his first year of paediatrics training at the Royal Children’s Hospital. As well as serving as President of the Melbourne Medical School Student Ambassador Program, Dr McGann actively participated in other student groups such as the Teddy Bear Hospital Committee, the Peer Tutoring Program and was Sponsorship Officer for the Medical Students’ Society.