HNC Students Connect with SAIS Alumni in Taiwan

HNC Students Connect with SAIS Alumni in Taiwan

On April 1st, HNC Careers Services Manager Michael Hoffman and first-year MAIS student Hailey McGleam hosted a student-alumni reunion for HNC students and SAIS alumni currently based in Taiwan. Nearly 30 students and alumni attended the gathering on Friday night. 

While school has been going on virtually, the HNC Careers Service team has been working hard to form connections with the many SAIS Alumni dispersed around the globe – virtually and on the ground. Luckily for the group of students who relocated to Taiwan, HNC Careers Services Manager Michael Hoffman has been based in Taiwan for a large part of the pandemic and has formed valuable ties with the local Johns Hopkins SAIS community. In addition, current student and Boren fellow Hailey McGleam, who has been in Taipei since November, has reached out to nearly all Taiwan-based HNC and SAIS alumni across sectors. Several months of hard work and planning paid off on April 1st, when alumni and students came together for dinner and drinks in the heart of Taipei. 

The alumni-student event was a great opportunity for both alumni and students. For students, this was an excellent chance to network and find out more about industries they might be interested in after graduation. The event also provided an informal opportunity to introduce yourself to potential employers or colleagues, in an environment underpinned by the shared identity of being a Johns Hopkins SAIS student. Most of the students at the event often changed their spots to sit and speak with different alumni. Personally, I spoke to several couples who had met during their time as students, moved on to become Foreign Service Officers for the United States Government, and were now stationed at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Many of the alumni I spoke to who now work at AIT were primarily based at the DC campus or had spent only one year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. It was interesting to hear how these alumni ended up in a Mandarin-speaking part of the world, how their time at Johns Hopkins SAIS influenced their career paths, and how their studies inspired them to pursue a career in US-Taiwan trade or commerce relations. 


Outside of the US government employees, I spoke to Lila, a SAIS alumna who is currently the head of the Taiwan Sustainability Fund. As part of the Taiwan Sustainability Fund, Lila gathers, conflates, and combines climate change research from the top Taiwanese universities. She then arranges for the top researchers from various universities to work together in solving Taiwan’s climate change and sustainability problems. As someone who has recently become interested in climate change and sustainability as a research area of interest, I was particularly inspired by Lila’s work. I felt like she embodied the exact spirit of cooperation and appreciation for different perspectives that the HNC and SAIS aim to foster. I’m glad I could talk with her about her work, and I hope I will be able to connect with her in Taipei soon.

For alumni, this was not only a way to introduce their work and potential internship opportunities that might be open for SAIS students, but also to hear about how things at SAIS and the HNC are years after they have already left school. I found that a lot of them were more curious to hear about our experiences and backgrounds than to talk about themselves and their work. For example, I bonded with several alumni over Hua Tao’s classes, and they were happy to reminisce about the good old days at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Many were eager to share their favorite classes and professors, and to look back on experiences that, for some, were over 10 years old. It was also interesting to compare how the HNC and SAIS have changed and grown in the time between our programs and those of the alumni. At the same time, speaking to a lot of these alumni felt familiar – we all have the same drive for learning Mandarin, we have all shared the same buildings, campuses, and professors, and we all have chosen Johns Hopkins SAIS as our graduate family. By the end of the night, it was hard to tell students from alumni – we were all just one big community.