It makes one wonder what could have made these seemingly uncon-nected people pack up and come to Ulaanbaatar on this day. It is no wonder therefore that it came as a surprise that after departing the plain, these people found themselves all heading towards the same van with the sign reading “The East Asia Pacific Regional Alumni Conference.” Indeed these people all were alumni of U.S. government scholarship and exchange program and was coming to Ulaanbaatar to take part in a Regional East Asia and Pacific Alumni Asso-ciation Enrichment Conference that was being organized by the Mongolian Association of State Alumni (MASA) and the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar.
MASA president Jargalsaikhan giving opening remarks
In the East Asia and Pacific region, there are over 74,000 alumni of U.S. Government funded scholarship and exchange programs. For three very productive days, from October 8-10, 2011, the confer-ence hosted over 55 representatives of this large community from 12 countries: including Burma, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, Mon-golia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Viet-nam under the general theme “Ambassadors for Development.” The goal of the conference was to facilitate dialogue and exchange of ideas among the alumni associations on Alumni Association Development/Best Practices, Youth Alumni Engagement and Leadership, and Regional Collaboration on Global Issues. Alumni Association leaders from six countries gave presentations on their best practices and all associations represented had an opportunity to share their experiences through panel discussions and a case study session. Although many of our alumni from the warmer parts of the region were fearful lest Ulaanbaatar decide to show its wintery face, it turned out that even the weather was in support of our conference and wanted to welcome our guests with a smiling face. Indeed, for the three days of the conference, the weather treated us to three gloriously sunny and unsea-sonably warm days. This sunny and cheerful weather was reflected in our conference spirit as well. The presentations from the different associations were both inspirational and informative, the panel discussions were platforms of open, and sometimes heated, discussions about real life challenges and ways to overcome them, and the case study and thematic breakout sessions were times for exhilarating and energetic brainstorming and problem solving. It was amazing to see how this one experience of studying in America can bring so many people from all spectrums of society and nations together and it was even more interesting and rewarding to see how this diverse group, not only in terms of profession and work, but also in terms of age difference, can have so much fun in each other’s company and enjoy working as a team.
One of the positive outcomes of this conference is that it has a follow-up project. In order to enable the continuation of networks and collabo-rative ideas that formed during this conference, the organizers held an actual project competition among the participants during the conference. Based on their interests, the conference participants selected one of the following groups: Global Health and Education; Democracy and Human Rights; Climate Change/Environmental Issues and Youth Alumni Leadership and Engagement.
At the closing dinner, MASA receiving gifts from other associations
During the three days of the conference, the participants divided into their chosen groups and as groups came up with project ideas for re-gional collaboration and gave presentations on the last day of the con-ference. After highly competitive presentations and a very energetic question and answer session, the team on Youth Alumni Leadership/Engagement with members representing nine countries won the compe-tition to implement a regional collaborative project in their countries. On the last evening of the conference, MASA held a closing dinner for the participants and received many gifts and souvenirs from other alumni associations with promises to host the next regional conference in their countries. On the next morning, heading back to the airport, sitting in the same van that brought them from the airport, the participants re-marked how even the weather reflected their feeling about leaving Ulaanbaatar and the friends they made here. Alas, after three gorgeous days, the sky was grey and overcast and it was finally cold in Ulaan-baatar.
Winning youth alumni team with Ms. Lisa Heilbronn, director of Office of Alumni Affairs
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