The NUS Bizad Charity Run has established itself as a flagship event that is synonymous with NUS Business School. Since the inaugural event in 2011, some 8,600 runners have raised more than $965,000 for financially needy Business School students and 15 charities.
Judging by its success, it is hard to imagine that the run was almost scrapped due to sustainability challenges in 2012.
We have Mr Sonny Yuen, outgoing President of the NUS Business School Alumni Association (NUSBSA), to thank for saving the run.
Coming on board to steer the project, Mr Yuen says he took on a “gungho” attitude to revitalise the event while maintaining its meaningful intentions.
“This project embraces a very good cause – raising funds for charities through students and the business school community,” says Mr Yuen.
Dedicating almost a year to revamp the run, Mr Yuen, then Vice President of NUSBSA, relooked the model and structure of the event. Some of the more notable changes he made included diversifying funds collected to benefit both charities and the NUSBSA Bursary Fund, as well as raise the overall profile of the event while still involving both alumni and students.
Today, the annual event has grown six times in size, bringing together a mix of 1,500 students, alumni and public annually to participate in the competitive and fun runs. Similarly, donations have also soared at least four times where the past two years saw a consistent donation of $125,000 to the NUSBSA Bursary Fund.
Alumnus Mr Ow Tai Zhi who helmed the 2017 and 2018 charity run committee said, “Working with Sonny has been a real pleasure for me and my team. He leads by vision and affords us plenty of room to inject creativity into our projects. This autonomy empowers the team with the confidence to test out new ideas that ultimately benefited all parties involved in the event.”
Graduating in 1985 from the School of Management, when NUS Business School was known as the Faculty of Accountancy and Business Administration, Mr Yuen was an active student who competed in Sepak Takraw for Inter-Faculty Games. He also served as President of Raffles Hall’s Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC).
“Giving your time is more precious than money. For me, joining the alumni association was an avenue to serve and give back. The opportunity to interact with current students and reconnect with different alumni far exceeds any monetary benefits.”
As an early entrepreneur who set up his own recruitment firm, Mr Yuen says the opportunity to be an ambassador for the Business School can take many forms – being a mentor, volunteering for various roles, sharing experiences with students and young alumni, as well as being a referee for opportunities in the corporate world.
“I love the good energy when I’m given the chance to interact with students and lecturers. Recently, I had the privilege of accompanying the School’s alumni team to visit overseas alumni chapters. Such experiences are truly invaluable,” says Mr Yuen.
In his two terms serving as President of NUSBSA, Mr Yuen is guided by three pillars of leadership principles that he hopes his successors will continue to build on – alumni bonding, community and sustainability.
True to his keen recruitment eye, he counts identifying great people and building on their strengths to implement ideas as his greatest achievements. He credits his team for establishing the NUSBSA Women’s Wing in 2015, and the NUSBSA Accountancy Wing which resulted in a 30 per cent increase in female representation and Accounting alumni on the association’s Board.
Mr Yuen emphasised, “Everyone is volunteering their time, so you need to be respectful and patient at every turn. It is my job to bring out the best in my committee members, use these strengths to build a strong team that will in turn benefit the alumni association and its members.”
Among the numerous activities like NUSBSA Youth Connexxion organised by the NUSBSA Youth Wing and the NUSBSA Mentoring Programme held throughout the year, Mr Yuen is especially proud that Accountancy graduates are more active in returning to the Business School.
Mr Edward Ta, an alumnus from the FABA Accountancy class of 1987 shared, “Sonny recognised the need to connect the different batches of Accountancy alumni as the programme shifted to the then Nanyang Technological Institute in 1987, and restarted in NUS in 2006.”
Through the help of other Accountancy alum from the class of 1985, Mr Yuen managed to bridge this connection by successfully establishing the Accountancy Wing in NUSBSA.
Currently a director of the NUSBSA, Mr Ta added, “Sonny has a very inclusive leadership style. He promotes activities and events that are relevant and attractive to all alumni. Besides an occasional homecoming opportunity, there are also more avenues for us to contribute back to our alma mater.”
An example of a meaningful way to encourage active membership of Accountancy graduates through the launch of the Continued Professional Education (CPE) seminars in 2014. Recognised by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), participants earn points for their membership renewals by attending ethics and governance talks run by Accountancy alumni and professionals. This reiterates Mr Yuen’s belief in continuous learning while creating value and developing opportunities in related interests for alumni through the association.
As a founding member of NUSBSA since 2000, Mr Yuen has served as Co-op Director, Treasurer and Vice President before taking up the mantle of President in 2014. However, his journey of giving back to NUS has not ended as he will now move on to run the NUS Alumni Leaders Forum under the care of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR).
“Students today face different pressures compared to my time. Instead of merely looking for short term gains, it is important to be passionate about what you do as well. Enjoy what you are doing and find a way to plug gaps in society.”