I am off to Washington DC shortly to speak at an event organized by the UET Alumni Association of North America this Saturday evening. I am delighted to be going there, but even more delighted that such an association has been created for the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, and is active and alive – indeed, the UET Alumni Association of North America has been active since the mid-1990s.
But it does make me wonder why Alumni Associations of Pakistani educational institutions – although some do exist and a few are quite active – do not, in general, prosper as much as one would expect? Why is this so? Would it make a difference if they were organized? And, if so, how do we go about doing so?
There are clearly some Alumni Associations that are and have been very active – including, especially North American Alumni Associations of Medical Colleges and also many electronic discussion forums of particular Alumni networks. We know, even on this forum, that people take their identity of which institutions they went to very seriously. Indeed, many attempts have often been made to organize such Associations in various forms in various places and at various times. Most such efforts, however, tend to fizzle away after pioneering efforts by a few dynamic individuals and many fail to sustain themselves over time.
I got thinking about this last week when I was in Qatar speaking to the Pakistani community there at events organized by the Pakistan Engineers Forum in Doha. Apart from the fact that these were amazingly well-organized events, they were made all the more memorable for me because I met there dozens and dozens of people who had gone to the same schools and colleges as myself, and many many who had been there at the same time as myself. This, of course, reminded me of the utility of creating such organizations. But it also reminded me of the fact that many efforts to organized such associations for many institutions have faltered. Some have prospered for a little while, only to wither away later. Others have never ever taken off. Why?
This is especially true for Associations of Alumni abroad. Alumni associations of Pakistanis abroad. They have a compelling case to congregate because of the diasporic nature of this community. They also have the resources. And, above all, if one thinks about what is the single most important asset that well-to-do Pakistanis abroad bring with them from Pakistan, it is their education. The education we bring from Pakistan, above all, is our passport to success abroad – especially, but not solely, in the USA. Why, then, are we not as successful in organizing our Alumni Associations as we should be?
The assumption, of course, is that if we did we would not only derive personal gratification from “hanging out” out with our peers in terms of identity and networking, but also that we might be able to contribute in a more organized way to these institutions and to Pakistan in general. My own academic research suggests that (a) if we did organize our Alumni networks we could make such contributions, but (b) in general, we not only do not organize such networks but in most cases loose touch with our institutions for that very reason.
Again, the question is why? Do share any ideas you have, and also any information of active Alumni Associations and networks that you have.