Alumni Ambassador Award Winner Chris Song Sets New Standard for Excellence

May 29, 2024 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business

On March 25, 2024, the UCI Alumni Korea chapter hosted the largest event in its history, with over 55 MBAs and over 65 Merage Korean alumni and students in attendance. Joining them were UCI Paul Merage School of Business Dean Ian O. Williamson, several professors, staff and their guests. Chris Song, UCI Merage Korean Alumni president, says, “This was larger than anything we had ever hosted before. It was a really successful event.”

Chris was surprised to receive the Alumni Ambassador Award from Dean Williamson. “It was really an honor for me, but this is not just for me. It’s for everyone in our Korean Alumni group,” Song says.


From Humble Beginnings To Impressive Growth

Song earned his MBA from UCI in 2011. He returned home to Korea and took a position with Costco Korea. In 2017 he began organizing an MBA alumni group in Korea. “That September, Dean Eric Spangenberg visited us, and we talked about creating the group,” he says. “I asked the school for a list of Korean alumni, and at the time, we received 17 members. We didn’t expect that many, but today we have over 200 members. If we include new students, that number is nearly 300 alumni in the United States and Korea.”

The growth spurt is due in large part to Song’s tireless efforts to include as many Korean alumni as possible in the work they do. In addition to his work, Song has recruited other local Korean alumni to help him grow the group. “Every year we have over 20 new students for the graduate program at UCI,” says Song. “This year we have over 30 people, so the numbers are growing. We should be over 300 within the next few years.”


Meeting with Other Alumni Leaders

Song is proud of the growth of the UCI Alumni Korea chapter. “We are the number one alumni group outside of the United States,” he says.

Because of this exceptional growth and expert management on behalf of Song and his team, he has received numerous invitations to speak to other alumni groups about sharing best practices. “In 2018 and 2019 there was a large alumni event that included UCI China alumni leader, and met other Asian leaders by online meetings during COVID-19 periods” says Song.

“One thing I have realized is we have a slight advantage here in Korea. China is a really big country geographically, so it’s really difficult for them to all get together, and in Japan they don’t have as many Merage alumni or new students compared to us. Taiwan, Singapore, and other Asian countries are not that large either. Plus, it takes a lot of time, energy and sacrifice to search for people and connect with them while you’re working your own job and caring for your own family. Not everyone can do as much as we can.”

Another way the Korean alumni group goes the extra mile is to connect with students before they’re even admitted to UCI. “Our strength is that we’re connecting with people from beginning to end,” says Song. “Even before they’re admitted, we’re in contact with Korean students, and we work together to send them to the United States, and when they return, we try to care for them. This is something different in our culture.”


Teamwork and Heart Keep Song Going

While Song would love to see other international alumni groups adopt their strategy, he realizes it’s not his job to impose his ideas on others. “Some people think it’s my job to oversee the other groups, but I know it’s better for me to focus on Korean alumni,” he says. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve already reached my limit. Every year I wonder if I can do it again, but then I hear from a new applicant who has a desperate need, and I am reminded of my own struggles when I was a new student and no one was there to help me.”

After six years, Song’s Korean Alumni group has grown exponentially, not only in size but in heart. “We have to figure out what our next stage will be,” says Song. “We have more challenges than achievements, but we are doing great teamwork, and that’s what keeps me going.”


Hosting the Dean Again This Summer

Later this year, Song and his team are expecting to host Dean Williamson again for another event. “The dean said he’s planning to visit us again in June or July,” he says. “Dean Williamson shows a lot of concern for the Korean alumni. We’ve had several discussions, and he always listens carefully to find out what we really need.”

Song admits the growth of the Korean Alumni group can be challenging at times, but he’s determined to do everything he can to help it sustain a standard of quality for students. “I continually ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ but my answer is always the same: I want to make everyone proud of the alumni, especially after we finish an event and people come up to thank me for what we’re doing. It really encourages me to keep going and plan the next thing.”