From Philadelphia to London to Mumbai, Fanny Chu-Fong is breaking new ground. As Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Alumni Network since 2002, Chu-Fong spends much of her time traveling the globe, cultivating a growing network of the school’s alumni volunteers in the US and throughout her own assigned region of Asia, Europe and Australia. Despite her hectic travel schedule, Chu-Fong is enthusiastic about going to work every day. What inspires her? “It’s the connection to Penn — wherever I go, I am amazed at how much people love the institution.”
As a Penn graduate, Chu-Fong shares her fellow alum’s enthusiasm. And it shows in her work. Since she came on board, the number of Penn alumni clubs has more than doubled, with much of that growth occurring outside the US. The increase in the number of international undergraduate students at Penn saw overseas clubs launched at a remarkable pace.
Chu-Fong notes a strong connection between her current role and her experience at Ernst & Young: “It’s all about customer service.” She joined Ernst & Young in 1996 after graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration with a Masters in Management Hospitality. She joined the Atlanta office as a consultant with the Real Estate industry practice. She served clients in a diverse range of properties — hotels, office parks, convention centers and high-rise commercial spaces — working with former Ernst & Young manager Adam Lorry, whom Chu-Fong describes as “a fantastic mentor guiding me on the ins and outs” of consulting and the importance of delivering quality client service. Today, Lorry, who has his own real estate business, is one of her closest friends. She also maintains a strong connection with Ren G. Carter, another former manager and mentor from her Ernst & Young days.
After a few years in the South, Chu-Fong had a growing desire to move closer to her family in New York City. She relocated to nearby Philadelphia, where she assumed her first professional role in the not-for-profit world: a finance position at Maccabi USA, an organization that supports athletic events on behalf of Israel and the US Jewish community.
After four years, she was seeking new challenges. Her timing was auspicious, as Penn had just launched its first hometown alumni club. Chu-Fong quickly dove in, working part-time on a large fundraiser for the Penn club. The event was a major success. Before long, she was offered the post of Global Alumni Director. As a devoted alum, she was excited “to work on campus every day.”
Commitment to community
Community outreach is an integral part of the Penn alumni experience. Through Penn Cares, alumni can identify numerous volunteer opportunities available through different clubs. For example, one club pitches in at a local food bank while another adopted and helped to train a seeing-eye dog. To help maximize the clubs’ effectiveness, Chu-Fong and her staff are now in the process of bringing all US-based Penn Cares activities under one organizational umbrella.
One of the most exciting alumni developments at the university, says Chu-Fong, is the Penn Traditions program. Launched five years ago, this initiative introduces the alumni program to students from the moment they arrive as freshmen. The alumni association president speaks to students about the value of a lifetime commitment to the school. This theme continues through events during the next four years, as students are encouraged to take advantage of alumni programs such as mentoring. “We want to increase senior giving and get alumni into the habit of putting Penn on their list for regular donations,” Chu-Fong explains. Penn Traditions has been so successful that it is viewed as a best practice by other universities, which have asked for presentations on the program.
When she’s not working, Chu-Fong enjoys watching the Food Network and turning out culinary creations at home. She credits her family for her belief in the value of hard work. Chu-Fong was born in Trinidad, where her parents worked long hours running a grocery store. “I enjoy working and have high expectations,” she says. Noting that time is precious, she advises young people to “work at something that makes you happy, where the people are great.”