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APRU (the Association of Pacific Rim Universities) Celebrates Successful Completion of Its APWiL (Asia Pacific Women in Leadership) Mentoring Program’s First Cohort

Hong Kong:

APRU celebrated the completion of the first cohort of its APWiL Mentoring Program. The APWiL Mentoring Program Inaugural Graduation Ceremony was part of the APRU Senior International Leaders’ (SIL) Week 2021, hosted virtually on October 19-21 by the University of Sydney.


The APWiL Mentoring Program was launched almost exactly one year earlier under the leadership of Prof. Joanna Regulska (Vice Provost and Dean – Global Affairs at the University of California, Davis) and Dr. Sabrina Lin (Senior Advisor to the President at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). The first cohort matched 15 pairs of mentors and mentees to provide international and intercultural opportunities for the development of aspiring women leaders within APRU.


It was created against the backdrop of the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Gender Gap Report ringing alarm bells on the lack of improvement in the previous years. The current cohort, running from October 2021 – September 2022, comprises 47 mentor-mentee pairs, reflecting strongly growing receptiveness of the APWiL Mentoring Program.


Participants used the ceremony to report on the program’s impact and introduced the second cohort to Senior International Leaders (SILs). The SILs convene annually to discuss important themes in higher education, advancing the impact of APRU initiatives and programs.


“Throughout this year, the mentor and mentee relationships have been sustained by a shared commitment to the future, to higher education and to ensuring women leaders are prepared to be part of higher education’s future,” said Professor Dawn Freshwater, Vice-Chancellor, University of Auckland, in her keynote.


We know there are many complex social and economic barriers to women’s advancement in leadership within our institutions, and we know that it is only with diverse and inclusive leadership that our institutions will be able to navigate the global and societal issues that are confronting us,” she added.


Among the mentor-mentee pairs sharing their experiences were mentor Professor Cindy Fan, Vice Provost, International Studies and Global Engagement, UCLA, and mentee Professor Surabhi Chopra, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.


Professor Chopra recalled that she entered the APWiL Mentoring Program when nearing her mid-career mark, not being perfectly sure where to direct her attention to in the coming years. The six meetings Professor Chopra had over the course of the year with Professor Fan then facilitated an important process of reflection.


“Professor Fan was a coach who drew me out and pushed me to think more concretely,” Professor Chopra said.


“That process of having someone engaged, intelligent and experienced was incredibly valuable for me in deciding how I want to engage in academic leadership.”


Professor Fan, for her part, underlined that the status quo is far from perfect for aspiring women leaders. She cited findings showing that overall access to higher education for women students has been improving only in a handful of regions of the world, with the picture becoming even patchier in terms of women academics’ access to the highest levels of institutional administration.


“The proportion of women in the highest echelons range from 0% in some Asia Pacific countries to about 20% in Australia,” Professor Fan said.


“Without many mentors in my professional life, I would not have aspired to senior leadership in academia and become the first female and first Asian American senior international officer in my university.”


About APRU


As a network of 60 leading universities linking the Americas, Asia and Australasia, APRU (the Association of Pacific Rim Universities) brings together thought leaders, researchers, and policy-makers to exchange ideas and collaborate on effective solutions to the challenges of the 21st century. We leverage collective education and research capabilities of our members into the international public policy process. In the post-pandemic era, our strategic priorities focus on providing a neutral platform for high-level policy dialogue, taking actions on climate change, and supporting diversity, inclusion, and minorities. APRU’s primary activities support these strategic priorities with a focus on key areas such as disaster risk reduction, women in leadership, indigenous knowledge, virtual student exchange, esports, population aging, global health, sustainable cities, artificial intelligence, waste management and more.


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