Anne Chiou MPP 2005Asked why she gives back to Harvard Kennedy School, Anne Chiou MPP 2005 says, “When I survey the opportunities that were given to me, I think they were often small and insignificant at the moment, but ended up being a major fork in the road or a key step that went unnoticed.” She is grateful for seemingly small gestures such as coffee dates that linked her up with her Harvard community in Hong Kong—and she is more than happy to extend the same to current students and other alumni.

Chiou is the head of programs, business, and policy at the Asia Society of Hong Kong. In this role, she helps to put together 50 to 60 programs a year for members of the society and the larger Hong Kong community. “While the tensions between the U.S. and China persist, this is all the more reason for programs that can promote mutual understanding to continue,” she says. Chiou joined the Asia Society a year and a half ago because of its dedication to strengthening partnerships and increasing understanding between the peoples of Hong Kong and the United States. “Back in 2018, I began to see the rapid unravelling in U.S.-China relations. I saw Asia Society as a bridge-building institution and a channel through which influential leaders from all walks of life and with varying viewpoints could create dialog and forge stronger ties,” she says.

She notes that her time at HKS prepared her to work with people of differing convictions. “The ability to meet a diverse range of passionate individuals during my time at HKS instilled in me more passion and drive to see the nuances in multifaceted issues. The most interesting and diverse people come through its doors, from fresh-eyed young 20-something students like me to mid-career classmates who had more of a handle on their career goals. The strength of this diversity still gives me fresh perspective in my program curation today, so that different viewpoints can be heard.”

The Kennedy School also helped her understand the importance of trust. “Trust is the most fundamental ingredient in any task, big or small, and trust can overcome huge hurdles in bridging viewpoints. At a minimum, there is at least the space and the coming together that happens with trust. Continued engagement is always predicated on the cornerstone of trust, and this has been very pivotal to my current work.”

She says that being in Hong Kong for the last decade has helped her foster deep ties to Harvard because “Hong Kong is a dense city where everyone is a degree or two separated from each other, spatially and relationally. So it is especially true that, during this year of unrest and disruption, alumni have rallied around each other in their shared common experiences.”

In addition to her role at the Asia Society, Chiou volunteered to mentor an HKS student as part of the School’s Career Shadowing Initiative; she is also a member of the Kennedy School’s Dean’s Council and is the director of the Harvard Club of Hong Kong. “Harvard has given us a family—I met my husband at the School—as well as deeply personal friendships and community. I felt that it was time for me to create small opportunities to give back in whatever way that I can,” she says.

She focuses her philanthropy on current-use gifts because they require “a degree of trust in the School that resources will be given to where they are most needed,” she says. She also notes that the pandemic has highlighted the need for flexible funding. “COVID-19 exemplifies how important it is to be given financial leeway to adapt to unpredictable external situations. It is a good illustration of how the School needs to be nimble with resources and its model of operation, and thus unrestricted giving to where these changes can be made faster creates the most benefit for our community.”

Her gratitude to HKS fuels her volunteerism and philanthropy. “I was grateful to have the School reach out to me in Hong Kong. I was grateful to hear the needs of the School and then to be asked how I could help. I’m always grateful to connect with alumni and current students.”