More than a ‘home away from home’: Donors envision new building as a welcoming place for students and a springboard for budding entrepreneurs
UBC Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) alum Crystal Hung and her husband Dr. Jack Chang have given $1 million to UBC Sauder’s Powerhouse Project in support of the construction of a landmark 11-storey building. The gift is emblematic of the pair’s widespread philanthropic efforts in the community, but there is a particularly deep meaning behind this instance of generosity. For Hung, it’s a chance to give back to a school that started as a safe harbour, and ended up being a departure point for something much more.
Hung used to wander around campus for hours on end. To help pass time, she took up swimming at the UBC Aquatic Centre, routinely attended the same class twice in one day, and pulled all-nighters huddled beside tired medical students even when she didn’t have assignments due. For her, UBC was a welcoming environment during a difficult and chaotic period in her home life and she spent as much time on campus as possible.
“School was my anchor,” says Hung. “There was always someone at UBC with their hand held out to lead me.”
“A lot of people talk about their campus as their home away from home. For Crystal, it takes on a different meaning,” says Chang, an alum of the UBC Faculty of Medicine. “It was her primary home when she was lost and had nowhere to go.”
Hung also faced financial stressors and balanced her studies while working three jobs. She recalls applying to every bursary she could and says that she would not have been able to complete her degree if it had not been for financial support from donors.
A marketer’s metamorphosis
Today, Hung is the CEO and founder of Icon Marketing Inc. Launched in 2014, the Vancouver-based company creates marketing campaigns for real estate developers and manages everything from land advisory to marketing assets and completion of sales. Her group of companies has evolved to also include real estate brokerages, proptech (property technology) investments, and mixed-use real estate development projects.
Hung (right) and close friend Jaclyn Chan (left) at a UBC Sauder donor recognition event on October 5, 2022.
Hung says she went into real estate on a whim after graduation because her close friend and UBC Sauder classmate Jaclyn Chan convinced her to try it out together. In hindsight, her pull towards the housing industry may have had something to do with her own longing for the concept of home.
Through grit and hard work over the years, Hung has made a name for herself and her brand. She has built a strong reputation for personalized community consultation during development projects, and she prides herself on being a strong advocate for consumers and their lifestyles.
Hung launched Canada’s first-ever ‘condo truck’ – a mobile presale showroom used to promote a real estate project in east Vancouver.
“Every single building that I have been involved in has been engineered in a way where I know in my heart we will achieve not just profit for my clients, but also positive benefit for the community,” says Hung.
The new flagship building will accommodate the people and programs necessary to boost 21st century business skills, transform the student experience and equip graduates to drive positive change in business.
Proud early supporters of the Powerhouse Project
Hung and Chang’s gift is one of the first significant donations to the Powerhouse Project. For Hung, it represents a homecoming – a full circle moment through which she can support a school that played a pivotal role in her young adulthood.
“I know first-hand that a physical space can change the outcome of someone’s life,” says Hung. “Having buildings and landmarks is really important to feel that sense of belonging.”
Hung (left) and Chang (right) give a speech in front of friends and family at a donor recognition event celebrating the pair’s gift to the UBC Sauder Powerhouse Project.
Both Chang and Hung are the first in their families to graduate from university. Their hope is that the new building will offer greater accessibility to business education.
“Having a hub and an environment that will allow diverse, hardworking students, especially those of modest means like we were, to thrive and equip themselves with knowledge and skills to become leaders in the business community and create economic opportunity while solving society’s biggest challenges is really attractive,” says Chang.
Back when she was a student, Hung’s favourite course was New Venture Design taught by faculty member Paul Cubbon, now Assistant Dean, Innovation. She says that experience prepared her as an entrepreneur and gave her an opportunity to work with other faculties. She considers the Powerhouse Project an opportunity to help inspire future generations.
“I’m most excited about the technology entrepreneurship aspect of the building. It’s in our DNA to advocate for entrepreneurship and innovation.”
For his part, Chang was attracted to the Powerhouse Project because of its focus on fostering interdisciplinary training and collaboration. As a physician with a background in rural medicine who now practices in Vancouver, he is keenly aware of the full-spectrum strain on the healthcare system. He says he hopes graduates of UBC Sauder can help tackle the challenges.
“There’s a healthcare crisis and we need creative innovation, thought leaders and business leaders to solve issues like wait-times, burnout among doctors, delivery of care, and logistics.”
The immeasurable impact of small acts of kindness
Hung says her strong affinity towards UBC Sauder is due in large part to the compassion and support shown by professors back when she was a student.
“[The faculty] is a very selfless group of people and they see something in students that students themselves don’t always see,” says Hung.
UBC Sauder Dean Darren Dahl gives opening remarks and shares the vision for the Powerhouse Project at the donor recognition event.
She recalls Professor Darren Dahl, now Dean of UBC Sauder, hiring her to assist with some of his research projects. He even invited her and the rest of the team over to his home for dinner. It was a major moment of community building that made all the difference.
Professor Emeritus Daniel Gardiner was a particularly poignant figure in her undergraduate life, someone who advocated for her admission to the program, and who served as a mentor and friend in the years that followed. They first met when Gardiner served on the judging panel for the UBC Marketing Association’s Perfect Pitch contest, where Hung won second place overall as a Faculty of Arts student before she transferred to UBC Sauder.
Hung (right) greets longtime friend and mentor Professor Emeritus Daniel Gardiner (left).
“Without Professor Gardiner’s encouragement I would have given up,” says Hung. “I failed three classes in my first year in the Faculty of Arts. His words ‘UBC Sauder needs more students like you’ gave me the direction to carve out a path in business through UBC Sauder.”
The memories remain vivid in Hung’s mind. “These are tiny gestures that professors might do and then forget about, but one day, maybe 10 years later, these students are the people who may come back and contribute in a meaningful way.”
Gardiner listens to Hung as she speaks about the impact their friendship has had on her life.
A challenge to do more
The pair’s donation to the Powerhouse Project is the latest in a long line of philanthropic initiatives in the community.
Icon Marketing Inc. is a founding member of Pixel Moments, an annual micro-donation campaign that supports mental health and substance abuse resources at St. Paul’s Hospital. The company has also helped raise more than $1 million for Kids Help Phone since 2017. And despite their intense work schedules, Chang and Hung make time every Tuesday to prepare roughly 300 lunches for distribution throughout Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Friends and many fellow UBC alumni showed their support for Hung and Chang at the donor recognition event.
Hung and Chang emphasize that people don’t need to wait until they are far along into their careers to make room for philanthropy and to support community causes.
“We still have mortgages and car loans but we are doing this now,” says Chang. “The goal is to inspire others, no matter what they have. It doesn’t need to be in the form of money – time is the most valuable asset that all of us have on this planet.”
For Hung, her gift to the Powerhouse Project is more than a call to action to her peers.
“I truly believe we have a world-class faculty and a once-in-a-lifetime legacy project where the best business professors will continue their work to inspire and incubate business leaders of tomorrow.”
Learn more about UBC Sauder’s Powerhouse Project.