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Meet Gary Chia - Senior Director of Partnerships, USA

Meet Gary Chia - Senior Director of Partnerships, USA
  • Gary Chia has worked at Coursera, Apollo Education Group, as well as multiple higher-education institutions. He brings a wealth of experience to the table, as well as a unique perspective as a former international student.
  • Three major trends are impacting the education recruitment industry right now, according to Gary – and institutions must adapt with a digital-first mindset.
  • Gary is most excited about working with institutions to understand their unique needs and then tailoring the most appropriate solution to help them reach their strategic targets.

We are thrilled to welcome Gary Chia as our new Senior Director of Partnerships, USA. Gary will lead our go-to-market efforts on the institution side, including driving priority partner relationships and revenue growth through new business opportunities. As a former international student, Gary brings a fresh perspective on the importance of matching students with the best options for studying overseas.

Can you share a little about yourself and your career up to this point?

I've been working in the education sector for the past 20 years. That's primarily been my career right out of college. I've enjoyed roles within higher-education institutions as well as in ed-tech companies, building and leading teams, and partnering with universities and educational institutions around innovative solutions.

That’s very much the theme of my career thus far: building businesses, partnerships, relationships and projects that actually drive impact for students’ lives.

What drew you to working at

When the opportunity came about to join, I fully embraced their mission from the start. My conversations with Victor Rajeevan (CEO & Co-founder) and Patrick Whitfield (Chief Commercial Officer) got me excited about what we are building here. Being a very innovative company, is creating a new way for institutions to connect with international students through its marketplace.

I think perhaps even more importantly, being a former international student myself was a transformative experience. So I can really connect with what is doing with my own personal experience.

There is also an immense opportunity in the market right now. Globally, we're seeing more and more demand for international education, as the middle class is rising in many markets. At the same time, the availability of quality higher education in certain markets is not keeping up with demand. So there is a broader opportunity for institutions and for students as this market grows.

What are some of your biggest career highlights so far, and how do they translate to what you're doing at

I have worked with some really large higher-education institutions to come up with creative, innovative digital solutions to drive their strategic initiatives. At the heart of those projects is how it impacts a large number of students. For example, I've worked with many universities to create online programs that enroll tens of thousands of students, impacting the lives of so many around the world.

So what really drives me – and what I believe will translate well to my role here at – is working on innovative solutions, building commercial partnerships with higher education institutions, and delivering strategic initiatives for them.

You spent a number of years at Coursera. In the context of ed-tech, how has that experience helped round out your approach to building partnerships with institutions?

At Coursera, a lot of my work was about driving impact at scale. We were being innovative and unafraid to experiment. There are a lot of cultural similarities I'm already seeing from my time here at, especially in terms of mindset and approach.

Ultimately, it's really about connecting people in the marketplace to find the right fit.

How did your time as an international student help shape your career?

I often reflect on my journey as an international student. Being from Singapore, it was all about looking for the right-fit school in the United States. I enjoyed that journey very much – researching schools, investigating the various programs on offer, exploring all the different possibilities for higher education here in the US.

Then of course I had a personally transformative experience – meeting my wife, who is also a former international student. I have many friends who I still keep in touch with as well who are former international students and are now living all over the world. So I'm very much part of that community, and in some ways that actually drove me to join the education industry after college.

I always wear that “hat” in my conversations with potential or existing partners. It's very easy to get lost in the numbers and say, “Oh, are we marketing the institution in the right way, or what tools can we bring to help drive more activity?” But at the end of the day, it's really about individual students, and I bring that perspective of doing the right thing and finding the right fit for students.

What are some of the major trends or shifts happening in the education recruitment industry right now?

There are three trends happening in the international-education recruitment industry in the US right now. First, the US is facing a domestic-enrollment cliff. It’s no surprise if you look at the figures – college enrollments are projected to decrease across the US due to demographic factors in the next couple of years. This “cliff” is driving many higher-education institutions to start thinking about sustainability. How can they ensure they are building stronger revenue from different segments of the population? I believe this is actually helping to put the international-student market at the forefront.

Second, there are new source markets that are evolving in the international-education recruitment industry. Historically, several large markets have been driving a lot of the growth. But due to geopolitical factors, some of these source-country markets are changing. There’s a shift in growth, for example, in certain countries in South Asia and Africa that are beginning to take more share, and increasingly over time they will become significant source markets. What's driving the demand in these markets is rising middle incomes, as well as provision of quality post-secondary education that’s simply not catching up.

Third is digital transformation. We're seeing more and more technology-based solutions in this space, which is creating new efficiencies. You're able to drive efficiencies in the international-education space because of the uptake of digital transformation. There is an urgency for education institutions to make this a strategic priority, and to really look into how they can build diverse sources through the adoption of digital transformation.

What are you most excited about for your role at

I'm most excited about spending more time with our partners and understanding the unique challenges they are facing at their institutions. I’m looking forward to working out how those challenges align with their strategic priorities, and then leading the team to tailor the right solution from so we can help connect the dots and solve those problems.