When fervent discussion of Australia in the Asian Century roused the nation gently from a regional slumber, the country began to wake up not only to the possibilities but to the probabilities of engagement with Asia.

Greg Story was ahead of the game, 34 years ahead of the game, in fact.

A Brisbane native, Greg Story was among the first cohort to study Griffith University’s ground-breaking Modern Asian Studies program in the mid-70s. “We were pioneers for an idea that has evolved,” he recalls.

Dr Story graduated from the Nathan campus in 1978, in the spirit of a pioneer ready to explore new territory and develop new areas of knowledge. Japan was the territory of choice for Greg Story, banking the area of knowledge that would reap the rewards of his intellectual investment.

Today he is a self-employed entrepreneur in Japan, more than three decades since he first arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun armed with a new, far-seeing degree.

He returns to Queensland this week to deliver a keynote address titled ‘The Challenge of Asia: Australia’s Future’ at the Griffith Business School Annual Alumni Gala Dinner and Awards Night on Friday night.

Last year’s winner of the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award, Greg Story’s return signals his enduring appreciation of an education that didn’t just open doors for him, but opened up the world for him.

Operate effectively

“When I was an undergraduate it was explained to us that the university saw, as the end product, graduates who could operate effectively in the world,” he says.

“With that in mind, we graduated with a good knowledge of the economy, society, culture and policies of the Asian country we were studying.

“We could pick up a newspaper and know what was going on there at that time. That currency proved tremendous. When we went to the country we had a really good knowledge and understanding already.

“At the time Griffith was the only place where I could get all of that in the one place. It gave me a very big advantage in business, knowing what was happening in international economics, what were the drivers.

“Modern Asian Studies was the best of its type at the time. We were a people for our time, and the program was a program for its time. Today’s International Business program is a program for its time.”

Greg Story started his own consulting business dealing with Japan in the late 1980s, after continuing his education in Tokyo earlier in the decade. In 1989 he was scouted to run the Japanese business for Jones Lang Wooten in Queeensland.

He was back in Japan by the early 1990s to open the Austrade operation in Nagoya, acting as Consul and Trade Commissioner and later as Senior Trade Commissioner and Consul General in Osaka. In 2001 he moved back to Tokyo to become Minister Commercial in the Embassy and Country Head for Austrade.

His career would take him to one of Japan’s largest financial institutions, Shinsei Bank, where he would rise through the ranks and establish the Shinsei Business School.

Hewas appointed NAB’s senior representative in Japan in 2007, and chairman of the Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan the following year. In 2010, he became the President of Dale Carnegie Training Japan, where corporate training is delivered in 91 countries across 30 languages.

Asian engagement

Dr Story’s career in Japan demonstrated acutely the original and enduring aims of Griffith’s Asian studies program, to produce students capable of engaging with Asian society and culture in rewarding and meaningful ways.

He continues to applaud Griffith University’s decision to offer Modern Asian Studies from an early stage of the university’s life. “It was a very correct line for the university to take,” he says, highlighting the strong analytical content of the program.

“I felt better placed to present arguments and debate issues. I felt confident in my ability to make myself clear and to present a case. Being able to think quickly, on my feet, was a big advantage, very helpful.

“I was very confident (going to Japan). I was not daunted by being in the company of graduates from well-known, prestigious ‘brand’ universities like Harvard in the US.”