President Chin expressed that Professor Raymond Wong’s gift will impact not just HKBU but the whole of Hong Kong
“‘Longstanding’ and ‘devoted’ are the best words to describe HKBU’s supporters. Without being solicited, they continue to make generous donations to the University no matter whether it is amid social unrest or during the coronavirus outbreak. Their kind heart is unforgettable,” said Professor Roland T. Chin, the President and Vice-Chancellor of HKBU who will be retiring at the end of this month. President Chin has contributed tremendously to the University’s fundraising work during his tenure – in the past five years, HKBU has secured more than HK$2 billion in donations, pledges and matching funds, a record-breaking achievement. President Chin regards that good fortune has played a major role in this effort. He is thankful that so many people in society identify with HKBU’s education philosophy and have supported the University for such a long time.
President Chin prefers addressing our donors as “supporters”, for we should be equally grateful, no matter what the amount may be, that people donate to the University. In his view, fundraising is not a science and there is no magic formula for securing donations. Therefore, he does not like having the dollar sign appearing in his correspondence with the University’s supporters. “I never talk about money in front of our donors. We talk about everything except how much we need. All I want is to make friends and be true to my words,” he said. “It is every president’s job to explain the University’s vision to outsiders, saying what goals we are going to achieve. However, if we only have ambitious goals but fail to realise them, people will know we are just making empty promises. They will then stop supporting us.” President Chin is deeply grateful that HKBU supporters and alumni are extremely loyal. Perhaps it is because they can see that we do not shrink from taking action in order to achieve our goals.
Before taking office in 2015, President Chin had already mentioned his vision to HKBU staff at a consultation meeting – to build HKBU into a leading liberal arts university and to promote internationalisation. The proportion of undergraduates participating in overseas exchange had to be raised. Five years later, these goals are gradually being achieved. President Chin is truly a man of his word. Under his strong leadership, the University rolled out its ten-year strategic plan, focusing on three research clusters and recruiting top scholars from around the world via the Talent100 Initiative so as to strengthen HKBU’s teaching and research capabilities.
He said that the University’s Institutional Strategic Plan is making good progress. However HKBU is still at a start-up stage, given that it gained its university status only in 1994. It is relatively “young” compared to many universities in the world. In the QS “Top 50 under 50” ranking of universities in the world under 50 years old, HKBU ranked 23rd. In terms of research, President Chin regards HKBU as doing fairly well. In only a couple of decades, much of our research work has reached the international level. Of course, we need to work harder in order to achieve a leading position. “When we talk about research work in traditional disciplines, some renowned universities have been working on it for nearly 100 years. It will take a long time for us to catch up. But if we look at some emerging disciplines, we are on the same starting line. Young universities like us can have a role to play. I always encourage my colleagues to think out of the box. Only with a diverse pool of ideas colliding with one another can we achieve more breakthroughs in a variety of research areas.” President Chin views the work of HKBU’s Chinese Medicine team in drug development and internationalisation as almost reaching a leading world level. The School of Communication is another University’s strength. Thanks to our predecessors’ foresight, these innovative disciplines were introduced to HKBU decades ago. In its ten-year strategic plan, the University will focus on three selected research clusters, namely Creative Media and Practice, Health and Drug Discovery, and Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence. By combining existing strengths with other new disciplines, HKBU can definitely achieve more on the research front.
Since the launch of the Talent100 Initiative two years ago, 97 scholars have been recruited, with two thirds of them coming from overseas. President Chin believes that a diverse pool of talent is particularly important for universities. “Diversity generates sparks. A diversity of ideas helps people think outside the box and create innovative solutions.” In his opinion, a university needs to hire only the best scholars. “The best people are always happy to work with the best people, but people in the second tier may not have the confidence to work with people better than them. That makes a big difference to a university’s development,” President Chin elaborated. Recently, the Talent100 Initiative has been extended, with the University providing scholarships to talented PhD students and inviting them to join the six newly established interdisciplinary research laboratories. These labs – the Augmented Creativity Laboratory, the Computational Medicine Laboratory, the System Health Laboratory, the Smart Society Laboratory, the Data Economy Laboratory, and the Ethical and Theoretical AI Laboratory – incorporate creative disciplines such as the arts, humanities, film and ethics into scientific fields including AI, big data, Chinese medicine, economics, biology and physics. This integration enables HKBU to maintain its vibrant pool of talent.
In terms of hardware, the University is building a brand-new campus thanks to a generous donation of HK$425 million by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the largest single gift HKBU has ever received. This campus, called the Jockey Club Campus of Creativity, is the first complex in Hong Kong that integrates an academic co-creation space with student accommodation. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, it is a platform that combines research, teaching and learning as well as creative practice. In fact, the huge contribution from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust is also a vote of confidence in President Chin’s leadership.
In 2020, the Hong Kong economy was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing this unprecedented impact, President Chin and the University reacted swiftly and launched Project SEED, which provides job opportunities, internships and mentorships for graduating students and enhances their competencies. President Chin even took the lead in this meaningful initiative by donating his salary in support of it.
Looking back, a number of student programmes have been introduced during President Chin’s term of office. They include the First-Generation University Student Fund and the Admission Scholarship Scheme for Outstanding South and South East Asian Ethnic Minority Students. Moreover, students have been strongly encouraged to participate in overseas exchange and experiential learning activities. President Chin said that all the credit goes to the whole HKBU team as these initiatives were made possible solely through the team members’ concerted efforts.
Talking about the impact of the pandemic on students, President Chin believes that it is limited, as the effect of a change in teaching mode is fairly short-lived. Nonetheless, under the post-pandemic “new normal” situation, teachers and students have become more willing to explore ways to realise cross-border teaching and collaboration. Academic activities can now be conducted in a hybrid mode, i.e. either face-to-face or via online platforms that transcend geographical and time barriers. Collaboration with overseas universities has also become much easier.
Apart from his leadership in laying out a blueprint for HKBU’s long-term development, President Chin has enhanced the University’s capacities in terms of both hardware and software. What is it that he thinks HKBU needs most at this moment? “Hope is what we are missing,” he reckoned. “Hope is what we must give to our youngsters.” At the 2020 Commencement, President Chin said in his address, “I appeal to the Government to take the lead and act as a role model to revive Hong Kong’s long-cherished values in embracing different views and to be inclusive, treasure the voice of people with different opinions, and heal the rift and rebuild trust between people.” President Chin believes that universities are a place for both teachers and students to create and spread knowledge for the betterment of our future. “In the past, many scholars were bold enough to challenge existing beliefs, pointing out that the Earth is round. They were eventually proved right. I hope that scholars will not be afraid of the authorities and must not practise self-censorship.”
“Our young people, even if they have done something wrong, are still the future of Hong Kong.” President Chin said that we should instil hope in the younger generation, boost their confidence and enhance their employability. He also reminded HKBU students that in this new world of complexity and uncertainty, in addition to high IQ and EQ, we also need a high CQ -- collaborative quotient. “Collaboration is not just asking someone to work with you so that you can succeed. To collaborate is to uplift and enrich each other. Collaboration requires you to cast off the ‘I am right and you are wrong’ mindset, and shake off the ‘You against Me and THEM against US’ mentality.”
President Chin is deeply grateful for the hard work carried out by all HKBU colleagues over the past five years. As for his own contribution, he humbly says he has not achieved much during his tenure, but he wished he could wake HKBU up. According to President Chin, he is someone who has little patience. He cares so strongly about HKBU that as a result colleagues may find him over-critical. “I know many colleagues are not used to my criticism. I even embarrass them sometimes,” President Chin conceded. Nonetheless, he believes that HKBU is full of capable persons who can help the University scale new heights. “I wish my colleagues can look further, think broader, evaluate themselves objectively, and be confident that they are able to do more.”
If you have visited President Chin’s office, you will have been impressed by the positioning of his work station – his desk is adjusted to such a high level that he needs to stand in order to use his computer! This extraordinary president, who prefers to stand while he works, has undoubtedly given a fresh impetus to HKBU. To give another example of his benign impact, outside the Council Chamber or at his residence, we can see the wonderful artworks that have been created by HKBU teachers and students. And it is his enduring legacy that it has always been the students that have been his pre-eminent concern -- he always requests a “student first” approach.
Although retirement is approaching, President Chin is too busy with his work at HKBU to make a long-term plan for himself. Therefore he has “appointed” Mrs. Chin to look for a new home for them – it is the most pressing issue for them as they prepare to leave Shiu Pong Hall. One of the plus sides of retirement is that he will finally have time for his favourite leisure activity – cycling.
A number of gatherings will be, or have been, held this month for the BU family to bid farewell to President Chin. Full of humour as ever, President Chin has been cracking jokes about his departure. For example he has said that, based on his track record, HKBU’s ranking is bound to rise after he retires. After all, that is what happened at HKU and HKUST after he left them. Hence, he forecasts that a better HKBU will soon have a higher ranking!
As well as being witty, President Chin is always full of wisdom. We sincerely wish him a long, happy and colourful retirement, and we also assure him that he will always be most welcome if he ever wants to pay a visit to the HKBU family for which he cares so deeply.