Our responsibility to act: the climate crisis will eclipse the pandemic unless we do
The Vice-Chancellor / President’s Blog
At the new students inauguration ceremony, I advised students to pursue a different set of ‘GPA’:
A very warm welcome to all the new students here as well as those viewing live broadcast in the lecture theatres. Congratulations. You are now a member of this great ‘Hall of Learning’, a place where you will likely experience the most vigorous intellectual and spiritual growth in your life: a place where you will be fascinated by the variety of academic and extra-curricular offerings; exposed to a great diversity of cultures; dazzled by the choices of overseas exchange programmes; challenged by opinions and values vastly different from yours; and empowered to make a difference to the community, and to our planet.
I also congratulate you for becoming a member of this very special and distinctive university with a rich, deep-rooted tradition, as well as an enviable reputation for academic excellence. ‘To combine tradition with modernity, and to bring together China and the West’ is not merely a marketing tagline. It is the principle that has, over the last 55 years, guided and moulded The Chinese University of Hong Kong into a prestigious institution today, attracting and nurturing talents from all over the world. We distinguish ourselves in the strong Chinese culture and humanistic values. We take pride in our whole-person education model delivered by our unique college system and general education programmes. All of this is carried out in the generation, concentration, dissemination, and application of knowledge, and in the pursuit of excellence. We want to make sure that when all of you graduate from CUHK, you will be equipped with, aside from knowledge of specialized subjects, the most sought-after qualities in face of the ever-changing world – the G.P.A.
Now that you have become a university student, your GPA, or Grade Point Average, is naturally one of the very important things that you would like to keep an eye on, because it tells you how well you have performed in your courses. However, what I would like you to focus on is a different set of GPA.
Set your eyes on the world.
Living in one global village, we, the citizens of the world, are facing intricate issues and problems that can only be tackled or resolved with the collective wisdom, effort and collaboration across disciplines and across regions. Today when you read the news you will find that many of the pressing issues – trade wars, information security, global warming, to name just a few – are affecting, either directly or indirectly, all regions and individuals in the world. That is why we offer the kind of education that will help you grow into civic-minded citizens with global vision and broad regional exposure. The goal is to help you sharpen your ability to analyze issues from a broad perspective and develop a strong sense of social responsibility.
Dear students, your years in university is a critical period of developing your global perspective. You will meet on campus fellows, teachers, distinguished scholars and persons from all over the world. Do engage in dialogues with them, be it intellectual, philosophical, artistic, or just casual exchange of ideas. As you study here, you will find that you are no longer a passive learner; you will learn how to learn, how to question, how to think, and how to effect changes. These learning experiences will equip you with the skills to handle various kinds of issues in the future.
CUHK has been putting a great deal of resources in integrating an international or intercultural dimension into our teaching, research and experiential learning programmes. A new general education course, entitled ‘Grand Challenges for Global Citizens in the 21st Century’ is on offer this semester. Through this course, we hope to guide you to identify and analyze some of the most pressing challenges the world is facing today, such as the challenge of big data and artificial intelligence, global warming and its environmental and humanitarian consequences, hunger and sustainable agriculture, the benefits and risks of nuclear power, urbanization and sustainable living, poverty and income disparity, population migration, cultural conflicts and terrorism.
As university students, it is crucial for you to understand the complexity of these challenges, and to reflect on your responsibilities as global citizens. You will discuss with your peers from different disciplines to develop and formulate possible solutions to make the world a better place. You will be amazed to discover that you have the power to achieve more than you can imagine.
Beyond the formal curriculum, the University also offers you abundant service learning, internship and overseas opportunities, both local and overseas, university-wide or through the Faculties and the Colleges. You may be interested to know that, currently, about 70% of our undergraduate students are being offered non-local experiential learning opportunities every year, including service learning programmes and internship programmes. In addition, about 30% of our students go on term-time overseas exchange to over 30 different countries and regions. Do look for these opportunities, step out of your comfort zone. To immerse yourself in a different culture or community can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. You may learn more about yourself; you may make lifelong connections; and you may become aware of new options for life that you haven’t thought of before.
Naturally you may feel lost at times, while at CUHK.
Your journey in the University may be punctuated by hardships and your explorations may be met with setbacks. Be prepared for the imperfections of life. It is a learning process and you are definitely not alone. Your friends and family, the wellness counselors, your peers, teachers and tutors in the Colleges, Faculties, Departments, are all here to help and support you. Talk to them. Always stay connected with them, as well as the community. Don’t miss anything that has the potential to make your life meaningful. You can view a glass of water as half empty or half full, but do not ever forget that the glass is in your hand. You can fill it to the brim, or simply decant the water for a refill of coke!
Plenty of scientific evidence shows that people who harbour positive emotions achieve better life outcomes, which include but are not limited to physical and mental health, work performance, supportive relationships, and effective coping.
A positive outlook on life is so important, and the good news is that it can be learnt! In the past few months, I have been working with your teachers on designing a new general education course titled ‘Live to Flourish: the Science and Practice of Positive Psychology’ which is available to you starting this semester. Our goal is to help you develop new life-enhancing habits, and therefore this course is designed with a heavy practice element. There are plenty of exercises to guide you to develop new habits to build positive emotions, strengths and resilience. And I assure you that the benefits are lifelong!
Do not forget to pay attention to your physical and mental health, your nutrition, and your sleep. Take the time to enjoy the good things in life. Our beautiful campus environment is a huge treasure of CUHK. Whenever you feel tired, stressed out or frustrated by the heavy coursework or responsibilities in student clubs or societies, I encourage you to take a stroll on our beautiful campus, take a deep breath of fresh air, look around at what Nature has given us. Do count your blessings! In fact, it is scientifically proven that a grateful mind improves your well-being and your chances of success.
Get to know people who are different from you.
The impending Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is characterized by the emergence of new technologies and innovations, brings tremendous economic opportunities but also huge social, political and cultural challenges. Our sustainable future relies on societies that are human-centred and value-based.
In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, ‘How to Prepare College Graduates for an AI World’, Dr. Joseph AOUN, President of Northeastern University, highlighted the lifelong skills needed in the face of rapid digital transformation and advancement in artificial intelligence. He said, ‘The creativity, entrepreneurship, that ability to work with others in teams, the ability to be empathetic and the ability to be culturally agile, those are not something that computers, that AI, are good at.’
I therefore strongly encourage you to associate and interact with your peers who come from different backgrounds – racial, cultural, socioeconomic, linguistic, ethnic origin or geographic background; someone with views, ideas, beliefs and perspectives that are different from yours. The opportunities you have here to interact with other young people from diverse backgrounds and experiences will significantly enrich your educational experience. You will develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the complexity and richness of the human experience.
CUHK is the only university in Hong Kong that operates a college system that allows you to have in-depth interactions and cultural exchange opportunities. Learn about the arts and music of other countries. In my opinion, performing arts is the most straightforward forms of expressing our thoughts and emotions, and the easiest way to connect peoples from different parts of the world.
Don’t forget to learn about our own history and culture. Only a thorough knowledge of your cultural heritage would best prepare you to cope with the modern world. Pay a visit to our University Gallery housed in our University Library, and the New Asia History Museum, to learn about the history of our Founding Colleges. The precious photographs, artefacts, and multimedia resources show the memorable moments and achievements of our University in the past 55 years, mirroring the changes of our home country and city.
The university is a place where new ideas are generated and debated. It’s not uncommon for members of the university community to hold different views and get into debates with one another. While debates allow us to examine an issue from different angles, indifference, bias and contempt could only lead to strife. Let’s not forget that rational discussion is key to reconciling freedom of expression and respect for others.
My recommendation is: do engage with one another. Listen to people whose views are different from yours so that you can learn from them. It is the best way to learn and grow. Remember, bigotry and hatred to pre-empt rational discussion will only undo the benefits that diversity has brought to this campus. Let’s join hands to create an environment in which people are enriched rather than divided by their differences.
My dear students, the university years is the most empowering time of your life, a time when you get to determine who you are and what you can achieve. YOU, and ONLY YOU, are responsible and accountable for your own experiences. So go out and search, emerge from your comfort zone, get to know the people who are different from you, embrace what is ahead of and available to you, and allow yourselves the space to grow along the journey.
This year marks the 55th anniversary of the University. In the past 55 years, the achievements of generations of CUHK members have continuously amazed and changed the world. My dear students, you are to become valued members of this progressive and dynamic university. I earnestly solicit your support in advancing the growth and development of the University. I hope that upon your graduation, you shall take pride in what you will have achieved and in your identity as a lifelong member of the CUHK family.
Once again, welcome to The Chinese University of Hong Kong. I wish you a fantastic and rewarding time here at CUHK. Enjoy your journey!