The staff and I
The force driving smooth operations
We have 3,000 to 4,000 regular full-time and part-time staff and about 20,000 students at CityU. Such a large population requires a whole range of administrative support, from staff members who work in units such as Student Development Services, Run Run Shaw Library, Computing Services Centre, and Alumni Relations Office, among many others.
These units take care of student enrolment and counseling, faculty recruitment and benefits, campus management, cleaning, maintenance and repairs, the set-up of teaching facilities and laboratories, and promotion and outreach. They act as facilitators for CityU's development, and without them, the University won't run so smoothly, and we won't have made such significant achievements in teaching and research, either.
Though the number of staff members I know by name is relatively limited, I recognise many faces, and I know from my five years at CityU that these industrious and devoted colleagues contribute a great deal to our mission.
Meeting the challenges with innovation and creativity
The switch from a 3-year to 4-year undergraduate curriculum in Hong Kong has been an opportunity for the University to develop, but it has also raised challenges for every department. Two years ago the Academic Regulations and Records Office, Admissions Office, Computing Services Centre and Enterprise Solutions Office began to prepare in earnest for the double cohort of undergraduate students that would be entering the University in the 2012-13 academic year and for the launch of the 4-year academic structure.
Their support work included designing a new computer system for processing the enormous amount of application data and establishing a new admissions policy. They also set-up a new online course registration system and made sure that announcements concerning training sessions that would run for the whole academic year were made in August 2012, well in advance, to make sure students received timely information to be used when selecting their academic programmes and allowing them to study in a more flexible and convenient way.
In addition, an online report system was set up so that course credits earned by individual students as well as the statistics for classes taken by all students could be detailed. This system not only gives academic departments a full picture of the students' learning, it also allows academics to offer appropriate guidance. As for freshmen, the Academic Regulations and Records Office established a service centre designed to assist the 5,220 freshmen that made up the double cohort year.
The 334 transition posed a major challenge to all of us at CityU, but the hard work of our administrative and support staff from all units, departments, schools and colleges has paved the way to the successful introduction of our new curriculum, and allowed the University to take a significant step forward.
Dedication: the spirit of our motto
Good financial management at CityU comes from the substantial contribution made by staff in the Finance Office, which handles the various business and financial matters related to our staff and students. These seemingly trivial chores must be completed within a specified time frame, and we need dedicated professionals to manage them.
We also have an excellent team that looks after our facilities. CityU is a busy campus, and every day about 74,000 pedestrians pass through the University, the subways, the Nam Shan Chuen entrance, Tat Chee Avenue and other walkways. What's more, the useable space on campus has grown by more than 50% in the last few years, adding more routine maintenance, cleaning and security tasks to the daily list.
In adverse conditions, the workers who handle these tasks are particularly essential. For example, our campus was seriously flooded on 28 August 2010 during torrential rain that saw the Black Rain signal hoisted. Rainwater gushed into the Academic 1 building and the sports centre, leaving the ground covered in so much mud that it was difficult to walk. But thanks to our colleagues from the Campus Development and Facilities Office (CDFO), the water was drained away, no one was hurt, and all the facilities were safe and sound.
Indeed, we have a lot to thank CDFO for. Over the past few years, the University has undertaken several capital projects and large-scale renovations, and we owe a debt of gratitude to our CDFO colleagues for their professional management.
Carrying out one's duties politely and in good spirits, even in adverse conditions, is always welcomed; it is essential for building esprit de corps, too. Every morning, before 8am, dozens of security guards line up for inspection in the University Circle, ready to start the day's work. When they are about to change shifts at nightfall, they line up again. No matter they are on or off duty, every one of them greets the people they meet. Whatever the weather, they stand guard at campus entrances, maintaining order, politely responding to enquiries and directing the never-ending stream of people entering campus.
I like to chat with the security guards. One day, a guard excitedly told me that one of his neighbours had congratulated him on working for a university that was making such substantial gains in world university rankings. He said he felt so happy and proud to receive such praise. Even those guards from outsourced companies have expressed pride at working for a university that is doing so well, which I find very touching.
Close to Nam Shan Chuen, there is a busy entrance to the University. To work there could be a very demanding job. However, all the security guards perform their duties in a friendly manner. The contribution of our staff members and the security guards to the University is a reflection of their dedication to CityU, and it certainly deserves our admiration.
Working together with compassion and care
I have joined CityU students, alumni, staff and family members in running the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon for the last five years. This year we had the largest ever team of runners from CityU, over 1,000 athletes. It was a unique and valuable experience for me to run side by side with CityU runners before dawn, establishing a bond as we cheered each other on. This marathon has become an annual CityU event for the celebration of individual effort, team spirit, and the core values of the University.
Every year I arrive at the start of the marathon at 5am to greet colleagues from units such as Student Development Services, Campus Development and Facilities Office, and the Human Resources Office. They are busy receiving the student and staff runners, distributing drinks, taking care of personal belongings and clothes, and checking registrations. While the coaches take the race participants through their warm-up exercises, CityU's photographers and communications staff members are busy taking photos and conducting interviews. And, of course, the runners are cheering each other on, boosting each other's morale. These general grade staff and unsung heroes as well as the drivers who have to sleep in the University dorm the night before the race are genuine driving forces for CityU's growth.
Get-togethers with staff are also an invaluable part of the CityU calendar. I never miss the Staff Party organised by the Human Resources Office after the Chinese New Year. It brings colleagues together to celebrate a special buffet lunch and live performances. It also gives me an opportunity to express my gratitude to our staff for their hard work over the past years on this special occasion. In addition, retirement parties and the Long Service Staff Award Ceremony also give us a chance to express our thanks and pay tribute.
In addition, I really appreciate the receptions held to celebrate the successes of our men's and women's sports teams. Our athletes won the overall championships in the University Sports Federation of Hong Kong, China competitions this year for an unprecedented seventh time. Our athletes' brilliant performances are a result of the patient guidance and care of their coaches. At the celebration receptions, I experience the genuine sense of achievement that our student athletes exude.
Sparing no efforts in serving our students
In recent years, CityU has stepped up its efforts in promoting internationalised learning. During the 2011-12 academic year, colleagues from the Mainland and External Affairs Office visited a total of 60 locally well-known high schools and international schools in several countries, including Denmark (Copenhagen), India (Bangalore and Hyderabad), Indonesia (Jakarta) and Russia (Moscow and St Petersburg) as well as in mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea, aiming at expanding enrollment for international students. In the summer of 2003, some colleagues even organised an orientation programme in six cities— Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Taipei and Seoul— briefing 240 freshmen and their parents on how to adapt to studying at CityU and living in Hong Kong.
Moreover, we have broadened our students' horizons and ways of thinking by expanding our overseas exchange and internship programmes. We have increased the number of our exchanges with some of the world's most prominent universities, thereby building a platform for further cooperation. In recent years, we have received a succession of visitors, too. The smooth success of these visits depends on the efforts of colleagues in charge of making contacts and organising receptions, the drivers who chauffeur guests to and from campus, staff who make the arrangements for food and accommodation, to name a few. Meanwhile, we set a target of raising HK$50 million by 2015 so that 50% of our students could participate in these exchange programmes. With the support of the Development Office, we have already achieved this target.
Good internal and external communications are essential for a well-functioning university. The Communications and Public Relations Office (CPRO) at CityU is one of the main expert forces behind this work. Internally, CPRO ensures the free flow of information at CityU, while externally it serves as a bridge between the University and the outside world. Take the "Shaping Your Future: A Lifetime of Difference" programme on 22 April 2013 as an example. CPRO organised a sharing session for around 200 secondary students over a weekend, showing the students around campus, promoting our Discovery-enriched Curriculum, and arranging media interviews. CPRO's dedication and devotion to this programme, held at CityU for the fourth consecutive year, wins our admiration.
My honour to work with you all
Each of CityU's administrative units makes a unique contribution to campus development. I know this because I regularly seize the opportunity to chat at tea receptions with colleagues about the details of their work in individual departments or offices. In our interaction, I can feel a sincere sense of belonging to the University and a bond among our colleagues.
These kinds of friendships can last a lifetime. At the end of last year, I received a message from Lynn, my secretary when I was working as a department head at Iowa State University 24 years ago. Lynn emails every year, and this time she was letting me know that she had retired. In fact, my former colleagues in the US used to work together as if they were part of the same family. Lynn's email reminded me of the time she tried to show me how to use the new printer in the office, and the way she used to receive my college classmates when they came to visit me.
I had similar experiences with Ms Chiang, a secretary working at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan where I started my undergraduate studies when I was 17; and with Katie, a research assistant at Bell Labs as well as CityU colleagues here. Take my current job for example. I have regular contact with colleagues in the administration offices and regard them as my partners. I have witnessed how the secretaries and assistants in these offices keep track of busy calendars, arrange agendas, write up minutes and follow up items that require attention and execution. Their methodical way of going about their work deserves our praise.
CityU staff members are an important part of our terrific team. I wish them a happy career here, and I also hope our faculty and students will feel grateful for their consistent support. Our common destiny brings us together. We depend on each other, which is why I hope everyone will cherish each and every moment we work together to achieve excellence.
May 13, 2013