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Letter to Lingnanians

19 December 2013

Leonard K Cheng

Leonard K Cheng

Dear colleagues, students and alumni,

It has been more than three months since I last wrote to you. Despite the hectic schedule, I have found my days fruitful and joyous. I trust you also feel the same. Since moving into Lingnan, I have spent most of my time on campus, including weekends. I usually get up before 7am and start working after breakfast. Sometimes I jog in the outdoor sports ground to keep fit. Occasionally I run into a few students, and take the opportunity to chat with them. When the swimming pool is open, I would go for a dip at weekend or in the evening. Now that the pool is closed for the season, I have switched to taiji. Exercise is good for our health, physically and psychologically, and makes us energetic. Coupled with sufficient sleep and a balanced diet, we would have enough resources to cope with the pressure of study and work. I encourage everyone to form a habit of regular exercise and make full use of the sports facilities on campus. I hope to see you in our sports ground or swimming pool!

As a new Lingnanian, I have tried to grasp every opportunity to meet with students and staff so as to know more about the systems and modus operandi here. These contacts have made me see their deep affection for Lingnan. Visits to all the hostels and six breakfast meetings with students so far have enabled me to learn about the views and suggestions of students regarding certain issues. Apart from needed improvements in the maintenance of some facilities, there are also gaps in communication with some university units which can be bridged. Any time problems arise, they can be resolved as quickly as possible through effective channels of communication and discussion.

I have tried to participate in activities on campus whenever time permits. In November, for instance, I attended an LN-Talk organised by the Service-Learning Student Association, and exchanged views with students. I spoke on the impact of the Direct Subsidy Scheme on high-quality secondary education, while four speakers from other departments and units shared their views on other issues. I am very delighted to see students taking the initiative to organise such activities, providing a platform for Lingnan teachers and students to discuss social issues, and leading to new ideas and proposals through intellectual debate.

Brought up in a grass-roots family, I managed to rise from poverty and find my own dream because I had a good primary and secondary education. Thus, I am against any policy which reduces the opportunities for children from poor families to receive a good education. As I have mentioned in my installation address, most Lingnan students do not come from well-off families, and many are the first generation of university students in their families. As leaders of Lingnan, we must try our best to provide high-quality programmes, a good environment and various learning opportunities for students to grow, so that they have sufficient skills and abilities  to make contribution to different spheres of society.

Lingnan’s liberal arts education includes such features as a four-year residential campus, small class teaching, close faculty-student relationship and an array of co- curricular and extra-curricular activities. Our small size means that each student has more chance to take part in exchange abroad, internship work and community service. It’s very difficult for bigger universities to provide this kind of learning environment and attention for their students. In addition to enhancing our work in the above areas, we must further enhance the teaching capability of our faculty members and the overall effectiveness of the teaching and learning of our programmes and courses. Lingnan students may not have the best results in public examinations upon entry, but they will certainly gain a lot if they make use of the various learning opportunities here. I hope in particular that students will work hard to improve their language proficiency. Only precise language can fully express cogent logical thinking, and only good writing and verbal skills can facilitate effective communication. I also hope students can participate more in service learning, and learn how to identify problems and find solutions. They can serve the public while enhancing their knowledge and skills at the same time.

I think Lingnan should continue to enhance the learning experience of students, so that the effectiveness of our teaching and learning can reach the highest standards of world-class liberal arts universities. The competitiveness of our graduates can thereby be raised, and they can have more choice in selecting a career and life path they wish. This goal cannot be achieved instantaneously and requires an upward spiral process. Apart from changes in our internal systems and the establishment of a culture, we also need three ancillary propellers in this process: (1) the mobilisation of more resources from society to supplement government funding; (2) helping our graduates find better career prospects; and (3) more effective public promotion of our liberal arts ideas and the achievements of our staff, students and graduates.

Lingnan is fortunate to have the firm support of our Council and Court in the above three areas. The Council’s Career Development Committee, comprised of Council, Court and other co-opted members, offers advice on career development, while also lining up internship and job interview opportunities for students. Such kind of support is not easy to find among local universities. Partly due to the Committee’s efforts, the career prospects of Lingnan graduates have steadily improved in recent years, with many being employed by major multinational corporations. The Council also has an Institutional Advancement Committee, which not only helps with our fundraising but also promotes Lingnan to leaders in different industries. Both committees have made enormous contributions to Lingnan.

The first semester is about to end. Over the last three months, I have met with many alumni and supporters of Lingnan, including donors. I thank them for their support and hope they will continue to care about Lingnan. I am glad we have a good start in fundraising. We shall continue to work hard to get more sponsorship for our programmes, such as student exchange abroad, hostel accommodation and scholarship and bursary schemes.

In the coming semester, I plan to meet with staff of academic departments to learn more about their work and thoughts. Let’s work together towards the goal of enhancing the learning experience of our students, and activate the upward spiral.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

With best wishes,
Leonard K Cheng