This is a foreword written for our BSc Global China Studies students for the inauguration of their society on April 10, 2012, and I’m sharing it with you all here, with joy and pride:
What is the role of humanities and social science in a university and, furthermore, what is the role of a university in society? I used to think, a university was the beacon of intellectual knowledge and inquiry that inspires us to try to answer the query of human existence from all aspects. I used to believe, and I still believe, we are first and foremost human and social beings, and a university has the primary responsibility to teach students how to relate to themselves and others as human and social beings. It should take on a leadership role in society in “bettering society for a better humanity.”
For more than twenty years we have witnessed HKUST thriving as a science-, engineering- and business-based university. Where is the place for humanities and social science in this aspiring young university?
In 2011, the launch of the first undergraduate major program (Global China Studies) in the School of Humanities and Social Science marked a milestone development at HKUST. For the most part these students are here because they are motivated by a pure and keen interest in the pursuit of knowledge relating to people and the society. I told them on their first day that they should feel proud to be the founding GCS class in our School, as well as the first class of SHSS undergraduates at HKUST, and they should take on a leadership role in this campus to bring humanities and social science to the forefront of the student culture here.
The setting up of the Humanities and Social Science Students’ Union today, which has not been an easy process, should be applauded by all of us. The GCS students, small in number, have neither predecessors to follow nor senior students to turn to for advice and guidance. They are doing this all on their own, with courage, conviction and passion. As I told them on another occasion, we will not promise them wealth or success, but I hope, years from now, they will feel proud of themselves for what they have accomplished.
If anyone has doubts why they should be spending their time outside their studies, let me end this foreword with a quotation: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)