Preparing Students for the World
An Interview with CKYC Master Prof Kevin Zhen

Text:Ella Cheong, Senior UM Reporter Sally Liang │ Jack Ho, Editorial Board

‘A residential college (RC) should prepare the students for the world,’ says Prof Kevin Zhen, master of Choi Kai Yau College (CKYC). Prof Zhen wants to create within the walls of the CKYC a caring community where students and teachers live together in harmony, in an environment of culture and refinement.

Prof Kevin Zhen, College Master

A Harmouious Community

Prof Zhen has many years of experience in managing RCs, with a unique philosophy of education. As a pioneer in cross-border education, he has successfully created many joint programmes, colleges, and universities. He possesses excellent leadership skills, and is particularly good at seeking opportunities for international collaboration in a highly competitive global environment. Before taking up the position as the master of the CKYC, he served in senior management positions at various universities. He was a professor and vice president (global affairs and student recruitment) at Beijing Institute of Technology, Zhuhai (BITZH), founding dean of the Sino-US College and Bryant College at BITZH, and associate master of Cheng Yu Tung College at UM.

He completed his PhD degree in economics at the University of Cambridge, whose residential college system left a deep impression on him. He believes it is important to create a good atmosphere in the college. He says, ‘An RC should be like a home where college members live together in harmony. By participating in a variety of activities, students socialise with each other and acquire knowledge and skills thatcannot be learned in the classroom. One very good example is the high table dinner, through which students can learn social etiquette so they know how to behave appropriately on different occasions.’

   The CKYC places equal emphasis on the students’ international experience and their knowledge of local culture

Equal Emphasis on Global Mindset and Local Knowledge

Prof Zhen hopes to create an atmosphere of culture in the college, because he believe it is important for a university or an RC to have its unique culture and character. ‘I hope by immersing our students in a culturally rich environment, they will grow into culturally sophisticated persons by osmosis,’ he says. The CKYC places equal emphasis on the students’ international experience and their knowledge of local culture, backed on the belief that the more globalised the world becomes, the more pronounced the characteristics of the local culture.

Fostering Cultural Confidence

‘Humanity, integrity, propriety, wisdom, sincerity’ are not only the motto of UM, but also the essence of traditional Chinese culture. Prof Zhen believes that students can acquire discipline-specific knowledge from the various faculties, but it is incumbent on the RCs to teach the students what they cannot learn in the classroom, such as helping them develop the five virtues listed in the above. ‘Confucianism advocates gentleness, refinement, and culture. I sincerely hope that students can demonstrate these good qualities when dealing with others.’ When asked why he finds traditional Chinese culture so fascinating, he says, ‘The late Chinese writer Zhu Ziqing used to remind the intellectuals about their responsibility to promote the fine traditional culture. This is especially relevant in an era of globalization, where students exposed to different cultures may easily get lost. The more globalised the world becomes, the more important it is for the younger generation to foster cultural confidence. Each and every young person has the responsibility to inherit and promote our brilliant traditional Chinese culture.’