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December 2019

Student-Oriented Education
An Interview with Prof. Arthur Mak Fuk-tat,
HKBU Associate Vice-President
(Student Experience)


The newly appointed Associate Vice-President (Student Experience), Prof. Arthur Mak, took up the position in August this year. An expert in biomedical engineering, Prof. Mak is dedicated to the advancement of biomedicine and rehabilitation work. He pursued his studies in the United States but moved back in the 80s to Hong Kong, a place which is dear to his heart. Prof. Mak was the Associate Vice-President (Academic Development) and the Founding Dean of Students of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has amassed abundant experience in academic and student affairs work, as well as in cross-disciplinary teaching and research. At HKBU, Prof. Mak is in charge of student development, especially on enhancing students’ learning experience and development opportunities. He will also promote student activities that would lead to physical and mental wellness. Since assuming office at HKBU, he has met a number of students and staff, and he is particularly impressed by their sincere attitude and guileless character. “I am excited to be taking up the mantle as the Associate Vice-President (Student Experience) and helping the University forward with the senior management team.” He looks forward to working hand in hand with all staff members for the advancement of the University. “By working together we can make a much bigger impact.”


Promoting Cross-disciplinary Teaching and Learning

Prof. Mak’s number-one priority is to promote cross-disciplinary teaching and learning.  In his opinion, the world is now in a state of knowledge explosion, and one’s daily life inevitably encompasses an extensive range of disciplines. To Prof. Mak, the ability to understand people of different backgrounds and to see things from a broad perspective is an important quality in leadership. “To help students develop such ability, cross-disciplinary learning has become increasingly important. Students should not confine themselves only to their own field of studies. They should attempt to initiate cross-disciplinary dialogues and exchanges,” said Prof. Mak. Interdisciplinarity would be a firm feature of teaching and learning at HKBU. This starts with “General Education”. Through advocating “General Education” in the University, Prof. Mak hopes to instill in students the concept of interdisciplinary learning and the ability to articulate a broader perspective. Having studied and worked in the U.S., Prof. Mak is keen to bring a fresh perspective on how students can develop their potential. “In the States, an engineering student has to take courses in humanities or social sciences. This is also the case in various institutions in Hong Kong such as The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  They run various types of cross-disciplinary activities for their students so that students from different disciplines are grouped together to work on an academic project.  In such a way, they will be able to solve problems from different perspectives through exchanging ideas with peers,” he said. Based on his experience of cross-disciplinary studies, Prof. Mak can see that the General Education programme at HKBU has already been cross-disciplinary, innovative and multifaceted. Yet, the Senior Management team of HKBU is committed to further advancing the curriculum to add value to the programme.  He added, “The University is exploring the feasibility of launching a ‘Residential Hall Education’ programme that embeds cross-disciplinary learning into hostel life, thus providing residents with additional out-of-class interdisciplinary learning experience.  The blueprint and modus operandi of this proposed programme, however, will require further discussion within the University community.”


Facilitating Whole Person Development

In line with the strategic goals of the University, Prof. Mak would like to put more efforts into promoting whole person development and providing students with the best learning experience by instilling in them the enthusiasm for innovation and contemplation. He hopes to equip students with the ability to communicate effectively and inculcate in them compassion for others.  In addition to cross-disciplinary studies, Prof. Mak also wishes to provide students with more opportunities in “Service Learning”.  He noted that HKBU has already provided a great number of co- and extra- curricular activities for students.  However, the fact that many of our students have come from grass root families has prohibited them from participating in the extra-curricular activities. He wishes to raise funds to set up more scholarships to help those students in need. Prof. Mak also places great emphasis on students’ physical and mental wellness. Noting the recent social movement in Hong Kong, he expresses his worries that students might develop negative sentiments towards society and even the feeling of helplessness. “The University has started a dialogue with students in order to better understand their needs, so as to help them deal with the situation.” Prof. Mak said, “we need to have empathy, and should continue our meaningful exchanges with students so as to let them see that there are always rays of hope in life.”


Words of Wisdom for Young People

Being a Christian, Prof. Mak shared with us that his acquaintance with Father Henri Nouwen has had a profound impact on him. It has changed his moral values and his perception of education. It also enriches his spiritual life.  He said, “after Father Nouwen left Harvard University, where he worked as a teacher, he went to L’Arche Daybreak to look after people with disabilities. Father Nouwen once said in his book, ‘at L’ArcheDaybreak, many residents are deserted by the world because they cannot take care of themselves.’ Father Nouwen’s attitude towards the physically disabled let me realise that every individual has his own worth, uniqueness and potentials that should be valued.”  Prof. Mak admits that he was once a task-oriented person, but after getting involved in student affairs work, he learned to strike a balance between tasks and people and try to understand people’s needs. He even frankly confessed that he once had doubts about himself.  “The year before I came to HKBU, I was unable to adapt myself to the changes brought about by aging. It is not until later that I gradually came to realise that I shouldn’t let aging restrict my opportunities to invest in other people, especially our next generation.” 


Finally, Prof. Mak would like to share with young people the following piece of advice “Build on your past; but do not let your past limit you. Tackle every task with passion and perseverance. Do not haggle. However difficult a task is, you must persevere till you achieve your goal; even when you did not do well despite your efforts, you still got a chance to learn.”


Prof. Arthur Mak Fuk-tat


Prof. Mak visits Orangerie Museum in Paris.


Prof. Mak with his postdoctoral supervisor Prof. Van C Mow (first row, second from right).

Back to The BUddy Post December 2019

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