5 September 2023

Presidential Address at the 68th Convocation – Embrace the unknown!


Dear Students and Colleagues,

It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the 68th Convocation of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU).

You are one of the most unique generation of students to have joined HKBU. You have experienced and overcome one of the most testing times during the pandemic. As the first batch of undergraduates entering the University after the pandemic, you have shown remarkable resilience and courage in managing your studies while coping with the unprecedented and dramatic changes and challenges. The fact that you have come this far today, tells me you are strong, capable and mature individuals ready for the next chapter of your life.   

The fact is the “new normal” has ushered in a different set of global challenges. Aside from the social, political, economic and climate changes that dominate the headlines, technological advancements have taken the world by storm.  We are in a new era where AI-driven technology will change how things work and how we lead our lives. This is a transformation that will impact every sector and individual in the community. 

This brings me to my message today: Embrace the unknown! “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” This is a well-known quote by William Arthur Ward which underscores the importance of curiosity to our quest for knowledge. At its core, embracing the unknown is an active practice of kindling the wick, sparkling the flame of knowledge to life. Central to the pursuit of knowledge is the art of asking questions – a fundamental key to unlocking the treasures of understanding. In the realm of learning, questions are more than inquiries; they foster critical thinking, enhance creativity and improve problem-solving skills. It is often said that to ask the right question is already half the solution to a problem. The ability to ask the right questions is not just a sign of intellect but also one of the defining characteristics of highly successful people. Therefore, as we stand before the unknown, remember that the questions we ask today have the potential to shape the discoveries of tomorrow; and in asking the right questions, we steer the course of insight and intelligence.

At HKBU, you have a supportive and inspiring environment where you can be bold and innovative in your learning.  When you walk down the promenade on our campus, you will see film makers exploring with AI experts on how research on motion capture can help create endless possibilities in animation or virtual scenes. Or you will find a musician inspired by a biologist who discovered a new species of jellyfish, and perform an old piece anew to celebrate the vibrancy of the AI dance inspired by bouncy jellyfishes. Knowledge knows no boundary. Begin Your Unbounded Journey and be inspired by the people you meet!

Learning at the university is much more than just being inspired. We have developed structured ways to help you grow and prepare you for the ever-changing world. Our curriculum is designed to nurture students with creativity, problem-solving skills and a forward-looking vision. You will learn more than your selected discipline through General Education and service-learning courses, to name a few.  Those in the transdisciplinary programmes will learn how different disciplines work together to solve global challenges. This all-rounded and diverse exposure will help you gain a better understanding of your strengths and aspirations. These experiences will ultimately prepare you for your career, and help build your versatility when steering in uncharted waters. With the right mindset, you will realise that when it comes to the unknown, there really is nothing to fear, but only possibilities to explore.

The curiosity to explore the unknown is something you will see very often among our HKBU faculty.  My colleagues re-imagined what it is like going to the cinema, or how a musical performance can be conducted in the future, and their imagination resulted in two brilliant art-tech projects. With the “Future Cinema Systems”, we created innovative platforms for theatre, dance, music, sports, cultural heritage and education. We also launched the world’s first symphony orchestra where HKBU students performed on stage with an AI virtual choir, AI media artists and AI dancers. These innovative endeavours by our HKBU academics redefine creativity, conceiving the inconceivable. By making it a habit to ask, “why not?”, embracing technology and thinking out of the box, you too can do the same and make your own discoveries during your time at the University.

In the course of empowering our students to become full-fledged individuals who are capable of shaping the future, we will help you navigate this digital world of generative AI wisely, critically and ethically.  What distinguishes us from AI is that we are uniquely human with wisdom, critical thinking and the ability to make ethical judgments. More importantly, we have the compassion and empathy to put the best interests of humanity at the heart of what we do.

HKBU has a rich heritage in culture, humanities and the liberal arts. With the support of science and technology, and the dedication and expertise from our outstanding teaching and research faculty, you have the best of both worlds to become the all-rounded talent the world needs, and the change you want to see. In the words of my favourite physicist, Albert Einstein: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”, so don’t be shy to reach for the stars, and should you stumble, get back on your feet and have a go again!

Once again, welcome to HKBU!  I wish you all a fulfilling and enjoyable University life, filled with new knowledge, friendships and of course fun moments that you will look back on fondly four years down the road.

Thank you.