Dr. Lawrence Chiu Appointed the Dean of General Education of S.H. Ho College

Dr. Lawrence Chiu was officially appointed the Dean of General Education of S.H. Ho College on 1 September 2016. Currently Senior Lecturer at the School of Life Sciences, Dr. Chiu has been teaching biology at CUHK since 1997. With rich teaching experience, Dr. Chiu was awarded the Exemplary Teaching Award in General Education by the Senate Committee on General Education and the Exemplary Teaching Award by the Faculty of Science in 2012, in recognition of his performance and enthusiasm for teaching. A feature story about Dr. Chiu is covered in this issue to share his view and vision of college general education.

General education at CUHK can be categorized into two types: general education provided by faculties or departments and that provided by colleges. Since Dr. Chiu joined the Department of Biology in 1997, he has been teaching and coordinating the department’s general education programme. He is now the convener of the eight general education courses run by the School of Life Sciences, and responsible for maintaining the course quality and communicating with the Office of University General Education, CUHK. Compared with his abundant experience with departmental general education, his frontline teaching of college general education courses will only begin in the second semester of the academic year 2016–17.

When asked about the main difference between university general education and college general education, Dr. Chiu shared, ‘Basically provided by various departments, university general education courses aim at passing knowledge about certain subjects, so that students acquire a general understanding of these subjects. On the other hand, college general education programmes emphasize whole-person education; they are the means used by the relevant colleges to convey to students their ideas and missions. For instance, S.H. Ho College places emphasis on the concept of ‘home’, and encourages all-round contacts between teachers and students. Through general education and various activities, teachers share their life experiences with students and help students equip themselves with better interpersonal communication skills.’

S.H. Ho College’s General Education (CGE) programme comprises two courses: the Induction Course – GESH1010 Orientation and Outreach provided for freshmen, and the Capstone Course – GESH4010 Work and Productive Life designed for graduands. The two courses have their respective teaching objectives and contents. Dr. Chiu expects the Induction Course can help freshmen adapt themselves to the university life and college life. ‘Secondary school students are used to a prescribed mode of study life. When they enter a university, they will be faced with a new freedom of choice, including the freedom in selecting subjects and that in attending a class. Some freshmen are not able to adjust to this abrupt change and may even feel stressed about it. GESH1010 aims to allow space for students to reflect on their previous secondary school life, and then forecast the university life and college life they will lead. For example, teachers will discuss with students in class how to get the right balance between study and extra-curricular activities.’ On the other hand, Dr. Chiu hopes the Capstone Course can help students get prepared psychologically for another big change in their life after four years of study at university―the shift from a relatively protected environment to a new and perhaps less predictable working environment. The course brings out issues like ‘meaningful life’ and ‘productive work’ for discussion.

Having keen interest in positive psychology and read widely on this subject, Dr. Chiu hopes to promote students’ mental health by means of positive psychology. ‘As the Dean of General Education, I wish to further strengthen the elements of positive thinking in the CGE programme, so as to help students develop their positivity. With good mental health, they will be able to adjust their mentality when they are disappointed, and become strong enough to overcome every obstacle.’ There is a mini library in S.H. Ho College called the Like Reading Room (LRR). Overlooking the beautiful Tolo Harbour, LRR offers a good environment for reading. Dr. Chiu thinks that the soothing atmosphere in LRR is also suitable for contemplating and nurturing a peaceful mind. He suggested playing relaxing music or nature sounds like the chirping of birds, the sound of the wind or waves in the room to create a natural ambience, so that students can read books on positive psychology leisurely to enhance their ability to battle against adversity.