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‘The Master of S.H. Ho College takes joy in being an atypical dad 24/7 in his hillside abode he calls home.’
It has been almost a year since you became the Master of S.H. Ho College. What are the joys and pains?
No pains. But because College activities are always taking place, my schedule is less stable and there are times I have to deal with emergencies during the holidays. As for joys, I am happy for the chance to get to know undergraduates across different academic disciplines. I attend communal dinners at least twice a week, and also see students during evening activities. It is a drastically different experience from my time at the Graduate School, when I was mainly responsible for institutional planning and supervising graduate students. My wife used to take care of household matters, but now she also takes part in College activities and helps organize the 10 tea gatherings with students throughout the year.
Young people long to be away from home, yet S.H. Ho makes ‘home’ its core value. Isn’t it counterintuitive?
What we wish to bring out when we say ‘home’ is not paternalism, but a cosy, congenial environment where people respect and talk openly to each other like a family. We are trying to avoid top-down management. Students are part of this family—they enjoy rights and are bound to shoulder group responsibilities. More so, I hope our College can be a haven in their learning journey. Here, they can find the spiritual support and replenishment they need.
What are the ways to get students out of their rooms to participate in group activities?
Only carrots, no sticks. There has been a small group of students who are lukewarm with event attendance, and we are trying to find out why. Heavy course loads can be one reason, but we don’t believe it’s the full story. Almost unfailingly, student-initiated activities are more popular, which is natural. Students are putting them forth because they feel interested; of course they are going to ace that.
Can you name some landmark events?
We hope to cultivate students’ curiosity, empathy and indomitable spirit in the face of hardships. The students in our Medical Society once proposed to perform health checks for foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Though the costs were exorbitant, the campaign was tremendously meaningful. Our Runner Force, founded in 2012 and joined by 30 to 40 teachers and students, has members jog together and run in international competitions. The drills instil self-discipline, stamina and comradery among the runners. The College also offers full support for students to join international contests, a particularly memorable one being the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) International Peace Marathon in Korea.
Any goals you want to achieve during your term of office?
While studying hard, most students are not curious enough and they seldom reflect upon their learning goals. Though information is everywhere, it’s rare for students to show initiative in arriving at a thorough understanding, and as a result, their knowledge remains deplorably superficial. Heightening students’ curiosity and hence pushing them out of the cocoon of passive and sedentary learning is a challenge I would like to take.
Do you take cues from the relationship with your daughter while interacting with students?
When my daughter was small, I read her a bedtime story every night. I am an introvert who warms up to people slowly. She can elicit my emotional side and we are like friends. I hope my students will not see me as an aloof and distant master, but a friend they can chat with casually.
What is your favourite spot in this home on the hill?
The Oasis. There were nights when I was partaking in students’ mini-concerts, where they leisurely sang and played instruments as they improvised along the way. Under the tender light, I rested on the bean bag, listening to the flowing melodies and gazing far into the light spots winking on the opposite shore of Ma On Shan. It was mesmerizing and relaxing.
This article was originally published in No. 539, Newsletter in Jun 2019.