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17 November 2017

2017 Congregation
President's Speech

Chief Executive, distinguished guests, graduates, parents, friends and colleagues,

Graduates, congratulations! You have completed years of hard work to get to where you are, and you should savour this very moment, in the presence of your family and friends. No matter where life leads you, you will be our ambassadors. Make us proud!

Today is a very special day for me, as this will be my last congregation speech at HKUST. I still remember vividly my inaugural speech in 2009. I cherish the many remarkable moments HKUST has given me over the past eight years.

In 2009, I pledged that “we must be known as one of the best science and technology universities globally in both education and research”; “we will grow our own talent and train students to be future leaders”; “we must be recognized as a global innovator in research”. In a lecture in 2011, our 20th anniversary year, I ventured to predict that by our 40th anniversary, the world will be lining up to buy a product invented by one of our alumni or faculty member. Many probably thought that we set the bar too high.

Yet that’s exactly what we have achieved. HKUST has gained international recognition in a mere 26 years. Today, we are ranked 30th globally and 3rd in Asia in the latest QS University Rankings. Our EMBA program has been ranked best in the globe 8 out of the past 10 years. In the 2014 Research Assessment Exercise, we attained the highest proportion of world leading and internationally excellent research amongst all universities in HK, by a big margin. And our alumni are leaders in all walks of life: the founder of the market-leading drone company in the world, voted by Forbes magazine as one of China’s top 10 innovators; the leader of the biggest political party in HK; and the founder of the largest unmanned water surface vessel company are all HKUST alums. Our alumni currently ranks 13th in a Global Employability Survey as published by Times Higher Education. People are indeed lining up to buy DJI drones.

We were able to achieve all these, because everyone involved in our community, including our council, partners and donors, fully supported our vision and our cause. In our 25th anniversary Global Vision campaign, we raised over one billion dollars. What is noteworthy is that 100 million dollars of this was donated from one of our local undergraduate alumnus. These precious funds will enable us to do things otherwise we cannot do, including the University’s first auditorium, an innovation building and a water sports center. These new facilities will greatly improve our student life experience and promote our holistic education ideal.

We have done great things, but yet we must not be satisfied. The world is a rapidly changing place, and there is no room for complacency. Today, innovation and technology is what fuels the world economy and no society can afford to be left behind. Thankfully, HKUST is in a great position to play a key role in this race. Our University’s mission has always been to advance learning and knowledge through teaching and research, and to assist in the economic and social development of Hong Kong. Government initiatives, such as the Greater Bay Area, the River Loop, and Belt & Road, are going to bring unforeseen opportunities for us. What’s more, our Chief Executive’s first policy address has pledged significant investment in innovation and technology. Graduates, there has never been a better time for you to chart your own course and deliver on HKUST’s mission. Let’s continue innovating today and imagining tomorrow.

But the road ahead will also be full of challenges. We are living in an age of political polarization, where extreme ideologies have impeded our society’s development. In times like these, you will need not only skills and knowledge, but also a critical mind that thinks independently rather than follows others blindly. The world is changing fast and you should be prepared to grasp opportunities that come your way. Do not get caught in short term thinking about quick paths to career and financial stability. Be a leader, not just a follower; take some risks, set long term goals, constantly broaden your horizons, and aim to leave your own mark in this world.

I will leave HKUST with a feeling of pride that HKUST is in a much better position than when I came. I am optimistic about the future of HKUST. If all our stakeholders, including Council, management, students, faculty and staff, put our minds together, focus on our mission, respect our individual roles and responsibilities, then we can together achieve goals in the future that today we may consider too high to reach. With our core values of 1-HKUST and can-do spirit, we can make miracles happen.

Graduates, may you succeed in all your future endeavors, and remember to give back to society. Those before you have made us proud, and we expect even greater things from you. Good luck to you all.


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