I have been traveling to many different parts of the world in the past six months. Not only have I participated in leading global conferences related to wireless communication – my specialist area. I have also been delighted to take part in forums focused on frontier work in engineering education.
From Asia to South America and the Middle East, I have been explaining the transformation at our School and how we have utilized Hong Kong's move to a four-year undergraduate degree system to introduce our original "Engineering PLUS" education. This was launched in September 2012, bringing an innovative and flexible curriculum together with a range of enrichment, advisement and pioneering support activities such as our "clan" system, all of which you can read about in this In Focus.
It is rare that a school of engineering has the chance to so completely revitalize its approach. So there has been great interest and excitement internationally about what HKUST is doing. Typically, most educators only get to make incremental adjustments. What is so special at the School of Engineering is that we have advanced the complete package.
This includes not only our undergraduate education but also the research postgraduate experience we offer. We are currently exploring how to assist such students in developing their communication and presentation skills and the enterprising spirit that will benefit them whether they continue in academia or head for business and industry.
In addition, we are set to redouble our efforts in internationalization as we believe that an international student body is critical in terms of educational and personal development for undergraduates and postgraduates alike.
The reaction I receive when I go overseas and discuss all this? "Wow!" It reinforces my belief that the School has had an opportunity that most institutions don't usually have, and this rare occurrence really gives us an edge in providing a truly enjoyable, truly excellent, and truly outstanding engineering education.
This year is special for me in another way, as it marks my 20th year at HKUST. When I joined in 1993, little did I think I would be spending so many years of my life here. It is what many find at HKUST. Starting out as a junior faculty member during the University's founding years, over the past two decades I have been immersed in an environment that celebrates initiative, achievement and an international outlook, become a distinguished global research scholar, and since 2009 had the honor of taking great colleagues and students forward as Dean of the School.
I have also really enjoyed living and working in Hong Kong, which is perfectly located for engineering academics and students to study and engage with the immense social and economic changes occurring in Asia, and a wonderfully tolerant, go-getting international city.
As I and all at the School of Engineering enter a new era, it is appropriate our magazine does too. I hope you enjoy the new-look format and content as together – students, faculty, staff, and In Focus readers in Hong Kong and beyond – head toward a fresh chapter of dynamic development.
Prof Khaled Ben Letaief
Dean of Engineering