Since the primary mission of the HKUST Business School is to advance learning through teaching and research, those involved are always keen to celebrate the success of faculty members.

Therefore, in 2016, Milind Rao, Professor of Business Practice in the Department of Economics and Garvin Percy Dias, Associate Professor of Business Education in the Department of Information Systems, Business Statistics and Operations Management (ISOM), were formally recognized with separate awards for teaching excellence.

An ability to read his students’ faces

The Michael G Gale Medal for Distinguished Teaching at HKUST is awarded each year to the faculty member who best exemplifies continued pursuit of excellence, devotion to teaching, and the ability to inspire and motivate others.

In teaching undergraduate information systems majors, as well as elective courses for MSc and MBA students, Professor Dias has a track record that made him a worthy winner of the 2016 medal. More recently, he was a finalist of the HKUST for the University Grants Committee (UGC) Teaching Award, competing for a teaching award that honors faculty in Hong Kong who excel in teaching in the UGC sector. Actually, he was the first from the Business School and the third in the HKUST named a finalist in this prestigious award.

Among other accolades, he has been the only faculty who won the School of Business and Management’s Franklin Prize for Teaching Excellence four times, and featured twice in the annual university-wide student poll for the Best Ten Lecturers. Teams he coached won the first two annual case competitions held by the China Hong Kong Chapter of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, while one of Professor Dias’s students outscored practicing professionals to rank world number one in the 2015 Certified Information Systems Auditor exams and the first in Greater China.

“As educators, what makes us happiest is seeing our students achieve their best possible level,” he says.

“Over the last eight years, I have taught 58 course sections and my average teaching rating is 93.2 - that is the overall instructor mark as rated by the students.”

Professor Dias is also quick to credit the support he gets from the Business School. “I feel very comfortable with the culture at HKUST and my colleagues here are wonderful,” he says.

He demonstrates his care about teaching excellence as being the Founding Chairman of the School’s Quality Assurance Committee and Director for the Center for Business Education.

Also thank for his unwavering efforts made in promoting IT governance, HKUST Business School was chosen the “Merit Award” recipient for the first IT Governance Achievement Awards (Public Sector) organized by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (China HK Chapter), supported by the Innovation and Technology Bureau of HKSAR Government.

Professor Dias notes that educators have to go through their own learning process when it comes to developing their skills.

“As our students often have no work experience, it can be difficult for them to understand the concepts. I realized the best way to teach would be by creating real-life examples. So, for every concept I teach, I come up with a simple story to explain it.”

Professor Dias has also developed an ability to read his students’ faces to see if they have grasped what he is teaching, and he is willing to make himself available to help anyone having difficulties.

“I want 100 per cent of my class to understand everything,” he says.

A course that won “audience vote”

Both Professor Rao and the school were praised in particular for their roles in the CEMS Master’s in International Management program, a collaborated degree delivered by a global alliance of 30 leading business schools from around the world.

More than 1,200 of the program’s postgraduate students selected the HKUST Business School as the CEMS School of the Year. And the elective course in global macroeconomics, taught for the first time by Professor Rao, was named as one of the three CEMS Courses of the Year.

“I didn’t even know there was an award, or that I was up for it,” Professor Rao says. What made it even more pleasing, he notes, was that his course won the “audience vote”, rather than being picked by the program administrators.

“I think my colleagues would agree that, hands down, an award given by students means a lot more.”

With a good mix of students from across the globe, Professor Rao greatly enjoyed his CEMS teaching. He found the questions raised were very thoughtful and some of the challenging choices made by students were quite surprising. He had assumed that, given a choice, most students would want to focus on markets they knew well.

“What I found interesting was that the Europeans wanted to work on China-related topics and vice versa,” he says.

The fact that his efforts on the CEMS program weren’t the only HKUST contribution to be recognized also meant a lot to him.

“It was especially gratifying that the school and the people in the program office also won. The latter really deserve recognition, particularly when you compare the size of our office with those in some of the schools in North America and Europe.”

HKUST Business School was the first in Asia to be named CEMS School of the Year – in only the third year it had participated.

Professor Rao also wants to acknowledge the contribution of Chris Tsang, currently Executive Director (School Administration), who first encouraged him to teach a CEMS course.

“This is part of the spirit of HKUST Business School,” he says. “Chris is not on the official list of acknowledgements, but people like that just think of the overall program.”

Professor Rao first came to HKUST in 2003 and, he has seen a continual rise in the expectations that students - have of their professors.

From his own perspective, he can point to three key qualities a good teacher should possess.

“First, some degree of empathy with the students - to understand where your audience is coming from, what they are interested in, and the ways you can get them interested in the topic you are teaching,” he says.

“The second is clear presentation skills. And the third is the respect you show for your students. I want my classes to be an environment in which the learning goes both ways.”