An All-Round Educator Pays it Forward

From her BBA, MPhil and PhD studies to her current position as an associate professor at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management, Prof. Lisa Wan’s life has an inextricable connection with CUHK Business School.

Grateful and honoured for what she has received, she is tenaciously paying forward through a gamut of conduits, including teaching, research, knowledge transfer and community service. Along the way, she has been showered with teaching accolades, including the prestigious University Education Award.


Fulfilling Her CUHK Dreams in More Ways than One

It was my first choice all along.
— Prof. Lisa Wan

Prof. Wan vividly recalls the joy of being accepted into The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s BBA programme. “It was my first choice all along. I’ve been full of admiration for CUHK’s high standing, outstanding faculty and lush campus. Given the competitive nature of the school and the programme, I was ecstatic to be admitted.” Besides enjoying a rich academic and campus life, she indulged in sports. She was on New Asia (NA) College’s swimming and athletic teams and represented the college at athletic competitions, even winning the champion at NA Campus Run.

After graduating from the BBA programme, she pursued postgraduate studies in marketing at CUHK, first earning an MPhil and then following it up with a PhD. She pointed out that the decision to continue studies at CUHK was based as much on her affection for the university as on practical considerations. “CUHK’s scholars, faculty members and research are all world-class. To illustrate, Prof. Michael Hui, my doctoral supervisor, is a globally renowned scholar in service marketing. Many of my professors were also eminent scholars in their fields. I knew that studying under their informed supervision and guidance would enrich me with a rewarding education on a par with what I would have received if I had studied abroad. In fact, after concluding my PhD, I was able to publish my research in international journals and receive the Postgraduate Research Output Award.”

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CUHK's lush campus has always been Prof. Lisa Wan's favourite since her undergraduate studies
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After graduating from the BBA programme, she pursued MPhil and PhD studies in marketing at CUHK
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Prof. Wan has learnt a lot from her PhD supervisor Prof. Michael Hui (right), who is also a CUHK BBA alumnus and recipient of the Vice-Chancellor's Exemplary Teaching Award
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Prof. Lisa Wan is the recipient of the University Education Award 2021, the third CUHK Business School faculty member who has won this honour

Passionate about the cause of nurturing future business leaders, Prof. Wan joined CUHK Business School as an assistant professor in 2012. Her long-standing association with the university has provided her with unique insights into the learning needs and challenges of CUHK students. This in turn shaped her teaching philosophy, which she summarises with “CARES” (Co-creation of knowledge, Attention, Relationship, Empathy and Sustainable Learning).

“I care deeply about the students and their learning journeys. I hope my students enjoy their university education and make the most of it. I’ve encapsulated my aspirations for education in ‘CARES’, which is my teaching philosophy that now guides my daily actions.”

From the Seats to the Podium

Staying in the CUHK campus reminds me of what I wanted as a student, so I try to teach beyond textbook theories and keep my classes captivating.
— Prof. Lisa Wan

Prof. Wan is of the opinion that students learn best when they are personally invested in the learning process. Therefore, she engages students in lively discussions and exchanges and invites them to create knowledge and wisdom together. She holds their attention by selecting teaching materials that they can relate to and find interesting. Sometimes, she will even share her latest innovative research with them, such as those involving service robotics and space tourism, and invite them to offer their views.

She makes it a point to build genial and trusted relationships with her students so that they feel comfortable approaching her at any time. This also enables her to better understand their learning needs, address their challenges and support their journeys with a spirit of empathy. To keep her teaching relevant, she continuously updates her teaching materials. “Staying in the CUHK campus reminds me of what I wanted as a student, so I try to teach beyond textbook theories and keep my classes captivating.”

Prof. Wan always introduces herself as an alumna at the commencement of the semester. “I found that more students would approach me after knowing this shared identity. They know that I understand what they’re going through. Some students approached me for advice on their studies, career, love life and even restaurant recommendations because I know the campus well.”

Love and Be Loved in Return

Unsurprisingly, students respond positively to Prof. Wan’s kindness and generosity. She has been hugged by students, greeted with rapturous applause from the entire class and awarded numerous teaching awards, including the Vice-Chancellor’s Exemplary Teaching Award 2017 and the Faculty Teaching Award, which she has won consecutively.

Earlier this year, Prof. Wan was honoured with the illustrious University Education Award (UEA) at CUHK for her “exceptional work in bringing learning to life and inspiring students to fulfil their potential”. By her own admission, the award made her feel that all her hard work over the years had paid off. “At CUHK Business School, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to explore many academic topics, promote knowledge transfer and contribute to alumni and community service. All this demands a lot of time and effort, but it also accelerated my growth as an all-round educator. I’m honoured that the selection committee approves of my work.”

Indeed, the UEA recognised more than Prof. Wan’s teaching achievements. It also acknowledged her accomplishments in research, public service and social impact beyond the classroom. This includes the media exposure she receives with her insightful contributions to the School’s knowledge platform, China Business Knowledge, as well as the impact her research has had on knowledge transfer. On top of that, she goes above and beyond in promoting the School to prospective students, connecting graduates to job opportunities and organising networking events for alumni.

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Energetic, Mind-Opening, Innovative

Prof. Wan described the life at her alma mater to be “energetic, mind-opening and innovative”. She finds teaching rejuvenating and student interaction energising. She credits CUHK Business School for providing her with a great deal of freedom in teaching and academic research, including pioneering in the innovative study of service robotics and space tourism, both of which present enormous opportunities for Hong Kong and Mainland China.

In addition to being an associate professor in School of Hotel and Tourism and Management, Prof. Wan serves as Co-Director of the Centre for Hospitality and Real Estate Research. As part of her work at the centre, she developed the first Greater China Hotel Business Sustainability Index in collaboration with CUHK’s Centre for Business Sustainability. “We want to encourage companies to adopt CSR hotel practices as a progressive business model to achieve business sustainability.”

Innovation and Flexibility Shape a Brighter Future

Prof. Wan is now taking a seven-month sabbatical to focus on her research in service robotics and space tourism. She plans to visit several cities and exchange with local academics to bring fresh cultural perspectives to her research. On the basis of how the pandemic unfolds, she may spend a few months at the University of Macau as a visiting professor and visit Prof. Michael Hui, also spending another two months at the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Mainland China, a top hospitality university, to further her Greater Bay Area research. She may then head to Korea’s Dong-A University for collaboration with their hospitality school and spend one to two weeks at the revered Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland for exchange.

She hopes that her research can create new knowledge that will benefit the business community and the academia. She also intends to continually push herself out of her comfort zone and pursue new research topics, and encourages students to do the same.

“The more open you are to new ideas, the easier it will be to find solutions and shape your future in both good and bad times.” She urges students to be innovative and flexible for business in the post-pandemic world and to practise critical thinking, as it is crucial to successfully navigate a world awash with news that could be genuine or fake, and information that could be revealing or deceiving.

Despite COVID’s impact on the tourism and hospitality sector, Prof. Wan remains optimistic about the industry’s prospects. “Students may be disheartened by the outlook given the pandemic’s oscillations, but I encourage them to recognise that the current situation is only transitory. With innovative ideas emerging all the time, we should all keep our eyes on the horizon.”

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