Dean Xu Baomin of Zhiren College: Building a “Home” Culture at SUSTech
One of the unique aspects of Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) is its six residential colleges, which house over four thousand undergraduate students. These residential colleges have become a critical component for developing the future leaders of the new era, under SUSTech’s mission of reform and innovation of higher education in China.
Each residential college is a community of scholars and students, dedicated to promoting the multi-dimensional transformation of young men and women into innovative, independent and creative adults that are craved by world-class universities, top research institutions and renowned enterprises around the world. Each of the six residential colleges has their own culture that is imbued in each student, encouraging and guiding them to form their own path in the world.
Zhiren College is the oldest residential college at campus, being established at the same time as SUSTech and first departments. Through its eight years of history, hundreds of students have come and gone through its doors, and earlier this month, the newest group of undergraduate students joined the Zhiren College community, adding a new layer of vibrancy.
Who is the Dean?
In 2014, Professor Xu Baomin joined SUSTech and became the Dean of Zhiren College. He now wears many hats, including that as deputy director of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Despite his hectic schedule of teaching, research and pastoral care, Xu Baomin loves his many responsibilities, and believes that the development of Zhiren College pays a “happiness dividend.”
Professor Xu Baomin has had an incredible academic career. He received his bachelors’ degree from Tsinghua University before getting his doctorate from the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics (Chinese Academy of Sciences). Following the receipt of his PhD, Xu Baomin traveled to the United States, where he worked as an assistant professor at the Materials Research Institute at Pennsylvania State University, as well as a senior researcher & project manager at the Xerox PARC Research Center.
As a result of his academic trajectory, he has developed a strong commitment to basic research with industrial prospects. To date, he has published more than 60 papers, and filed 31 US patents (of which he is the first or sole inventor for 23 of them). Professor Xu Baomin has been a long-term reviewer of several top material science journals, including APL, JAP, IEEE-UFFC and JACerS.
What is so special about Zhiren College?
The spirit of Zhiren College is “to learn by studying things, to be benevolent by the heart”. Professor Xu Baomin hopes that the generous students will “be kind, self-motivated, united, and peaceful”.
Zhiren College currently has over 60 tutors, most of who come from almost every department and school across SUSTech. They are represented by professors, assistant professors and associate professors.
The core values of Zhiren College are “powerful love” and “achievable responsibility”. “Powerful love” emphasizes the cultural tradition of “benevolent people love others”. With a focus on improving the relationship between members, Zhiren College works to cultivate a wide range of skills into their students, integrating humanities and arts into their science and engineering education. The shaping of Zhiren College has seen students take up an independent and creative approach to life, through the provision of high-quality enrichment activities.
These activities are specific to Zhiren College, and tend to be more academic and cultural in nature. Professor Xu Baomin has invited many experts and scholars to share their diverse range of experiences with the students of Zhiren College. Zhiren College has supported numerous cultural pursuits such as folk music lessons and Japanese classes. It is also known for its numerous arts festivals, sports teams and collective birthdays, encouraging a familial atmosphere throughout the College. The excellence in painting and calligraphy has seen Zhiren College’s Painting and Calligraphy Society presented to the representatives of the SUSTech International Advisory Council (IAC), adding a global influence to its activities.
Of particular note are its traditional Chinese cultural activities, and the Zhiren College Folk Band has performed at major concerts across campus, being the most famous campus band. Professor Xu Baomin said that Zhiren College’s cultural clubs are not intended for competition, but to give confidence to its students. He hoped that his students would find charm in their cultural pursuits before going into the world. “I hope that Zhiren College will become the cultural and artistic calling card at SUSTech that SUSTech will be for higher education in China.”
Providing a new home for students
Zhiren College has always attached great importance to student development and aims to help students to find their own ways to display their own talents and find their own path, based on what they are interested in.
Towards the end of each academic year, Zhiren College hosts a conference in which various students receive awards for actions and activities throughout the years. There are also various student-designed awards that focus on more unusual skill sets, allowing a wider range of students to participate in the conference. “There is always some way for students to be awarded a prize throughout their time at Zhiren College. The College always finds a way to reward excellence,” said Xu Baomin.
The annual Zhiren Graduation Dinner is noted for a specific comment made by Professor Xu Baomin every year. “Whether you become a well-known scholar, a top entrepreneur, or feel stuck in the bottleneck of life, you can always return to SUSTech. Zhiren College will continue to welcome you.”
He believes that instilling the idea of Zhiren College being another “home” for students will make them feel comfortable and give them a sense of belonging. This is important for students at a critical juncture of their lives.
The Class of 2023 Zhiren College undergraduates have now moved into their new dormitories, and Xu Baomin hopes that they will enjoy their time at SUSTech. He encouraged the newest group of Zhiren College students to talk to the more senior students to find out about life in Zhiren College and at SUSTech. The many counselors will also be able to assist them.
“Welcome to the big family of Zhiren College. Enrich your life with us.”