“Education is Key to Personal Growth”

Professor Emily Nason, Director of Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions and Associate Professor of Business Education, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), says being a university professor is a great career choice for women who enjoy working with diverse people

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
I am in charge of recruitment and admissions of undergraduate students at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and also a faculty member in the management department at the business school. I would say communicating (meetings, emails, calls, messages) takes up most of my time in a typical day. I meet with colleagues to plan, strategize, hear feedback, and review how best to achieve our objective to be a university of choice for talents, with students who reach out for advice, and with various stakeholders and collaborators.

Did you always know that working in the industry you represent was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
I always believe that education is key to personal growth, well-being, societal progress, and sustainability. Growing up I benefited from the mentorship of many great teachers, who inspire me to work in the education field. The specific idea of pursuing a PhD in management and becoming a university professor only came to me when I was an undergraduate student at HKUST, freshly exposed to the boundless possibilities in tertiary education. I found the university environment intellectually stimulating and an ideal place to develop my career and passion for nurturing young talents.

What first got you interested in the industry you work in?
As a first-generation college student in my family, university life opens my eyes and widens my exposure to learning from and with diverse talents from around the world and in different academic disciplines. In my final year of undergraduate study, I represented HKUST to join an international business case competition organized by the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. That was my first time travelling to the US, and meeting and competing with other top students was truly a life-changing experience. It got me thinking: how cool would it be, if I could become a faculty advisor to mentor university students to join such competitions and other development programs in the future.

What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Pursuing an academic career is a big commitment both in terms of time and opportunity cost, starting with the PhD study which took me 6 years while my classmates advanced their careers in various professional fields during that time. I left the familiar environment of Hong Kong, moved to the US for my PhD study, and supported myself with savings, scholarships, and part-time work on campus. Research work could feel quite solitary sometimes and luckily I have mentors and friends who supported me through the tough times.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the industry you represent? What do you wish you had known?
I think being a university professor is a great career choice for women who enjoy working with diverse people, being continuously exposed to new knowledge, and contributing to nurturing young talents. It provides a flexible environment that supports work-life balance. I wish I would have considered studying for a master’s degree in a different country (e.g. in Europe) before the PhD in the US, because being a student is one of the greatest experiences, especially living in a different country and being immersed in a different culture.

What do you do to unwind after work?
I enjoy playing squash, walking outdoors, and running. I completed 2 full marathons in Japan and Hong Kong recently and I would like to join more overseas races or other sports travel such as a cycling tour.

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