From the Society, For the Society
Calvin Shen began to take an interest in the social-political issues of mainland China in high school. So when he applied for university several years ago, he naturally looked for a programme that would help him grasp social reality more comprehensively and effectively. The Sociology programme at CUHK caught his attention as sociology has long been a staple discipline at CUHK since 1963 and ranks in the top 33rd in the 2017 QS World University Rankings.
Four years into his studies, Calvin said he now looks at the subject discipline in a new light. ‘I used to have a lot of stereotypical ideas about sociology and sociologists. I thought they were pedants hiding in ivory tower—all theory, no practice—but in fact, they are activists contributing to all levels of social improvements. I am particularly impressed by Prof. Stephen Chiu and Prof. Susanne Choi’s research that have become powerful driving force for societal progress.’
That pretty much sums up what the study of sociology is for, as Prof. Eric Fong, Chairman of the Department of Sociology, said, ‘Sociology is an interesting and practical discipline. It studies how human behaviour is influenced by the groups in which people are associated with, ranging from families, friends, organizations, communities to nations and the whole world. Sociology analyses social phenomena from a scientific approach, equipping students with the ability of abstract theoretical reasoning and the skills of social research. Thus, sociology enables our students to look beyond common sense, to critically analyse social issues and problems on the basis of evidence.’
The programme offers a well-rounded sociology curriculum that emphasizes theories and methods, encompasses a wide range of social issues and social institutions, and studies societies of various historical and cultural backgrounds. ‘The programme structure is designed to offer high flexibility. Besides the required foundation courses, students can choose from a wide variety of more specialized subjects to build their own study schemes,’ said Professor Fong. Students are also given the option to concentrate on two areas at most from four subject areas:
- Social Research
- Sociology and Liberal Studies
- Sociology and Social Policy
When asked what he found most valuable about the programme, Calvin said, ‘The methodological training in sociology requires us to look into social incidents from multiple perspectives. What seems like disparate incidents could be organized systematically to reveal a coherent pattern. I am so glad I’ve acquired this skill through the four years of studies. In addition, excellent teachers in the Department like Prof. Sara Zhong, Prof. Anthony Spires and Prof. Tong Yuying have given me tremendous help and inspired me to delve deeper into the subject.’
Professor Fong went on to point out that the programme highlights mutual and interactive academic exchange. “Senior professors directly engage students in ‘Approaching Sociology’—a small-class course that is uniquely designed to guide freshmen to navigate the first year of study. Students will develop proactive characters and the collaborative capacity to work with others along the way.
“Students will acquire sociological knowledge in their junior year, and progress to rigorous training of methodological skills. Senior-year students opting for either Senior Thesis or Direct Studies will have an opportunity to work with professors, many of whom have globally influential research output.”
Calvin recounted a trip led by Professor Spires that gave him a peek into the civil society in Taiwan. ‘We visited a number of social organizations to learn from their past and present, their achievements and difficulties. The fieldwork was mind-opening in that it dragged us out of the sea of theses to draw knowledge from real life. Interacting with the professor outside classroom also deepened our mutual understanding.’
Calvin has made good use of the many exchange opportunities at renowned universities such as the University of Kent and the University of Warwick. He can even use his summer breaks to work in companies like Deloitte Foundation, DotAsia Organization, and Hong Kong Fair Trade Power.
For those who have a penchant for looking behind phenomena and are considering sociology, Calvin has this to say: ‘If you have an urge to change the world for the better, you are welcome to join us. The Department of Sociology is an ideal place for you to strengthen your intellectual abilities, find your life purpose, and prepare yourself for a meaningful role in the society.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018