The United Board welcomed Wai Ching Angela Wong as its vice president for programs on August 16, 2016. Dr. Wong is well-known to many in our network, from her service as a United Board trustee and member of the Advisory Committee for the Institute for Advanced Study in Asian Cultures and Theologies (IASACT) and from her research, writing, and teaching in the fields of religion, gender studies, and cultural studies. In her role as vice president for programs, she will oversee the development and implementation of programs that advance whole person education and continue the United Board’s collaboration with educators at more than 80 Asian colleges and universities.
In this interview, Dr. Wong reflects on the experience she brings to her new position and shares her thoughts on whole person education.
How did you come to know the United Board?
My first encounter with the United Board can be traced to the time when I was a student at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), when I applied for a United Board research grant for women’s studies, which CUHK administered in the 1980s. The next contact was during my tenure as the Asia-Pacific regional secretary of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) in 1993. I met Patricia Magdamo, who was then the United Board’s vice president, to solicit her support for the WSCF Centennial Celebration Consultation on University Student Ministry in Asia. After I returned to CUHK as a faculty member, I was frequently introduced to United Board Visiting Scholars for Religious Studies, a program based at Chung Chi College in the late 1990s. In short, the United Board has been a part of my consciousness for more than two decades.
How have your research and teaching interests prepared you for the position of vice president for programs?
My research and teaching interests straddle three closely related fields: religion, gender studies, and cultural studies. At CUHK I taught a variety of subjects, ranging from theology and feminism, to religion and modern society, to myth and fantasy. My most recent project focused on Chinese women in the Hong Kong Muslim community, which demanded multifaceted area interests and mixed research skills.
I came to understand that teaching and research today cannot be done in a closet, either in limiting oneself to a single discipline or to the ivory tower. All of this prepared me well to understand how an organization such as the United Board can best provide support on the ground.
What aspects of whole person education do you find most appealing?
During our recent staff retreat, our United Board President Nancy Chapman reiterated the importance of the “person” as the center of whole person education. I couldn’t agree more. According to the Chinese scholar Han Yu, education is about passing on the way of life, the call to a vocation, and resolving queries in order to comprehend the truth. Education must be centered on the person for character formation and knowledge enhancement, so that a student can become a better person and serve the world better. This has largely been lost in the current university rat race for ranking, but this, I believe, is the reason that we at the United Board stand by our tradition and defend our mission.