Every year, graduating students at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) fan out across the world to continue their academic pursuits at top universities and world-renowned research institutes.
One such department that has excelled in this area is the Department of Statistics and Data Science (SDS). All 14 students studying under Professor Guoliang TIAN have received offers to continue their academic pursuits at top universities within mainland China and across the world.
The real question is, how did he become an excellent educator of statistical analysis? His resume reflects a wealth of experience. His Ph.D. from the Chinese Academy of Sciences led to his employment at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, before returning to serve at the Department of Probability and Statistics (Peking University). He then returned to the United States to work as the senior bio-statistician at the Greenebaum Cancer Center (University of Maryland), before heading closer to home as an Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences (The University of Hong Kong).
Guoliang TIAN finds no conflict between his teaching and administrative roles, as he can inspire students with the knowledge and help them reap the benefits for the future. When Guoliang TIAN arrived at SUSTech in 2016, the statistics major had just been approved, so almost everything had to be planned from the beginning. He was one of three faculty members in the major when it started, so he was tutoring 14 students.
However, this did not douse his enthusiasm for student development. Many of his students have sent postcards, gifts, and souvenirs that have become treasures of his.
Guoliang TIAN takes his educational tasks seriously, and that is imparted on his students. They have all learned to take a meticulous approach to their studies and their scientific research. It has helped them earn full scholarships for masters and Ph.D. programs across the globe, as they learned the importance of consistency and English expression.
Guoliang TIAN has his unique understanding of his balance between teaching, research, and administration. He takes his position as an educator first while believing there is no conflict between teaching, researching, and administrating. “Teaching the students at SUSTech has given us a clear sense of purpose since our young scholars will only be with us for a short period.”
He carefully prepares each of his classes, rearranging the textbook sections to ensure that the flow of content makes sense for the students. Guoliang TIAN would devote significant time to set up study classes and micro-sessions after each week of classes, with the Wisdom Valley conference room getting plenty of use late into the night. He would operate five-minute sessions after each class to provide amusing anecdotes to enhance what had been taught, as well as cover a wide range of personal issues that would help students develop other skills. Guoliang TIAN is a firm believer in developing leaders with excellent skills in mathematics, English, computer programming, and statistics, as they are sure to play significant roles in big data and AI.
Guoliang TIAN would also give up his Sunday afternoon so students could learn basic statistical research methods, discuss research issues, and help them find exciting research topics. It is part of his more comprehensive commitment to interacting with undergraduate students and his role as a tutor. His instant messaging apps such as WeChat and QQ are full of different small groups that provide different levels of communication between different stakeholders, whether it is parents, industry partners, undergraduate or postgraduate students.
His on-going support for student development did not end during daylight hours. Guoliang TIAN would find time in the evening to talk one-on-one with students on a variety of issues. He would never refuse his students, operating an open-door policy that welcomed their trust. Such an approach has been replicated by many tutors across SUSTech as part of our student-centered approach to pastoral care that supports the development of our innovative talent pipelines.
In the eyes of Guoliang TIAN, graduation is merely the next step in their personal and academic progression. Those that want to head into further education will be offered sharing sessions that crystallize the processes behind applying for graduate schools across the globe while highlighting essential methods for improving methods for being selected. Through his sharing with students and the support of his alumni, several students have received multiple offers from different higher education institutions.
Guoliang TIAN’s guidance extends to studying abroad, whether it is part of their undergraduate education experience or continuing onto postgraduate education. He highlighted the importance of remembering their alma mater in developing them, encouraging them to return to China while absorbing the culture of their new home. They should do their best to integrate into the local life to have the best time possible.
Guoliang TIAN is a microcosm of the progress of our progress and the employment of our alumni. Over the last four years, about 60% of our graduating classes continue onto postgraduate studies, with about half of them winning full scholarships to study doctorates at world-renowned universities. As we continue to stay true to our spirit of “research, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” we will look to role models like Guoliang TIAN to drive out talent development models who will be forward-looking and aim to solve 21st-century problems for the betterment of society.