Prof Clarke giving examples from his rich experience as a professor and as a musician

On 6 April, the Division of Culture and Creativity (DCC) arranged a seminar given by a Chartered Chemist of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK and accomplished cellist, Prof Brian Clarke. Prof Clarke’s seminar was titled, “Chemists or cellists?”. Prof Clarke is a chemist by trade who was engaged in both teaching and administration as a member of the senior management in various Higher Education Institutes across the UK and Asia. However, music is a major interest of Prof Clarke, particularly orchestral playing and choral conducting. Currently, he is the Director and Partner of Campus Associates LLP in the UK and is also a conductor of Penclawdd Choral Society as well as a committee member of the Gower Festival.

The seminar began with Associate Vice President and Acting Dean of DCC, Prof Lillian Kwan, giving some background on Prof Clarke before introducing him to the stage. Prof Clarke began by saying how he was extremely impressed with the campus and that the UIC students have a great chance to move forward. He then went on to mention that he used the skills from being a scientist to help him be a better cellist and vice versa. He explained that there were things he learnt in both professions that could be used in the other to make him a broader and more open person.

Prof Kwan introducing Prof Clarke

“Be open, you may have to do things you don’t want to do,” Prof Clarke said before giving an example as when he worked in the area of finance earlier in his career. He provided advice to the audience, particular the students, by saying that they should use their experience at UIC as a platform for the future.

He explained the importance for him to get the diverse student body at the International University of Malaya-Wales to experience and gain a better understanding of each other’s culture. Prof Clarke even showed a PPT using a quote from UIC’s own Prof Kwan, which said “Nurturing students is the main focus of our careers” and then he said “Our success is measured by yours”, meaning that university faculty measure their success by how well their students perform.

‘The top 10 things that employers are looking for’ was discussed, with Prof Clarke putting a big focus on motivation and communication skills. He explained how the social side of being a musician is great in comparison to that of an academic professional, and says it really helped him with his communication skills. Using video clips of an orchestra and a conductor, he showed the importance of communication in the music field. Using Wales and China as examples, he explained the benefits of encouraging students and investing in music education.

Prof Clarke focused on the importance of universities offering a broad curriculum to provide students with an “all-embracing” education and not only training them in specific disciplines and skills. He ended his speech using the Latin phrase, Carpe Diem, which translates as "seize the day".

During the Q&A session, Prof Kwan asked if there was still a need for actual universities now that a lot of material can be found online including online classes. Prof Clarke responded giving some past examples of where online classes were useful but still insisted that higher level skills require true interaction. The President of UIC, Prof Ng Ching-Fai, asked about Prof Clarke’s experience with working in universities that have joint ventures. Prof Clarke confidently responded that from his experiences that he feels nowadays students at the university are more or less the same with how they conduct their daily lives and how he does not notice too many things that are different.

Prof Clarke receiving a souvenir from Prof Ng

The rich experience of Prof Clarke, in both academia and the world of music, gave the seminar an important relevance to the holistic university experience, which was presented in an easily digestible, light-hearted way.

Reporter/Photographer: Samuel Burgess (MPRO)
Editors: Deen He, Samantha Burns (MPRO)
(with thanks to David Walters of DCC)