UTM Life

From UTM undergraduate to university scholar: meet Dr. Vicky Chen

UTM Lecturer Dr. Vicky Chen Zhaoyu
中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese
UTM Lecturer Dr. Vicky Chen Zhaoyu says her time as an undergraduate at the university was pivotal for her academic path. Now, she aims to share her expertise, foster research at the university, and support fresh generations of UTM students

Lecturer Dr. Vicky Chen Zhaoyu has come full circle: from being an undergraduate at the university to being an UTM scholar.

She hails from Jilin Province, in the northeast part of China. After receiving an offer from UTM – known at the time as Institute for Tourism Studies – to enrol as an undergraduate, she and her family made their first visit to Macao, and were impressed by the institution’s educational environment. “We found ourselves positively surprised with its quality and the entire environment in Macao,” she recalls.

At UTM, she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Heritage Management. The programme has since been rebranded as Cultural and Heritage Management, and Dr. Chen is a lecturer for it. She graduated with first class honours in 2012, then embarked on a multifaceted career that eventually brought her back to UTM.

“Having graduated and pursued further studies, I can confidently say UTM was a wise choice,” Dr. Chen remarks. She highlights that the university provided her with a “solid platform” for postgraduate study.

“I am truly grateful for the opportunities available to me at that time,” she adds, particularly mentioning the chance to undertake her six-month curricular internship at the UNESCO Regional Office in Bangkok, Thailand. There, she contributed to the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation: “That experience greatly heightened my interest in further studies in this field,” she notes.

The internship inspired Dr. Chen to pursue a Master’s Degree in Conservation at The University of Hong Kong. Even while living and studying in neighbouring Hong Kong, her interest in Macao and its heritage was undimmed. Dr. Chen’s master’s thesis focused on the traditional Long Wa teahouse in Macao, near the Red Market, as an example of public-private partnership in heritage conservation.

After completing her master’s degree studies, Dr. Chen served as a programme coordinator in the Architectural Conservation Programmes at The University of Hong Kong. During this time, she was involved in various tourism, heritage, and conservation-related projects.

Subsequently, she pursued a doctoral degree at the School of Hotel & Tourism Management of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Once again, Macao was a natural focal point for her PhD research, with Dr. Chen examining three of the city’s most prominent intangible cultural heritage events: the A-Ma Festival, the Feast of Na Tcha, and the Feast of the Drunken Dragon.

Maintaining an open outlook

After a year working as a research assistant in the School of Hotel & Tourism Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Dr. Chen returned to her alma mater in Macao in 2020, this time in a scholarly capacity.

At UTM, she is particularly active in research. “I strive to strike a balance between teaching duties and research,” she explains, noting that UTM supports this ethos by providing its scholars with numerous opportunities to get research grants. Dr. Chen believes that producing new research not only benefits the academics involved, but also enhances the international reputation of the university.

Dr. Chen’s interest in research has led her to engage in studies across various fields, including research “beyond heritage, to encompass culture more broadly,” she says. “I am always receptive to new ideas, collaborating with scholars from UTM or elsewhere.” This approach has led to her name appearing on academic papers covering diverse topics such as smart city development and the public image of gastronomy.

Dr. Chen seeks to instil among the university’s undergraduates her passion for research. She effects this now via her role as a supervisor of bachelor’s degree theses. Some of the students under her guidance have received awards at the university’s annual Tourism Education Student Summit, and have had academic papers based on their work published in international scholarly journals.

“The majority of my students demonstrates good capabilities in their research,” Dr. Chen observes. “They hold themselves to high standards, which can sometimes be challenging for me,” she adds. “As long as they remain eager to learn, I am delighted to share my experiences and provide detailed feedback to help enhance the quality of their theses.”

Comparing her time as an undergraduate with her role nowadays as a scholar, Dr. Chen says the general educational philosophy at UTM has been consistent. That is, the combining of theoretical and conceptual knowledge with practical components, namely via field visits and hands-on projects. She notes the Cultural and Heritage Management programme is now attracting greater numbers of students from outside Macao, as its international profile increases.

Dr. Chen highlights that some other scholars at UTM were also undergraduates at the university. In her view, this helps preserve the unique culture of UTM, despite its substantial growth over the past decade, both physically and in terms of the degrees offered.

“I am always eager to share my undergraduate experience with current students,” Dr. Chen affirms.

She tries to make current UTM students aware that having doubts and facing challenges are integral to their ability to choose the most suitable career path. She experienced the same journey, Dr Chen says.

“I aim to reassure them that there is no need to worry or panic. As long as they pursue something they are passionate about, they will ultimately forge a successful career.”

Editor: UTM Public Relations Team