Prof. Dr. Yang Neng-Shu is a seasoned administrator, passionate educator, and President of the National Yunlin University of Science and Technology (YunTech). He has been serving at YunTech for over 30 years, having held various administrative positions. During these years, purpose and passion to contribute meaningfully to the development of YunTech and society have been his drivers.
Drawing upon his administrative and teaching experience in higher education, Dr. Yang Neng-Shu aims to develop YunTech’s core values and create distinctive new university features. He is committed to striving for excellence by working to foster the students’ intellectual, emotional, and social needs, thereby empowering them to face real-world challenges in life. He has influenced many success stories with his path-breaking ideas, innovative approach, and transformational leadership philosophy. His achievements have been legendary and unequivocal. Recently, he was bestowed with the ‘Outstanding Chief Sustainability Officer’ Award at the APSAA Asia-Pacific Sustainability Action Awards. Dr. Yang Neng-Shu is indeed an inspiration to many.
A Remarkable Career Trajectory
Dr. Yang Neng-Shu completed his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from National Taiwan University and his Master of Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University, USA. He pursued his doctorate in Industrial Engineering and Management from Pennsylvania State University.
At YunTech, as a faculty member in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, and during his extensive administration experience, Dr. Yang Neng-Shu observed rapid changes and challenges in the higher education landscape. Despite declining higher education enrolments and increasing globalization, he wanted to realize a greater vision at YunTech. For this reason, Dr. Yang Neng-Shu participated in the selection process for the university’s 5th presidency in 2016, and he assumed the presidency in 2017. Through the presidential leadership role, he aims to lead YunTech safely through a period where swift adaptation in an ever-changing environment is necessary.
YunTech: At the Forefront of Talent, Technology, & Innovation
Founded in 1991, YunTech is an award-winning institution of higher learning for technical and vocational education in Taiwan. YunTech’s core values are practical application, innovation, dedication, and mentorship. The institution’s mission is to cultivate the talent and technology needed by the industry and envisions becoming an internationally renowned university known for innovative teaching and industry integration.
Therefore, Dr. Yang Neng-Shu made YunTech’s vision, goals, and strategies clear and specific during his tenure. To achieve YunTech’s vision, Dr. Yang Neng-Shu and his team’s goals include adopting objective-oriented and innovative teaching, upgrading the capacity and features of industrial-academic collaboration, contributing to sustainability, and promoting YunTech’s global reputation. The strategies to help achieve these goals include specialisation academisation, industry-academia integration, internationalisation, and precision.
Equipping Students with the 21st Century Skills
Cultivating interdisciplinary talent has always been a focus of YunTech’s efforts. This initiative stems from industry expectations and the need to adapt to new technology and industry demands. For instance, some companies expect YunTech to provide industrial designers with a knowledge of chip design. This necessitates close collaboration between the Industrial Design and Electronic Engineering departments to incubate specific talents. As a result, YunTech flexibly introduced a Design Engineering College micro-program to meet industry requirements more rapidly.
Similarly, recent advancements in AI have led, or will soon show, to many jobs being replaced with computing solutions. Therefore, YunTech aims to equip every graduate, not just those from the Information Engineering Department, with the ability to leverage AI to its fullest extent so that they can work and grow with AI rather than be replaced by it.
Commitment to Interdisciplinary Education
The gap between academia and practical application has been a common issue in Taiwan and worldwide. Compared with industry needs, this challenge arises from the specialisation process of university education that demands interdisciplinary skills and talent.
YunTech has always aimed to establish a distinctive educational model as a technological university, setting it apart from conventional universities. President Dr. Yang Neng-Shu feels that if YunTech continues to develop viable interdisciplinary education models, such as the Design Engineering College, then support from its stakeholders, including students, businesses, media, and educational governing bodies, will continue to grow. Besides, YunTech’s innovative approach to interdisciplinary education has already received recognition from the Taiwan Ministry of Education. Dr. Yang Neng-Shu and his team have been invited to share their experiences with other universities.
Protocol for Developing Interdisciplinary Courses
YunTech has a system for nurturing interdisciplinary talent, which maximizes the integration of existing courses to minimize teacher resistance due to territoriality. The specific steps for developing interdisciplinary courses include problem-oriented course planning, collaboration of teachers from different specialisations, application for school funding or industry-academia collaboration projects, presentation of results, review, and course improvement.
Individual departments develop the interdisciplinary industrial curriculum modules. To cite an instance, a talent shortage in Taiwan’s semiconductor industry led to the development of a Semiconductor Industry Program in the Electronics Department. This program requires students to complete specific courses from three departments: Electronic Engineering, Chemical and Materials Engineering, and Industrial Engineering and Management. The Electronic Department provides practical work and internship opportunities, and upon completion, students receive a certificate from the Semiconductor Industry Program, which helps them find placements within the semiconductor industry.
In 2023, YunTech launched innovative cross-disciplinary micro-programs centered around departmental undergraduate majors. These programs promote cross-department, cross-profession, cross-college, and cross-discipline micro-credit courses. For example, the departments of Computer Science and Finance jointly developed a Financial Technology cross-disciplinary micro-credit course, while the departments of Business Management and Digital Media jointly created a Digital Marketing cross-disciplinary micro-credit course. These innovative cross-disciplinary structures are problem-solving and application-based and employ a dual-teacher system to allow students to develop cross-disciplinary knowledge and theory through dual channels. They culminate in an innovative cross-disciplinary results presentation, where the entire university community can share the learning outcomes and use them for course improvement.
The Impact of Industry-Academia Collaboration on Student Learning
In 2020, YunTech established the College of Future, initially launching the Bachelor of Foresight program. The goal of this program was to enable students to adapt and unleash their talent by developing individualized learning plans. This strategy loosened the mandatory credit requirements and broke down departmental curriculum boundaries. Students had the freedom to take courses from various departments within the university. They developed a well-rounded education through foundational courses encompassing humanities, social sciences, aesthetics, technology, and industrial application. “Combined with internships, practical experience, and project-based courses, we helped students connect with industry while enhancing their skills. This project greatly reduced the gap between academia and industry,” shares Dr. Yang Neng-Shu with great pride.
In addition, to provide students with practical learning environments, YunTech established 26 Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Research Centres. These centers engage in industry-academia projects that externally or internally offer students opportunities for laboratory-based internships. Through this, students learn and grow while completing valuable projects under direct guidance from industry and faculty. Collaboration between existing departments, the College of Future, and PBL Centres is managed via the interdisciplinary course offerings and a clear cross-disciplinary curriculum structure. Students benefit from these courses as they gain exposure to diverse knowledge areas, laboratories, and practical opportunities. Ultimately, this leads to a bright and adaptable workforce with skills aligned to industry demands.
Keys Initiatives Taken to Bridge the Gap Between Academia & Real-world Applications
To effectively bridge the gap between academia and real-world applications, YunTech has implemented diverse models of social engagement and industry-academic collaboration that yield greater benefits and functionality. At regular intervals, the institution arranges community visits and local industry explorations through which students are encouraged to understand the history of their immediate living community through relevant service-learning courses. This helps students identify problems, work towards solutions, and practice the concept of learning by doing and fosters a close emotional connection between students and their community.
Likewise, through community enterprises or industrial visits, students can validate the theories they learn in class. It broadens their horizons and expands their career experiences. YunTech has also established the PBL Centre to develop a bidirectional pathway between internships and businesses that have problems for students to solve. This effectively utilizes resources from society and businesses, extending the practical teaching environments into an industry-like learning atmosphere within the school. Early contact with YunTech students allows participating companies to find and recruit students that may align with their corporate spirit. Additionally, students can research and solve industry problems using the institution’s extensive research resources, which form a vital support for industrial development.
Altogether, these initiatives aim to develop student talent, stimulate innate student potential, and strengthen their learning foundation. This leads to developing essential soft skills, such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving. Students engaged in these courses and activities also leave with a high degree of digital literacy and practical job skills, complementing the hard skills necessary for future employment. Students learn to become responsible citizens who can actively contribute to society only by doing so.
Preparing Students for Future Societal Challenges
When UNESCO introduced Education for Sustainable Development (ESDs), YunTech adopted this as a valuable counterpoint for many policies. The institution actively assesses student learning abilities and values the multidimensional benefits obtained via experiential learning. The PBL Centres are just one example of this, as they focus specifically on developing problem-solving skills. In this way, students are presented with real-world challenges posed by businesses, and teachers provide support, guidance and advice as students develop their problem-solving skills.
Combating Challenges in Higher Education Practices
YunTech has formulated key strategies to combat current challenges in higher education practices as a leading higher education institution. These challenges include the impact of declining birth rates, technological advancements, generational differences, and global sustainability issues.
YunTech has devised action strategies within its institutional planning to address the impact of declining birth rates, such as Target-Oriented Teaching Innovation and Enhancing International Reputation. It has also planned actionable measures accordingly. Likewise, given the changes in social structures and the influence of new technologies, YunTech has framed three action strategies, namely, “Target-Oriented Teaching Innovation,” “Precision Education,” and “Enhancing Industry-Academia Capacity and Distinctiveness”. Each of these comes with its actionable measures and reporting systems. In response to the sustainability challenge, YunTech has adopted two action strategies viz, “Contributing to Sustainability” and “Enhancing Industry-Academia Capacity and Distinctiveness.” Together, these principles have distinct and measurable targets that Dr. Yang Neng-Shu and his team are aiming to work towards in the future.
Staying One Step Ahead of Innovation
The 21st century’s precarious and dynamic higher education landscape poses new and formidable challenges, abundant inspiration, and opportunities for reflectivity, creativity, and innovation. Always ahead of the curve, YunTech established an innovative teaching system in 2018 that effectively integrates industry issues, talent development, and research capacity improvements. The new teaching system operates in parallel with the existing college system, and within this novel approach, the institution established the Future College and the 26 PBL Centres. This highlighted the vocational education aspect of the “teaching and research, aligned with industry” philosophy.
Moreover, YunTech led the nation in a new direction with its Future College program, offering unique and individualized learning plans (Individual Educational Plans, IEPs.) IEPs were tailored to the aptitudes and disposition of each vocational student. Furthermore, the pragmatic approach offered by the PBL Research Centre represents another innovation phase in YunTech’s educational system. This project aims to realize innovative teaching features that align with industry needs. These centers simultaneously function as virtual departments, offering students problem-oriented project courses in a learning environment designed for adaptive development and practical application. The PBL approach focuses on adaptive talent development industry engagement and facilitates the growth of industry-ready professionals.
Technology Enhancing the Efficiency & Effectiveness of University Education
According to Dr. Yang Neng-Shu, technology can potentially enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of university education. YunTech’s recent five-year strategic development plan has centered on “Generation and Competence Together, Digital and Sustainability Integrated: Core Competencies for Precision Development of New-Generation Cross-Disciplinary Talent.”
Dr. Yang Neng-Shu and his team at YunTech aim to provide students with personalized learning pathways through extensive data analysis and AI technology. He reveals that they have been working on this for several years, and the digital transformation of campus operations to achieve this precision education is part of their crucial action strategies. He further states that new technology can assist teachers in teaching students in learning and bolster future employment prospects. Therefore, precision education aims to make these processes more efficient and effective.
A Bright & Exciting Future Ahead
While discussing YunTech’s future, Dr. Yang Neng-Shu shares, “In today’s rapidly changing societal landscape, we aim to put students at the forefront, with faculty support, organizational structure, and technology as the enablers at YunTech. We aspire to drive positive change and impact the world through the right methods, motivating our team to achieve social influence and create a better future for all.”
For More Info: https://eng.yuntech.edu.tw/