Agnes Lam is the director of the University of Macau’s (UM) Centre for Macau Studies and an associate professor in the Department of Communication. She visited UM for the first time when she was 13. Later, she attended college at UM and witnessed significant changes to Macao during the city’s handover to China. Over the past two decades, Prof Lam has worked as a scholar at the university and has grown along with the institution. ‘My life is filled with opportunities given by UM,’ says Prof Lam. ‘Thanks to the university, I could get involved in community affairs, work in the media industry, and later pursue research studies.’

Unforgettable Visit to UM

Prof Lam was a member of a dance troupe in her secondary school. She experienced the university’s atmosphere for the first time during a visit to its predecessor, the University of East Asia (UEA), for a dance performance. ‘I remember there were many cultural activities at the university,’ says Prof Lam. ‘I was there to dance. Some older students were there to do stage acting. The trip opened my horizons and I knew I had to go to college.’

Growing Together with UM

In 1991, UEA was acquired by the local government and was renamed ‘University of Macau’. As one of the first cohort of students in UM’s Chinese communication programme, Prof Lam witnessed how the imminent handover of Macao had an influence on higher education in the city. ‘Many programmes were offered to nurture local professionals,’ says Prof Lam. ‘For example, the public administration programme was first offered as a daytime programme taught in English. It was then changed to a nighttime Chinese programme with the aim of training civil servants.’

As a UM student, Prof Lam interned at TDM, a public broadcasting services provider in Macao, and worked there as a journalist after graduation. In 1997, Prof Lam returned to UM as a teaching assistant and was promoted to the position of lecturer the year after. Concurrently, she was the TV host and executive producer of a weekly TV programme titled ‘Witnessing the Handover’, until the year of 1999.

‘When I joined UM in 1997, faculty members were not required to submit research reports. Starting in 1999, we were required to conduct research. There were also changes in the personnel systems,’ says Prof Lam. ‘For example, lecturers were required to obtain a PhD degree within a certain period of time.’ These changes encouraged her to pursue a PhD degree, for which she studied the role of Macao in modern Chinese press history. In 2015, Prof Lam published her book The Beginning of the Modern Chinese Press History: Macau Press History 1557- 1840. The book compensated for the former absence of Macao in accounts of Chinese press history.

In the past two decades, Prof Lam and her colleagues established the Department of Communication. She once served as the coordinator of the Bachelor of Social Sciences in Journalism and Public Communication programme. Recommended by UM, Prof Lam visited the University of Cambridge’s Clare Hall as a visiting scholar. In her eyes, these experiences were very valuable.

Promoting Macao Studies

In 2017, Prof Lam was directly elected to the Legislative Assembly of Macao. The year after, she was promoted from interim director to director of UM’s Centre for Macau Studies. Being able to serve the local community in different positions, Prof Lam is contented but at the same time, she has begun to feel the burden of her responsibilities. Last year, she and her colleagues began to develop a five-year plan with the aim of providing new directions for the centre. ‘We want to find noteworthy experience in the international community that is comparable to the political system of Macao under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy,’ says Prof Lam. ‘We have created different projects and developed many databases to study research data from the past.’

Between an Archivist and an Explorer

Looking back on the two decades after the handover of Macao, Prof Lam says that she once played the role of an archivist to record local people’s thoughts about the handover as well as their vision for Macao’s future. ‘In addition to an archivist, I also see myself as an explorer. I want to dive deep into our history and extract elements that can help Macao develop into a better and greater city,’ says Prof Lam. ‘I can’t say I have made significant contributions in my studies and I am not completely satisfied with the results. However, I hope to continue to do research and make improvements in my work little by little.’valuable.

Source: UMagazine Issue 21