Prof. John Powers: A 24-Year Flashback

Prof. John Powers, a professor emeritus in HKBU, retired fully in 2018. While in retirement, Prof. Powers has continued with his academic work despite leaving his office on campus. He now rents a humble office in a small village and keeps writing on several book projects.


Prof. John Powers reminisces about the old days serving in the Department of Communication Studies


For Prof. Powers, the biggest difference between work before and after retirement is that he no longer needs to conform to a strict schedule. He finally has the time to complete projects that he could not take priority before and to embark on new areas of interest. He refers to this as “doing what all retired people dream of doing”.


From Texas to Hong Kong

An interesting set of coincidences drew him to Hong Kong. He first joined Texas A&M University following the completion of a Ph.D. in Speech Communication from the University of Denver.


During his time at Texas A&M University, Prof. Powers co-founded a communication program with his colleagues. He later worked as a visiting scholar for a year at a university in Malaysia. After his one-year stay in Malaysia, he and his family stopped by in Hong Kong for a two-day visit before flying back to Texas. The vibrancy of the city and the stunning lights along the Victorian Harbor captured his heart. He made a promise to his family, “We must visit Hong Kong again in the future.”


A few years later, he saw a job opening for a professor in communication at Hong Kong Baptist University. He flew to Hong Kong all the way for the opportunity, never expecting that he would eventually make Hong Kong his home for more than two decades.


From ACS to ORGC

After settling in Hong Kong, Prof. Powers was teaching a new program, which did not include the TV, Public Relations and Advertising, Digital Graphic and journalism stream, instead, the new courses for Applied Communication Studies (ACS).


When he was the acting Head of the Department, Prof. Powers set about building networks across the university and working with the other colleagues, such as Prof. Vivian Sheer and Prof. Xiao Xiaosui, to build the new program, the Organizational Communication (ORGC) concentration.


The then ORGC curriculum placed emphasis on the synthesis of information, verbal skills, critical reasoning, teamwork, judgment, and problem-solving abilities. The program drew on a mix of theories to guide empirical practice and covered personal, social and institutional interactions. The ORGC students were expected to be future well-rounded communication professionals contributing to a variety of organizational roles and across a range of industries.


Compared with the earlier Applied Communication Studies (ACS) program, the ORGC concentration is more practical in its approach, providing students with hands-on practice on handling real world challenges. The ORGC graduates are more readily seen as competent to take on particular workplace roles.



“You’ve got the opportunity. You’ve got the faculty who wants to work with you, so do it and make good use of it,”


A Legacy to HKBU

Prof. John Powers founded the public speaking program in 2013. The program offered public speaking as a General Education core course to all undergraduates at HKBU. He had devoted considerable time and effort to ensure the course remained responsive to students’ needs.


Prof. Powers considered public speaking skills as an essential pathway to success in our careers. He developed all the teaching and learning materials for the public speaking course based on his expertise in speech communication.


“Public speaking is more than the use of language; it is a two-way communication between the speaker and the audience,” says Prof. Powers. “Students need to master relevant communication skills and principles.”


Today, the course entitled “The Art of Persuasion” has become a university core course for all undergraduate students.  A legacy of Prof. Powers’ to the university.


Good Old Days with the Students

Our students have always contributed to Prof. Powers’ sense of belonging and fulfillment at COMS and provided him with precious memories. During his first couple of years at HKBU, assisting students with honors projects helped him become grounded in the new work culture.


Prof. Powers particularly enjoyed fostering students to think independently and clarifying complex concepts by themselves. This approach encouraged students to be confident, open to others’ ideas and comfortable approaching faculty members for assistance when needed.


“We enjoy a reputation for having the best students in the university and that’s true,” says Prof Powers with a broad smile. “Open doors for people who expect from you.”


A Fulfillment of his Promise

The 24-year flashback at HKBU is a fulfillment of that promise made on the Malaysia-Texas trip through Hong Kong where Prof. Powers and his family saw the lights along the Victorian Harbor 30 years ago. Prof. Powers will leave Hong Kong and move back to the US soon. We would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt thanks to Prof Powers for his 24 years’ contribution to HKBU, and our best wishes to him for a happy life ahead in his home country.


Authors: Chan Hiu Ching, Wong Pui Man Karman, Ip Cheuk Lam Brianna, Am Ho Ching Julia, Wong Nga Lee Alice, Daria Kulakova (students from ORGC3046 Writing for Professional Communication 2021)

Edited by Dr. Michelle HUANG