An international mark of honour
The Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) is a prominent organisation based in the United States that recognises the academic achievements of business students.
'Membership in BGS is the highest recognition a business student anywhere in the world can receive in a business programme accredited by AACSB International,' says Professor Leonard Cheng, dean of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's School of Business and Management (HKUST Business School), referring to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Membership is restricted to the top 10 per cent of undergraduate students and the top 20 per cent of postgraduates - both measured by academic achievement - as well as all PhD students, and faculty with tenure or who have been with the HKUST Business School for at least six years. Membership is by invitation only, and confers a globally recognised mark of honour, says Professor Albert Ha, president of the BGS HKUST Chapter, and chair professor of information systems, business statistics and operations management at the HKUST Business School.
'The BGS is a prestigious international honour society for the business-related academia,' says Ha. 'It bounds its members to the pursuit of excellence. They are expected to embrace the core principles and values represented in its title - Beta for honour and integrity, Gamma for the pursuit of wisdom, and Sigma for earnestness. Over 650,000 business students and leaders worldwide have vowed to champion these values. They have served in corporate, government, non-profit, educational and other management positions.'
Membership brings various benefits, such as local and global networking. Members can attend events where they can meet community and business leaders, and hear BGS honourees and top executives speak. Members can also access the group's central services in the US to help them link up with other professionals globally.
At the community level, BGS welcomes local business and community leaders as honourees of the chapter. This gives members broader access to respected senior industry and social leaders.
'BGS helps the students reach out to the business community locally through connection with the Beta Gamma Sigma Hong Kong alumni chapter and its own group of honourees,' says Ha. 'It also helps them to reach out to the international network of BGS, [and] it provides access to a student scholarship.'
The BGS bears half the cost of the US$1,000 (about HK$7,800) scholarship awarded to one student each year, while the HKUST Business School pays the other half. The BGS HKUST Chapter is allotted a scholarship if it hits a 70 per cent annual acceptance rate of membership.
The HKUST Business School has also benefited by hosting a BGS chapter, as it shows the school is globally recognised for its standards and quality. The three BGS principles - honour, wisdom and earnestness - reinforce HKUST's ideals, and access to the BGS network provides a valuable benefit for members, notes Ha.
The network is vast, having been started more than a century ago by business students from the University of Wisconsin. Today, there are 500 BGS collegiate chapters throughout every state in the US as well as in 19 countries and territories around the globe. Aside from having members living in more than 160 countries worldwide, BGS also has 24 alumni chapters in major cities, including Hong Kong.
Only universities whose business programmes have been accredited by the AACSB can have a BGS chapter. A school's research output and curriculum must be audited by a global group of professors. The HKUST Business School underwent this process, and has been an AACSB member since 1999.
The BGS HKUST Chapter has more than 1,400 members. The school hosts an annual induction to honour outstanding students - numbering 128 this year - who have been admitted to BGS. The event also recognises business and community leaders who have made outstanding achievements in the fields of business, administration or community service by inviting them to become Chapter Honourees.
This year's honourees are Michael Wu, chairman and managing director of Maxim's Caterers. He graduated from Brown University in Rhode Island with a bachelor of science in applied mathematics and economics. Wu is an HKUST Council member, and a director of both Hang Seng Bank and The Community Chest.
The second honouree is Christine Fang Meng-sang, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, and is an advocate of the development and promotion of social welfare. She is a graduate of the University of Hong Kong with a bachelor of social science in social work, and a master's degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago.
Students can learn a lot by listening to Fang and Wu speak about their management and leadership experience, Cheng says. 'This year's honourees are widely known business and community leaders adhering to the highest standards of civic responsibility and business excellence,' he adds. 'As role models, they will be inspirational to students.'