Professor LI Ming Zhi: Mentor and Friend, Helping Dreams Set Sail

LI Mingzhi is an associate professor of the Department of Economics at Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM). In September 1999, he began working at Tsinghua SEM, teaching Intermediate Microeconomics, Theory of Industrial Organization, and other courses for undergraduate, Ph.D. and MBA programs. Professor LI won the Tsinghua University Teaching Excellency Award for Young Faculty in 2001, Tsinghua SEM Excellent Research Award (1st Class) in 2005, Tsinghua University Best Employee Award in 2005, Tsinghua SEM Excellent Teaching Award (1st Class) in 2009, Tsinghua SEM Excellent Student Class Supervisor and Tsinghua University Excellent Student Class Supervisor (2nd Class) in 2009.
Tsinghua SEM Associate Professor in Economics LI Mingzhi

Good Mentors Lead the Way and Resolve Doubts 

It has been 16 years since Professor LI began his career at Tsinghua SEM. 

Remembering his own class supervisor from the past, Professor LI recalls “Back then we were still in the planned economy era. During that time, students only had to worry about what kind of placement they got after graduation. Unlike nowadays, students have so much more to deal with, like confusion regarding exchange, higher-level education, internships and more.” Compared to his own class supervisor, Professor LI hopes to play a more active role as a mentor, offering guidance and helping clear students’ confusion.

“In high school, class supervisor manage their students very strictly. In contrast, class supervisors in universities play more of a counselor role with the support of their assistant instructors. Class supervisors should provide guidance, counseling and advice using their abundant experience. That is to say, supervisors should treat students like the young adults they are.”
In addition to his class supervisor role, Professor LI is also is teaching SEM’s Industrial Organization courses. When asked whether the findings from his research will be applied to his classes, Professor LI said laughing, “When giving lectures, I imagine myself as one of the audience. I consider my students’ level of understanding and try to make my lectures easy to understand. At the same time, many years of teaching experience ensures that he can correctly predict students’ common problems, and comes out with solutions. What’s more, in Professor LI’s class, students can often hear about the forefront of this discipline development and the brief introduction of the Professor LI’s project, to deepen their understanding of knowledge.

Professor LI Mingzhi (front Row, second from the right) with undergraduate students from class of 2019 at Tsinghua SEM

Both Mentor and Friend

Having a mentor role to students requires technique. “Teachers should be more like a friend.” Professor LI says “So the trick to interacting with students is about getting more exposure to them. Stay in the office more. In this way when students need someone to talk to, they can find you.”

In Professor LI’s eyes, there is no need to say everything as a friend. Nowadays, students have too many sources of information: recommendations from schoolmates, guidance from their counselors, etc. If those sources offer better answers than the words of their teachers, then these words do not need to be said. Professor LI has always believed that only when words are meaningful and beneficial, is there a reason to speak them.

Over 16 years at SEM, Professor LI has become friend and mentor to countless talented students. In fact, many students who took his courses in the past keep close ties with Professor LI to this day. When asked of all the roles he plays at SEM, which role gives him the biggest sense of accomplishment, Professor LI says “It’s interacting with the students of course and being friends with them!” Teaching is a mutual process; the sense of accomplishment that students can bring a teacher is boundless. The encouragement and motivation from their students is what gives teachers a goal. Their work is meaningful when it helps students, and this is what encourages many teachers to keep striving forward on their path.

Professor LI Mingzhi (front row, third from the right) with Tsinghua MBA students

Words of Advice to the Class of 2019 in Economics

In many ways, young adults are like children and have many thoughts of their own. Sometimes, this leads them to take unnecessary detours and undergo hardships. Professor LI hopes his students will communicate a lot with their professors, himself, and fellow students so as to gain insight, clarity and knowledge to prevent those detours.

To the class of 2019, Professor LI advises that although GPAs are important for graduation, he hopes his students will spend time doing social work and practice their skills during their studies. In university, students must discover their own balance for studying and extracurricular, and learn the tradeoffs between the two. 

Professor LI’s only wish for his students is that they understand what it is they want, what kind of person they want to be and work hard in that direction. In the process of figuring out these goals, students may meet many challenges and obstacles. In these times, students must believe in themselves and their abilities just as much as their professors do. Professor LI encourages students to get more exposure, try new things, listen to new information and reflect on their experiences. Professor LI is friend and mentor when teaching his students to encourage them to speak more with fellow classmates and teachers. 

With this last piece of advice comes one final message. To students: always face forward with strength, passion, and motivation to pursue your dreams.