Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Arts alumni are an accomplished crew. They have great advice for students and fellow graduates, and know that arts degrees teach skills that are sought-after in the professional environment.
Ernie Kwok holds a foreign expert certificate issued by the Chinese government and has published more than 20 English education textbooks. His company operates more than 400 schools and international programs in China.
Ernie Kwok graduated in 2001 with a B.A. in Anthropology (First class honours). He was enrolled and completed his first year of a Masters program in the department including a full season of fieldwork. While he was researching parental choice in China, Ernie's passion for education in China was awakened. He has said that the lessons he received in ethnographic methods, fieldwork and cultural relativism helped him to quickly adapt to a foreign cultural system. Forging close ties with his research subjects during his graduate level fieldwork led Ernie to develop a strong network and eventually allowed him to create a new company to fill a niche that he identified in his research.
Rockies International Education Institute (the company he formed) has grown exponentially since 2001, with more than 500 locations in more than 40 Chinese cities. In 2003, he founded the Rockies Consultation and Management Company (RCMC). RCMC facilitates cultural exchange between Canada and China, providing legal access for international students to study abroad and has trained more than 1000 teachers from Canada to legally work in China. The company is valuated at 120 million RMB (23.2 million CDN) and is listed on the Dalian stock exchange.
Ernie communicated that much of the success he has had is accredited to the training in anthropology that he received through the University of Calgary, and the theoretical and practical instructions that my teachers laboriously passed on.
Hanging out with friends in between fruit flies incubation tests during late night genetics experiments.
The squash courts.
If you could give one piece of advice to an undergraduate completing the same degree that you did, what would it be?
If you love the subject, pursue it with all your heart. If you do not love the subject, switch and find one that fits you. To be successful is about doing what you are passionate in and not what the job market (or your parents) want at the time. When I changed my major, my friends in computer science (the I.T. sector was booming at the time) questioned if there would be a career in anthropology after graduation. When the I.T. bubble later bursted, it was them who had a hard time finding a job.
My favorite anthropology class was ethnographic methodology. The methods you learn -- such as interviews, surveys, focus group, statistical analysis, just to name a few – are applicable to a wide range of careers and are never out of date.
I was a M.A. student doing my graduate fieldwork in China studying the emergence of private education. The study was on customer choice, so the content applied seamlessly to a business investment plan. The research gave me the contacts and confidence to start a business in a foreign country with little language and cultural experience. Each year, as new locations are added to the business, I have to continually apply my study since due to China’s size, there are large regional variations. The mistake of not knowing the cultural factors behind your market target can be costly. Now, the company operates international programs in more than 30 cities and 400 locations.
I am providing a much needed service – international education – to people of a different culture who thirst to learn about our own western culture. The sense of accomplishment of making international education happen in places as remote as the Chinese-Burmese border and the silk road is always exhilarating. Of course, we operate in big cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai as well
In a way, what I am doing now is a continuation of my thesis. I had no business experience, no management experience, knew little of the communist culture, and could speak very little of the language. All the tools you need are in anthropology – the discipline teaches you the proper attitude to approach a nouveau situation, as well as how to think, act and learn independently in a foreign culture.