The AlumNUS Jul-Sep 2016

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The AlumNUS clinched the Grand Award in the One-of-a-Kind Publications category for APEX 2016.








NUS University Awards 2016 Asia’s Top University – For the Third Year Running NUS President Conferred 2015 CASE Asia-Pacific Leadership Award C asean Consonant Concert Thirsty Thursdays Class Ambassadors Investiture & Outstanding Class Ambassadors Awards 2016 Indian Film Festival A Celebration of Shared Heritage and Enduring Friendship




Into the Future


Bearing the Torch


The Community Man


Sparking a Connection Giving Members a Leg Up


A Legacy to Lift Law Students Scholarship Ignites Young CEO’s Potentials


Bridging the GAPS


Professor Alan Krueger





ADVISOR Mr Bernard Toh (Architecture ’84) EDITOR

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Karin Yeo (Arts and Social Sciences ’97)


Mediacorp Pte Ltd

CONTACT US Office of Alumni Relations National University of Singapore 11 Kent Ridge Drive, Singapore 119244 Tel: (65) 6516-5775 Fax: (65) 6777-2065 Email: Website: Facebook:


The AlumNUS is published quarterly by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations or the National University of Singapore. For more information or to read The AlumNUS online, please visit

In the Apr–Jun issue, it was stated that Professor Ivy Ng (Medicine ’82) is a gynaecologist and obstetrician by training. That is incorrect as Prof Ng trained as a paediatrician. We are sorry for the error.

Copyright 2016 by the National University of Singapore. All rights reserved. Printed in Singapore by KHL Printing Co Pte Ltd.

DEAR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS, uly is an important month, not just for the fact that NUS graduates its students, ushering them into the next phase of their lives; but also for the reason that these students are welcomed into the NUS alumni community, as they transition from being students to alumni. Commencement therefore holds more than one key significance – it marks the beginning of our fresh graduates’ journeys as alumni as they begin their new life outside of their alma mater. In celebration of Commencement and our 10,000 new graduates, we speak to a number of our young alumni this issue. From playwright to entrepreneur with a social conscience, trekker on a one-man mission to raise funds for children with cancer to consultant for international development to alleviate poverty; one common characteristic stands out in these NUS alumni. Driven by a continual desire to be unparalleled in all that they do, their achievements exemplify the NUS culture of excellence. I hope that some of these stories will leave a positive impression on our new alumni, galvanising them to inject the same degree of enthusiasm and excellence in all that they set out to do. In turn, we hope that our new alumni will raise the good name of our University, as they leave NUS to make their own mark and contribute meaningfully to community and society. This issue of The AlumNUS also coincides with my commencement as Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR). Like our new alumni, I look forward to this new chapter in my professional life and service to the University. I intend to build upon the good work of my predecessor, Associate Professor Victor R Savage, and hope that our alumni will continue to extend the same goodwill and support as they have done for OAR, in the years leading up till today. The relationship between NUS alumni and their University is a lifelong one that commences the day a graduate leaves his/her university. OAR’s key objective and number one priority is to nurture mutuallybeneficial and lifelong relationships with its alumni and engage them along the University’s aspirations. Today, NUS boasts over 278,000 alumni with diverse interests and wide-ranging professions, and OAR wants all its alumni to know that it is here to help alumni stay connected with NUS. From joining one of our 66 Alumni Groups or 18 Overseas Chapters, attending OAR-organised events or coming back to NUS to mentor future alumni, there are multiple enriching and rewarding platforms of staying connected for our alumni. In the coming months, you can look forward to OAR’s signature events. Join us at the annual Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day on 13 August to catch up with old classmates and spend time with your friends and family; or sign up for the inaugural NUS Day of Service on 3 September and get together with the NUS community for a day of service to the community you live in. Last but not least, I would like to wish all our Muslim alumni “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri”. May this festive season be filled with happiness and peace for you and your family.




NUS UNIVERSITY AWARDS 2016 A Tribute to Excellence

ine notable educators, researchers and leading professionals were honoured at the NUS University Awards 2016 on 29 April at the University Cultural Centre. The annual award ceremony represents the University’s highest tribute to excellence in educating and nurturing talent, advancing knowledge and fostering innovation, and contributing to country and society. NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) said, “Their passion, creativity, perseverance and outstanding achievements will galvanise NUS’ talented community to be constantly self-surpassing and to achieve and contribute even more in the future.”


ABOUT THE AWARDS The Outstanding Educator Award acknowledges faculty who have excelled in engaging and inspiring students in their knowledge discovery. The Young Researcher Award recognises researchers below 40 years of age who have made impact and shown promise in their research. The Outstanding Researcher Award recognises researchers who have consistently achieved research excellence over a period of time and attained significant breakthroughs or outstanding accomplishments. The Outstanding Service Award honours accomplished and respected individuals from the NUS community who have distinguished themselves through their sustained and exceptional contributions in serving the University and society.


“Teaching is not only a privilege and an honour but also a great responsibility. The success of a teacher pivots on the success of his students and this in turn moulds the future of nations.” ASSOC PROF GERALD KOH CHOON HUAT Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

“Nature has found exquisite solutions to complex problems we have just begun to understand; I feel privileged to be able to unravel Nature’s solutions and the laws that govern them.” ASSOC PROF CHRISTIAN A. NIJHUIS Department of Chemistry


“One picture is worth a thousand words; one brain image tells us a million beautiful secrets.” ASSOC PROF QIU ANQI Department of Biomedical Engineering


“NUS has given me good insight into the workings of a world-class university, and I have learnt much from the many people who have kindly shared their ideas and worked with me in serving the cause of NUS. This has strengthened my belief that opportunities come from connecting disciplines and different ways of thinking. Problems that are multifaceted will demand solutions that cater for diverse interests.” MR LEE TZU YANG Chairman, NUS Middle East Institute; Academic Panel, Institute of Policy Studies, NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; Chairman, The Esplanade Company Limited; Chairman, Founders’ Memorial Committee; Chairman, Casino Regulatory Authority; Member, Council of Presidential Advisers; Legal Service Commission of Singapore; Board of Visiting Justices; Centre for Liveable Cities Advisory Board; Justice of the Peace


“My teaching philosophy centres on empowering students to be knowledge-centric and emotionally connected to emerging social issues. When students see the relevance of what they study to their own lives, it keeps them interested, engaged and empowers them to believe that they can make a difference.” ASSOC PROF PAULIN TAY STRAUGHAN Department of Sociology


“I’m grateful to the University for not only giving me an invaluable education, but also equipping me with the wherewithal to serve our people and nation. It has been a great privilege and honour to be able to work with NUS all these years since graduation to train, and educate successive generations of graduates of the University.” PROF TAN SER KIAT Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine; Emeritus Consultant, Singapore General Hospital; President, Singapore Medical Council


“I strive to do research that’s not only current, creative and cutting-edge, it must also have a voice. A voice that speaks to important economic issues that help us better understand and have a positive impact on the real world. A voice that inspires and challenges young researchers. This keeps it exciting and enjoyable for me.” PROF SUMIT AGARWAL Departments of Economics, Finance and Real Estate


“I believe strongly in the strength of multicentre and multidisciplinary collaboration in research; alone we can each do a little, together we can do so much.” PROF AUNG TIN Department of Ophthalmology


“We are a small nation, but that has not stopped us from having big engineering dreams. Our resource limitations have not limited our ability to translate these dreams into reality. Learning from others is in our DNA, but it is learning from doing that really gives us the confidence to do big things. NUS has been a great partner in doing many of these big things!” PROF QUEK TONG BOON Chairman, Temasek Laboratories; NUS Temasek Defence Systems Institute; NUS Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology Management Board Member, NUS Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing; NUS Tropical Marine Science Institute Scientific Advisory Board Member, NUS Institute for Mathematical Sciences Adjunct Professor, NUS Engineering; Chief Defence Scientist, Ministry of Defence; Trustee, Singapore University of Technology and Design; Member, Board of Directors of Defence Science and Technology Agency; DSO National Laboratories; A*STAR; PUB Chairman, International Advisory Panel, National Cybersecurity R&D JUL– SEP 2016






or the third consecutive year, NUS has been named the top university in Asia by the 2016 edition of the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) University Rankings: Asia. Despite facing more competition (QS expanded this year’s ranking to include 50 more universities), NUS not only maintains its number one position in Asia but continues to perform well and rank highly in most of the metrics measured by QS. The University remains Asia’s best for employer reputation, second for academic reputation and third for citations per paper. NUS also achieved perfect scores in four of QS’ 10 metrics — academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper (which measures research impact) and international faculty (which measures an institution’s ability to attract staff worldwide). NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) said, “We are pleased that NUS continues to be highly regarded by academics and employers worldwide. Being recognised as the top university in Asia is testament to NUS’ singular focus on excellence and innovation. Going forward, we will intensify our efforts in nurturing future-ready graduates, fostering a thriving and vibrant entrepreneurship community in Singapore, and growing our research impact and partnerships, to make a strong positive impact in Singapore and beyond.”


We are pleased that NUS continues to be highly regarded by academics and employers worldwide. Being recognised as the top university in Asia is testament to NUS’ singular focus on excellence and innovation. Going forward, we will intensify our efforts in nurturing future-ready graduates, fostering a thriving and vibrant entrepreneurship community in Singapore, and growing our research impact and partnerships,to make a strong positive impact in Singapore and beyond.” PROFESSOR TAN CHORH CHUAN (MEDICINE ‘83)


The QS University Rankings: Asia is published annually and ranks Asia’s top 350 universities based on relevant criteria including academic reputation, employer reputation, student/faculty ratio, papers per faculty, citations per paper, internationalisation, student exchange inbound and student exchange outbound.

NUS PRESIDENT CONFERRED 2015 CASE ASIA-PACIFIC LEADERSHIP AWARD US President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) has been conferred the 2015 Asia-Pacific Leadership Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). CASE is an international association that supports over 3,700 educational institutions worldwide in developing their alumni relations, communications, fundraising and marketing operations. The CASE Asia-Pacific Leadership Award recognises institutional heads who actively support advancement; create a vision and inspire others; establish a positive image for their institution while leading it to higher levels of success; increase their institution’s stature in the community; and encourage innovation and risk-taking. Calling Prof Tan a “creative and visionary leader”, CASE President Ms Sue Cunningham said, “CASE is pleased and honoured to recognise Professor Tan as the 2015 recipient of the CASE Asia-Pacific Leadership Award. As President of the National University of Singapore and through his impressive international work in academe and medicine, Prof Tan has had a profound impact upon education, health and society. He has also been an impressive champion for institutional advancement.” Under Prof Tan’s leadership, NUS has risen to become one of the world’s leading universities and a distinctive institution in Asia, and has achieved significant milestones on multiple fronts including the launch of University Town; the collaboration with Duke University and Yale University; the strengthening of ties with both local and overseas alumni; and the establishment of a research institute in China’s Suzhou Industrial Park.

Prof Tan is also a staunch advocate of Advancement, both in the form of alumni engagement and fundraising. Each year, the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR) organises about 100 events for its 278,000 strong members, including 66 Alumni Groups and 18 Overseas Chapters. In 2013, the NUS Alumni Students Advancement Committee was formed as a tri-partite partnership between the NUS Society, Development Office and OAR. Accepting the award at the presentation ceremony held at NUS on 18 April, Prof Tan said, “I am delighted and privileged to accept this award on behalf of NUS – in particular Chairman Mr Wong Ngit Liong and members of the NUS Board of Trustees, my fellow colleagues in the leadership team, our faculty, staff, alumni, students and benefactors of the University. I am indeed grateful to CASE for this signal honour. CASE has long been a true champion for professionals in education who work in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and allied areas. It has made a big difference around the world, and grown its community in the Asia-Pacific. To receive this prestigious award from CASE, is therefore NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) receiving the CASE Asia-Pacific Leadership Award from CASE Vice President for a privilege.”

International Operations Ms Tricia King, on behalf of Ms Cunningham. JUL– SEP 2016



C asean Consonant Concert Thirsty Thursdays nspired by the belief that music is the best language for friendship, the C asean Consonant, an ASEAN traditional ensemble was born. The third leg of C asean Consonant’s ASEAN tour in Singapore was co-organised by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR). “In a world mired with so much misunderstanding and violence, the melodic sounds of music are refreshing and comforting. Music after all is an international language that transcends linguistic, cultural, religious, political and economic barriers. Music helps to unify people and hopefully bring everyone together in a spirit of harmony and commonality,” said Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Director of OAR in his welcome address. 6

Comprising 10 talented youths, one from each ASEAN country, the ensemble presented the beautiful and unique sounds of ASEAN through their national instruments. The audience was treated to a medley of traditional songs from each of the countries, such as Sarika Keo from Cambodia, Salidummay from the Philippines and Loy Krathong from Thailand. The ensemble performed to a full house at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House Auditorium on 8 April. Those present included Mr Chairat Sirivat, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission, Royal Thai Embassy; Mr Dwi Kurnia Indrana Miftach, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia; Mr Vichate Tantiwanich, Chairman of Executive Board of C asean and Dr Karndee Leopairote, Managing Director of C asean.

he 12th edition Thirsty Thursdays was held on 21 April at The East Bureau in Marina Square with an ‘Oriental Chic’ theme. This popular alumni event provides an avenue and opportunity for young alumni to socialise and network in a casual setting at a central location. Guests were treated to Mandopop and popular English songs from the 1990s and 2000s, performed by Mandopop enthusiasts from the NUS Cultural Arts Club. Young alumnus, Mr Prasatt Arumugam (Arts and Social Sciences ’16) added an element of civic-mindedness to the event by sharing about TrekInvicta, a social initiative that he started, to raise awareness for children’s cancer and to raise funds for the Children Cancer Foundation. As part of TrekInvicta, Prasatt will trek the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the world’s longest trails that stretches 4,280 km from Canada to Mexico through Washington, Oregon and California. Through TrekInvicta, Prasatt also hopes to inspire and encourage youths to make use of their strengths and talents to give back to the community. Mr Bernard Toh (Architecture ’84), the new Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations attended the event and spent an enjoyable evening with fellow alumni.

Class Ambassadors Investiture & Outstanding Class Ambassadors Awards 2016 he annual Class Ambassadors Investiture was held on 18 March to welcome and present Certificates of Appointment to the new batch of Class Ambassadors. These certificates were given out by the respective Deans, Masters of Faculties, Schools, Halls and Residential Colleges. Class Ambassadors play an important role in building connections and strengthening ties between their class and the University. To recognise outstanding Class Ambassadors who have made significant contributions, the inaugural Outstanding Class Ambassadors Awards ceremony was held in conjunction with this year’s Investiture. In his opening remarks, Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations, congratulated the 18 Outstanding Class Ambassadors and thanked them for their support and dedication. Assoc Prof Savage also urged all ambassadors to continue to encourage and galvanise their cohorts to be

active alumni and to keep their class spirit alive. One of the Class Ambassadors, Mr Ahmad Tashrif Bin Sarman (Engineering ’12) was commended for actively connecting his class through alumni events such as Thirsty Thursdays, Movies on the House and the annual Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day. Tashrif also started the NUS Sports Club Alumni to bring together alumni who are sports enthusiasts. More than 200 people attended the event, including Guest-of-Honour NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Professor Tan Eng Chye (Science ’85), Dean of Students Associate Professor Tan Teck Koon (Science ’72), NUS Alumni Advisory Board members Mr Edward D’Silva (Architecture ’75), Ms Jocelyn Chng (Arts and Social Sciences ’89) and Dr Tan Peng Guan (Dentistry ’70), Class Ambassadors from other cohorts and Alumni Group leaders and the respective Associate Directors for Alumni Relations and Alumni Relations representatives from the Faculties, Schools, Halls and Residential Colleges. JUL– SEP 2016



Indian Film Festival he 2nd Indian Film Festival, opened with The Man Who Knew Infinity (starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons) at Shaw Theatres Lido on 13 May and was graced by Her Excellency Ms Vijay Thakur Singh, High Commissioner of India to Singapore. The festival was jointly presented by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations with the High Commission of India to Singapore, with sponsorship from Shaw Organisation. More than 1,000 alumni and friends attended the festival that screened three other films – Piku, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Mary Kom — at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House from 16 to 18 May. The films catered to all ages and many alumni attended the festival with their family and friends. One lucky member of the audience went home with a pair of return air tickets to India at the end of each night, sponsored by Air India and Jet Airways.

From left: Mr Bernard Toh (Architecture ’84), Assoc Prof Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Ms Paramita Tripathi, Deputy High Commissioner of India to Singapore, Prof Tan Tai Yong (Arts and Social Sciences ’85).

A CELEBRATION OF SHARED HERITAGE AND ENDURING FRIENDSHIP he UM-NUS Inter-University TunkuChancellor Golf Tournament 2016 is a testimony to the enduring bond between NUS and the University of Malaya (UM). Each year NUS and UM take turns to host the tournament, and this year the event took place over three days from 3 to 5 May at the Kota Permai Golf & Country Club and Palm Garden Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. About 60 golfers and guests from each team came together for the friendly competition with the UM team emerging as champion after two days of golfing. An official dinner was hosted by UM Chancellor, His Royal Highness Sultan Dr Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah at the Putrajaya Marriot Hotel. Graced by VIPs from both universities, including NUS Chancellor President Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam (Science ’62); NUS Pro-Chancellor Mr Po’ad Mattar (Accountancy ’71); NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83); Chairman of the NUS Board of Trustees Mr Wong Ngit Liong (Engineering ’65); UM Pro-Chancellors YBhg. Tan Sri Dato’ DiRaja Ramli Ngah Talib; YABhg. Toh Puan Dato’ Seri Hjh. Dr. Aishah Ong and YBhg. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Siti Norma Yaakob. In his welcome speech, Prof Tan reflected on the same roots and early heritage shared by the two universities, which have been nurtured and strengthened for over nearly half a century


via friendly sporting challenges. “We are indeed UM Chancellor, HRH Sultan grateful for the many enriching friendships, mutual Dr Nazrin understanding and enduring goodwill that have been Muizzuddin Shah built during this period,” he said. (right) presenting During the trip, Prof Tan and his delegation, the trophy to UM Golf Captain, including Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts Dr Md Khalil Ruslan. and Social Sciences ’72), Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations, also visited the Pua Kumbu Exhibition at the University of Malaya Art Gallery. This annual tournament that started in 1968 has withstood the test of time and grown from strength to strength, owing to the support of both universities’ chancellors, management, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. It plays an important role in maintaining the friendship and preserving the history between the two universities. JUL– SEP 2016



INTO THE FUTURE Every year, fresh graduates from NUS head out into the world, each a beneficiary of the holistic education the University offers. The AlumNUS finds out how five individuals from recent cohorts are each making their mark on the world. BY WANDA TAN








JUL– SEP 2016






r Prasatt Arumugam (Arts and Social Sciences ’16), a University Scholars Programme (USP) student, can barely wait to get his English Literature degree. Less than a week after taking part in the Commencement ceremony this July, he will depart for the trip of a lifetime: a five-month solo trek along the 4,280-kilometre Pacific Crest Trail, stretching from Canada to Mexico. A seasoned trekker, Mr Prasatt’s first hike was a 21-day journey across Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit in 2011. “I hiked the Annapurna mountain range while backpacking alone for two months around China, Tibet and Nepal,” he says. “I had never travelled on my own before, but I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries.” Since then, the outdoor lover has been on trekking adventures in countries such as Myanmar, Canada and Mexico. He also visited Yosemite National Park while on exchange at Yale University, USA in his third year of study, and briefly toyed then with the idea of attempting the Pacific Crest Trail. The latter was deemed too great a challenge at the time, so he put it on the backburner — until now, that is. So what is his motivation for embarking on such a daunting trail? To raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF). “I started volunteering as a play personnel with CCF in 2015, and also took part in the Hair for Hope event last year,” says Mr Prasatt, 26, whose aunt passed away from breast cancer in 2010. “Seeing children battle with cancer at such a young age made me want to do more for them beyond playing with them for two hours a week or shaving my head. That’s when the thought of doing the trail to raise money occurred to me.” Mr Prasatt enlisted the help of some friends for his campaign, called TrekInvicta, which aims to




VOLUNTEERING IS NOT ABOUT OCCUPYING ALL OF YOUR TIME... IT’S ABOUT PUTTING YOURSELF IN OTHERS’ SHOES AND GIVING THEM A HELPING HAND. Mr Prasatt Arumugam raise a total of $26,660 ($10 for every mile, or just over $6 for every kilometre). Together, they have written to various organisations and canvassed for support, all while he has had to fit in physical training as well as his full-time job as a tutor at an enrichment centre. “Almost all of my free time before and after office hours has been spent doing as much as I can for the trek,” says Mr Prasatt, who completed his degree requirements early this year. “But the sacrifice is worth it. The children at CCF are my inspiration: what they have to

go through is much harder than a five-month walk.” After returning from his trip, Mr Prasatt — who counts reading as one of his hobbies — hopes to be a secondary school teacher. But he does not rule out the possibility of more charity treks in the future, and will continue to volunteer with CCF. “Volunteering is not about occupying all of your time, just whatever time you can give. It’s about putting yourself in others’ shoes and giving them a helping hand.”

s a child, Mr David Pong (Business ’14) often saw his father, a missionary, travel to unfamiliar destinations and even accompanied him on occasion. “My sister and I were encouraged from a young age to have a heart to serve, to tap on our resources and channel our efforts towards a worthy cause,” he says. That is exactly what he is doing now as Co-Founder and CEO of WateROAM, a social enterprise that provides global access to clean drinking water. Mr Pong had initially dreamed of being a doctor, and joined the St John Ambulance Brigade in secondary school with that in mind. But while in charge of the St John’s Cadet Proficiency Badge Scheme, he developed a knack for organisation and realised that he enjoyed seeing things through from start to finish. Thus, his entrepreneurial ambitions were born and he pursued a Bachelor of Business Administration (Honours) at NUS. During his final year, he and a team of NUS environmental engineering students took part in the HydroPreneur Programme, a nine-week national competition for aspiring water entrepreneurs. With their prototype water filtration system and proposed business model, they won a Rising HydroPreneur Star Award at the Singapore International Water Week 2014. WateROAM was subsequently launched later that year, with support from NUS Enterprise. “We believe in empowering communities in disaster-hit and rural areas through our range of water filtration systems, which are affordable and easy to use,”

explains Mr Pong, 26. “We equip non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in other countries with the skillset to install and operate our products, so NGO volunteers can then impart this knowledge to local communities. Access to clean drinking water will not only improve their health but also enable them to establish waterbased micro-businesses, bettering their livelihoods and bringing them out of poverty.” As its CEO, Mr Pong focuses on business development issues such as partnerships with foreign NGOs and stakeholder management. This requires adeptness at people skills, which the Finance major notes is not always taught in business schools. “Relationships can break down due to lack of communication, so you have to be clear when communicating expectations. Manage your own emotions, tolerate difficult circumstances and try to come to a win-win situation.” In the two years since WateROAM was founded, its products have been deployed in rural areas in Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia, and in the wake of natural disasters in Myanmar, Vanuatu and Nepal. “Seeing the smiles on the faces of beneficiaries, who no longer need to travel far to get clean drinking water, crosses any language barrier,” says Mr Pong, who has visited some of these regions. “I’m amazed and thankful for what we’ve achieved so far, but there is still much more that can and should be done.” His advice to youths considering heading up social enterprises of their own? “Pick up business knowledge in school, either as a major or an elective. Make sure your business model is sustainable and scalable, so you can eventually expand the business.”



JUL– SEP 2016








ne of the first things Ms Tiffany Loy (Design and Environment ’10) remembers making as a kid was a collage composed of various materials. “I was curious to see the interplay of different colours, textures and shapes,” she recalls. “In hindsight, what I did back then had more value than I thought.” That’s because she has not lost her curiosity about how things are made. Now an industrial designer with her own eponymous studio, Ms Loy, 29, explores experimental production techniques and surface design on a variety of mediums including textiles, interior surfaces, furniture and print. “I’m driven by a desire to accord respect to materials and to showcase them in the best possible light, not as mere tools at our disposal,” she says. Her student years under the Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design programme were very fruitful. “There was sufficient flexibility in the curriculum such that I could put my own spin on the design brief at hand, and start discovering the kind of designer I wanted to be. I was given freedom to explore my areas of interest, and in every project I had to be sure about the value my work had to offer. My designs had to be relevant and relatable, at a practical or conceptual level.”


After obtaining her degree, Ms Loy worked for two years at NUS’ Design Incubation Centre before setting up a one-woman studio off Jalan Besar in 2012. Getting commissions can be tough for those new to the design industry, but her university lecturers had helped to get her work included in art exhibitions while she was an undergraduate. This exposure would later lead to a number of commissions from interested clients. Meeting clients, she muses, is quite similar to being in the dating world. “You don’t know what your client will be like, or whether both of you will make a good fit,” she says. Sometimes she also has to turn them down. “You have to be decisive and selective about the work you do; otherwise, people won’t know what you stand for. When saying ‘no’ to clients, I try to be direct and clear about my reasons without offending them.” Ms Loy’s repertoire of projects runs the gamut such as bags made of canvas offcuts recovered from parasol factories, handwoven scarves, and polyester clothing with unique textures created using a heat-setting technique on acrylic moulds. The last, titled Textile Transmutations, was exhibited at Milan Design Week 2015 in Italy as part of a 15-strong Singapore designer collective called ‘The Alchemists’. “I love the fact that I get to decide what needs to be done. Having creative independence is precious to me,” says Ms Loy. Such autonomy allows her to engage in interesting projects through which she can acquire new skills from interacting with clients and vendors. “With every project, there should be progress, not so much in terms of profit earned but in terms of new knowledge learnt.”


lthough he began his higher education as an English Literature student at another university, Mr Phang Kok Jun (Music ’15), 27, really wanted to study music. “I would sometimes drift off in class and doodle in my notebook,” he admits. “Most of the time, I found myself writing musical notes!” That epiphany prompted him to apply for a spot at NUS’ Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM), despite family misgivings. “My parents felt that I should complete something more realistic, and to be honest they probably doubted if I was any good,” he says. But they changed their minds once he was accepted into the fullscholarship programme. Mr Phang majored in Composition for his Bachelor of Music degree, even though he had only become interested in it a few years earlier. “I had taken keyboard lessons as a kid and played the erhu in my secondary school’s Chinese Orchestra, but didn’t get into writing music until I was in National Service,” he says. As a then-erhu player in the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company, he started arranging songs that he wanted the ensemble to perform at gigs; from there, his interest in composition grew. While serving in the Army, he also became an erhu musician with the Ding Yi Music Company (DYMC), a local Chinese chamber music ensemble. In 2011, around the same time he entered YSTCM, he was appointed Arranger-inResidence for DYMC and was given more writing opportunities. Now a Composer-in-Residence, he writes most of his music for DYMC from his base at Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Conservatory, USA, where he is


pursuing a Master of Music under a full scholarship from YSTCM. “I try to schedule new works and concerts during school breaks in December and June to August, so I can be in town to work on them,” says Mr Phang. Major commissions written for DYMC include Voices (2012), for the Esplanade’s 10th anniversary celebrations, and Pipa Xing (2015), a full-length music and dance production. He also serves as a freelance composer for clients such as the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and local chamber group I-Sis Trio. And every year, he is involved in the Esplanade’s Feed Your Imagination series, in which original performances are staged annually to teach children about music. Going to YSTCM gave Mr Phang the theoretical training he needed to be a good composer, but that is not all that is required. “In my work, I’ve learnt that composers must work effectively with performers to realise their music,”

WE NEED MUSICIANS TO BE INSPIRED BY THE INTENTIONS BEHIND OUR MUSIC, AND WE NEED TO BE OPEN TO THEIR SUGGESTIONS, COMPLAINTS AND SOMETIMES EVEN CRITICISMS. Mr Phang Kok Jun he explains. “We need musicians to be inspired by the intentions behind our music, and we need to be open to their suggestions, complaints and sometimes even criticisms.” When asked to envision his future, Mr Phang sees himself returning to Singapore after finishing his postgraduate studies. “Some people prefer to work abroad in search of better opportunities, but this is my home. This is where I feel most attached.” JUL– SEP 2016







ormal, a local play produced in 2015, illuminates the struggles of two secondary school students — both internally and on a societal level — with being in the Normal (Academic) stream. Written by Ms Faith Ng (Arts and Social Sciences ’12), 29, it is based on her personal experiences as a Normal stream student and dealing with the concomitant burden of having seemingly fallen through the cracks. “It’s naïve to think theatre can change lives overnight,” she says. “But what it can do is initiate conversations on unseen, ‘hidden’ issues that are left out of the news. Theatre lets you delve into complex issues that cannot be adequately covered in a short newspaper article.” Ms Ng’s writing stems from a desire to champion the ordinary lives of Singaporeans, to provide a counterpoint to the majority of local productions that are either adaptations of Western plays or staged from a Western perspective. “I want the audience to see that the lives they lead, with their Singlish accents, are as special or noteworthy as Shakespeare’s characters.” She began writing at the age of 21, when she took the Introduction to Playwriting module in her first year at NUS. “I love capturing the muscularity or rhythm to the way people talk, whether through dialogue or awkward silences,” she says. The live aspect of theatre lends extra appeal. “In today’s technology-driven, depersonalised world, live theatre holds greater importance as a way


to establish human connections. Performers lay everything bare on stage in an effort to connect with their audience.” It was midway through her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree, with complementary majors in Theatre Studies and English Literature, that Ms Ng got her big break. wo(men), a play about three generations of women in a Singaporean Hokkien family and their relationships, was showcased at the NUS Arts Festival 2010 and drew critical acclaim. At the Life! Theatre Awards the following year, the production clinched Best Supporting Actress and received three other nominations, including Best Original Script for Ms Ng. Since graduating from NUS, she has served as an Associate Artist at Checkpoint Theatre. The job has given her real-world experience on how to handle administrative and PR tasks, and get over negative reviews or failed projects. Two years ago, she started passing on these lessons to budding playwrights as a part-time lecturer at her alma mater. “Lecturing at NUS is like coming home,” says the studentturned-lecturer. “It was here that I became aware of who I am as a person and as a writer.” She currently teaches Introduction to Playwriting and Advanced Playwriting, and was a Writerin-Residence for NUS’ Singapore Creative Writing Residency in 2014. As Ms Ng regularly reminds students, it is important to be honest and authentic in one’s writing; being technically competent is not enough. “Don’t be afraid of failure, for success won’t come overnight,” she adds. “Above all, be observant and attuned to people around you, so you can pick up on day-to-day issues that tend to go unnoticed.”

individuals: to do well in the real world, you have to be more than book-smart. This is a crucial point NUS’ Centre for Future-ready Graduates (CFG) tries to get across to students and young alumni. “NUS strives to provide a holistic education, which goes beyond being intellectually disciplined or well-versed in hard skills,” says CFG Director Ms Crystal Lim Leahy. “At CFG, we ‘complete the loop’ for whole-brain learning by giving students soft skills to stand them in good stead.”

Why are soft skills particularly important in this day and age?

We now live in a rapidly-changing VUCA world — one that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Due to technological disruptions, technical or domain knowledge in areas like computing and finance is swiftly becoming obsolete. In this context, CFG supports students by giving them an essential, timeless ‘basket’ of personal and interpersonal skills. In January 2016, CFG launched a new life-skills module called ROOTS & WINGS. Can you tell us more about it?

Photos courtesy of Centre for Future-Ready Graduate


Based on the latest psychology, neuroscience and leadership research, we developed Roots & Wings to equip students with core, foundational life skills. The Roots portion focuses on the self; students are made aware of their own strengths and weaknesses so they can make better choices. The Wings portion focuses on the wider world. It poses this question to students: “Now that I know myself, how can I collaborate effectively with others and engage in empathic communication to establish an emotional connection with them?”

faculties, Roots & Wings will help them to be better prepared for the real world. Hopefully, such cross-disciplinary interaction will also build the University’s supraidentity, which is still quite weak in comparison to the respective faculty identities. Many freshmen are unsure about what career they wish to pursue. How can this group of students benefit from taking ROOTS & WINGS?

What advice do you have for newly-minted and young alumni as they look ahead to the future?

Be curious. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Contractionary or reactive decisions, those which are made from a place of fear, are not likely to be good ones. Instead, make expansive decisions that harness your curiosity.

First off, being unsure about one’s future is normal. Our aim is to help students feel confident and empowered to find out what their interests and passions are, rather than be gripped by the fear of uncertainty. We try to develop their emotional resilience, so they can overcome their selfimposed limitations and cultivate a healthy curiosity. More than 2,000 students have taken part in ROOTS & WINGS so far. What feedback have they given?

In a survey completed by pilotgroup participants, student satisfaction scores were sky-high at over 90 per cent. We also ran pre- and post-tests to measure their competencies in various Emotional Quotient components, and student competency scores were found to have improved. So students not only liked the course but also got something out of it.


Access to graduate jobs

offered by corporate partners through its online job portal, NUS TalentConnect

Professional guidance from experienced Career Advisors Opportunities to mould juniors into future leaders through its Alumni Mentoring Programme Centre for Future-Ready Graduates


This programme is mandatory for all first-year students. What do you hope to achieve through such large-scale implementation?

In today’s working environment, operating in silos is no longer possible; you need to collaborate with other people. By bringing together students across different JUL– SEP 2016


Assoc Prof Savage (left) and Mr Toh, in front of the Shaw Foundation Alumni House.


Bearing the Torch

What does it take to continuously engage alumni? Mr Bernard Toh (Architecture ’84), the new man at the helm of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR), and outgoing director Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), discuss ideas and plans, with each giving his perspective. BY ARTI MULCHAND


Forging real relationships with tangible outcomes is key to the success of the Office of Alumni Relations (OAR), says outgoing Director Associate Professor Victor R Savage.

ASSOC PROF VICTOR R SAVAGE (VS): Being an alumnus is something you are for life. You will always be associated with the university from which you graduate. But yes, I found myself having to explain to a lot of people what an alumnus is, and what it is I did. BT: What were some of the challenges you faced in turning their relationship with the University into a meaningful association for alumni? VS: Things at NUS have changed a lot. The NUS population has expanded tremendously. We’ve switched from a British to an American system, which impacts the kind of bonds people forge with each other since [under the American system] you spend just two self-contained semesters with your course-mates instead of a full year. You have 18

less time to make friends, bond and enjoy campus life. The spirit among the young and older alumni is also very different these days. Affluence means that young alumni have the means to access a lot more under their own steam so it takes more to attract them to alumni activities. That’s why OAR has spent a lot of time in identifying the kinds of activities they would respond to. More than half of our alumni, for example, are under 40 years old — which is why we have focussed on activities that enhance

their professional development, and which centre around their families and children. That is what is relevant to them. Our Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day is called “family day” because we encourage alumni to attend the event with their children and we tailor events for kids. We also have monthly movies, and have hosted breakfasts, lunches, dinners and dialogues of professional interests for our young alumni. BT: What were some of your key priorities as Director?

Photo Ealbert Ho

MR BERNARD TOH (BT): With more than 278,000 alumni in over 100 countries, I’m sure you were kept busy during your time as Director. Do you think people really understand what it is that OAR sets out to do?

VS: When I took on the job three years ago, I followed the objectives laid down by President Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83). He identified three key roles — to broaden the alumni base, to deepen the alumni core, as well as to strengthen the relationship between alumni and NUS . I stuck closely to those three goals, relying on my colleagues for assistance since my predecessor Dr Lim Meng Kin had passed away. I was an academic who had never taken on a central administrative role, so I spent my first year trying to understand how things

were run and the issues OAR faced. It was in my second year that I began making changes. Part of my focus has been to ensure that the team at OAR is empowered to make decisions, to feel they can be creative and have ownership of the many events and activities we organise. Our staff need to feel comfortable that their inputs are reaching out to our alumni. OAR is different from other administrative offices — managing alumni is about being able to manage relationships, so I had to make sure that

I had the right people for the job. BT: You graduated in 1972, and have been at NUS in various capacities for more than three decades. How would you describe the spirit of alumni then, and now? VS: When I graduated there was no ‘real’ alumni. Three classmates and I formed a “Class of ’72” group, meeting every first Saturday of the New Year. Over time, that increased to two main gatherings a year and several breakfast get-togethers at Serangoon Road coffee JUL– SEP 2016





Mr Bernard Toh

BT: How would you articulate what the benefits of being an active alumnus are, to an alumnus? VS: Alumni benefits reflect a two-way street. In some Western universities, the achievements of alumni are taken into consideration in university rankings. The alumni impact the [public’s] perception of the university. And being an [active] alumnus also helps you create networks from which you can develop into business relationships. Good universities thrive on their reputations and become a “brand” for business or career opportunities among alumni. NUS is growing rapidly in reputation as a good university so our alumni will benefit from this in their working life. During one of our networking events in 20

Bangkok, a junior alumnus was offered a job by a senior alumnus without the latter asking to see the former’s CV. This reflects the trust placed in an NUS education. Those are the kinds of relationships that OAR helps to forge. BT: In five words, how would you describe your experience as Director of OAR? VS: Challenging, interesting, enjoyable, satisfying and rewarding. I enjoyed the time as Director of OAR, and it was a real feather in my cap . The OAR sojourn capped my entire career of 36 years in NUS! It is also a tribute to the people I have worked with in OAR.


A familiar face on campus, incoming Director of OAR Mr Bernard Toh

continue to come back to pursue interests they developed as students, eg. the volleyball group who come back regularly to bond over a game of volleyball. I am heartened by the much improved levels of engagement, and there is room for us to deepen the relationships that we have built. I will need to discuss, understand and then explore with my team on how we might do this.

takes the view that successful alumni engagement is always evolving. ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR VICTOR R SAVAGE (VS): From the outside looking in, how would you describe current alumni relations? MR BERNARD TOH (BT): Alumni relations have come a long way since the early 2000s, when Professor Shih Choon Fong was President of NUS (2000-2008), and created the Office of Alumni Relations (OAR), bringing in the American alumni traditions he had been exposed to, and giving OAR a renewed focus. Since then, alumni relations have improved markedly. More alumni are coming back to do things with their alma mater in numerous ways. Some are using their professional expertise to mentor students, others are serving in the many committees on campus to help NUS become a leading global university centred in Asia, yet others

Photos by Ealbert Ho

shops. Initially there were about 10 of us, but the group just kept growing. At the 25th anniversary of our graduation in 1997, we had about 110 tables. Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong attended the dinner. We were also among the first cohorts to launch a bursary fund. The Class of ’72 Bursary Fund sparked the spirit of alumni and that’s what is most important — having an alumnus that participates, engages and has a real relationship with the University. That is more important than the number of alumni.

VS: So what would you like to see happening, ideally?

VS: How do you view NUS alumni?

BT: I’d like to see wider participation and engagement. Right now, OAR is still mainly the party that initiates and funds activities and events. We need to reach a stage where our alumni proactively initiate and garner the resources to support the things that they want to do themselves — it is only then that we will be able to say that our alumni are truly engaged.

BT: NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) describes alumni as the third pillar of the University, the first two being students and staff. Our student population is about 38,000 and our staff number about 12,000. Together these two pillars constitute about 50,000. The alumni today is 278,000 strong — about five times the first two pillars combined. It is clear that this pillar presents great possibilities and potential.

BT: You have already done much work to better alumni relations, and I want to work with the various teams to explore how to take this a step further. You and your team have been successful in broadening the range of activities and events. I would like to build upon this good work and move to deepening our engagements. For example, Thirsty

VS: What are some of the initiatives that you are excited to push to the next level?

Thursdays connects younger alumni, and is a useful platform for them to come together. I wish for us to move beyond coming together. A possible way to deepen this programme is to get alumni themselves to share insights of the professions or careers that they are in so that others who are thinking of switching careers will have expanded possibilities. The Alumni Mentoring Programme is another wonderful initiative that was recently introduced — connecting those willing to mentor with those seeking mentors. As the programme has only just started, it is still a very loose and casual arrangement. Logically, the next step would be to give it slightly more structure without making it too organised and run the risk of becoming bureaucratic in its approach. This year, we are also enhancing the NUS tradition of giving back to society — Mr Jeremy Ee (Engineering ’05), one of our younger alumni, is spearheading the NUS Day of Service which will be held on Saturday, 3 September 2016, to encourage alumni groups to ‘donate’ part of their day to service. Whether it is cleaning a beach, distributing food to the needy or donating blood, the intention is to give back to the community we live in as one united NUS Community. It deepens the relationship among alumni and between them and NUS, and adds meaning to us as an alumni community. JUL– SEP 2016



We don’t just gather for meals or wait to be entertained. VS: What are some of the changes you hope to make? BT: One thing we have to learn is, we don’t have to single-handedly drive an initiative just because we created it. OAR can also create the platforms and opportunities and let people evolve the idea from there. We should also recognise groups and networks that may not have physically begun in NUS as part of the larger alumni family. These are some of the things we should be proud of. VS: How do you think OAR should manage the diverse groups within the alumni community? BT: To create programmes and activities that are relevant to a large alumni body, we have organised our alumni into three broad groups: young alumni (under 40), prime alumni (40-60), and senior alumni (over 60). Currently, the young and senior alumni are the two groups that are more engaged with the University. The prime alumni are at a phase of their lives where they are busy building their careers and raising their families. This leaves them little time to do much else and understandably so. Our endeavour here is to continue to stay connected with them through our regular e-newsletters and communications to inform them of the various programmes and activities that OAR runs throughout the year, in the hope that they will participate in a couple of them. Building any relationship takes time. We believe that our constant endeavour of keeping in touch will eventually attract our alumni to come back and participate more actively when the time is right. VS: In your opinion, how relevant are the alumni to NUS’ future success? BT: I see two broad drivers at play here. First, our alumni family will continue to grow at a steady pace of between 8,000 to 10,000 new alumni each year. This means that this will be the fastest-growing pillar of the University. Secondly, Singapore is a 22

rapidly greying society. By 2030, one out of every four persons in Singapore will be a senior citizen. This will mean that the number of senior alumni who have succeeded in their careers and finished with the responsibility of raising their families will have more time on their hands to pursue the things that they had earlier put off. Many in this group will be looking for significance and are likely to want to contribute their time, talent and treasures to meaningful causes. I see a great potential here of working with this group of alumni, as well as with our younger alumni to help the University succeed well into the future. VS: You graduated from NUS with a degree in Architecture in 1984. Was giving back — to society, to the University — something you personally thought about back then? BT: Shall I surprise you by saying yes? In 1981, when I joined NUS, cohort participation was only six per cent. We were a small, privileged group who could benefit from higher education, and so we wanted to give back. We were also from the gotong royong (mutual self-help) generation, so that sat quite naturally with me. That’s one of the reasons why I took a URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) scholarship and studied Architecture — I fundamentally believe that every human being has the right to a decent living and working space and I was keen to play a part in shaping the built environment in Singapore. But that was very short-lived. I left the field even before I really started. Even [my decision to leave] architecture to join the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), was driven by a desire to contribute back to this place I call home. I spent 20 exciting and fulfilling years with the RSAF and Ministry of Defence. When I left the Singapore Armed Forces, I had six job offers but chose NUS — I wanted to work with young people to create a future for the place I call home. Now, as I enter my 12th year of service with NUS, I’m grateful for this opportunity to work with the Office of Alumni Relations.

GIVING BACK, IN ANOTHER WAY At 10 years old, Mr Bernard Toh decided that he wanted to be an architect, beginning a diligent trek towards getting a place in the School of Architecture (then) at the National University of Singapore. After obtaining his first degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies, he spent a year working at the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The year brought about a different calling. He discovered that his calling was not to be a designer but to serve the nation. He decided to join the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as an air defender. This, he did, for 20 years serving in numerous capacities, including as Head of Air RSAF Museum Manpower at RSAF, and Director of Public Affairs at the Ministry of Defence. In April 2005, Mr Toh went from shaping young warriors to shaping young minds, joining NUS as Director of Corporate Relations, helping to organise 100 key events around NUS’ Centennial celebrations in 2005. In 2008, incoming NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan invited him to take up the post of Director (Projects and Communications), which is part of the Office of the President, a role he held until his move to the Office of Alumni Relations in July 2016. In his various roles, his initial training in Architecture has been put to good use over the past Lee Kong Chian three decades. He Natural History Museum led the team that built the RSAF’s Air Force Museum in Paya Lebar in 2000, and he oversaw the design, development and construction of NUS’ Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which was launched in April 2015. “Maybe it was karma,” says Mr Toh, who also chairs the new AS8 Building Committee, which will house the Asia Research Institute and the Asian Studies departments of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “It is rare for a person to build one museum in their lifetime. I’ve had the privilege to be involved in building two.”

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CHA N GEMA K ER community, with our fellow citizens, to really address specific issues and come up with solutions to make a better community for Singaporeans.



What does a movement like this mean to you personally?

It’s a great development. We are putting the citizenry at the centre of how we are going to do things moving forward. As a citizen, I can choose to be proactive if I wanted to, to affect and effect change, and to be a constructive member of society.


From managing talent and organising Singapore Community Day to leading the charge as deputy director at the newlyformed Office for Citizen Engagement, Mr Goh Kok Wee (Arts and Social Sciences ‘95) has always been one to champion community outreach. BY STACEY ANN RODRIGUES

While at the High Commission of Singapore in Australia, I worked on Singapore Community Day 2009, where we encouraged Singaporeans residing in the country to come over to Canberra to celebrate our ‘Singaporean-ness’. To my surprise, people actually made the effort to drive all the way from South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales… The turn out was far larger than we expected. We received feedback that some of our folks staying further away, like Perth in Western Australia, had difficulty driving over. Subsequently we organised the second Community Day in Perth in 2010. Again, there was a huge turnout. There is a sense of community among Singaporeans even when they are abroad, and we try to build on that.

We lose talent when citizens look for ‘greener pastures’, or seek to experience working overseas. Can we really bring them back?

At the end of the day, we are a very small country. How can we augment our population? We can do it through natural replacement, but birth rates here are low. Then we have immigration, which also has its challenges. The third way would be to engage overseas Singaporeans, our own stock, and get them to reconsider Singapore. One of our biggest challenges is showing


To look at things from multiple perspectives. That’s something I continue to adhere to. If you’re able to do that, you’ll have a more comprehensive framing of the issues at hand, and can arrive at a more informed decision.

them how Singapore has changed. Maybe when they left Singapore it was Version Three, now it’s Singapore Version Six — more seamless, more efficient, more globally connected than ever, and much more vibrant in all aspects. If we are already rekindling a connection through events like Singapore Community Day or Singapore Day, it may kickstart this reframing in their minds. And if they want to return, the platform and various support structures are there to help our fellow Singaporeans come back. How would you describe the Singapore citizen in Singapore Version Six?

They are globalised citizens of the world — highly mobile, very adaptable and they know what they want in life. when you interact with overseas Singaporeans, what do they say they miss about our country?

The bulk of the community that I engaged with in Australia were undergraduates studying there. They usually miss immediate family and friends, the food, the efficiency of daily life back home, and the 24-hour, round-the-clock vibrancy. We need to help them stay in touch

What would you tell new graduates of today?

to take ownership and be part of a community — for the community, by the community. What is the one big change you are hoping to see?

It would be great to see our own citizenry championing and driving certain campaigns, and taking ownership of them. Right now, Singapore is a clean city because of a battalion of cleaners. And of course, we have campaigns telling Singaporeans, please do this, and please do that. I’d like to see neighbours take the initiative to keep their own communities clean — everybody going that extra mile.

Singapore Community Day 2009 in Canberra, Australia.

with home, and ensure that they do not feel forgotten. What do you think are the aspirations of youth today?

Besides getting a job, they want a certain lifestyle and to champion certain social causes. They also want to contribute and be meaningful players in their communities. All these have to be supported. Youth genuinely like

Main Photo Wilson Pang


You have spent almost 18 years working in various divisions of the civil service. Which project do you remember most fondly?

It has been some years since you graduated. Was there anything you learnt during your time at NUS that you have taken with you through your career?

What was the idea behind the Office for Citizen Engagement?

It is the realisation that the government can’t do everything on its own. And that increasingly, we need to work together with the

I would tell them that they will need to keep an open mind to take full advantage of the opportunities coming their way. A lot of people tend to be fixated on “I’m going to do this because I studied this”. What happens if you read a discipline and upon graduation, you find you’re not that interested in it? Are you going to coerce yourself into a career because of your training? You could probably manage it in the first couple of years, but in the long run, you would not be able to carry on with passion and drive. I don’t want to discourage new graduates from following through with what they have been trained in, but their education should allow them to make more informed decisions about what to do next.



MORE THAN 300 MAPS AND PRINTS OF EARLY SINGAPORE Mr Goh claims to be a small player, but their collection includes more than 500 maps and prints, at least 300 of them on Singapore. These have been digitised by Mr Goh and his wife for sharing with the online community at DOCUMENTING SINGAPORE’S EARLY HISTORY “My interest is in documenting Singapore’s early history,” says Mr Goh. “I have always believed that knowing the past helps us appreciate the present, and better understand the future.” HIS OLDEST MAP DATES BACK TO THE YEAR


India Tercera Nuova Tavola was made by cartographer Girolamo Ruscelli and published in Ptolemaeus La Geografia in 1562, in Venice. “It’s reportedly one of the earliest ‘modern’ maps of Southeast Asia,” he says.

FACING THE UNKNOWN Map-collecting may seem like just another hobby to some, but to Mr Goh, it means so much more. “Map collecting has taught me several things,” he says. “It has taught me that boundaries are drawn by ourselves, that we need to have imagination, dare to chart new courses, and face the unknown.” JUL– SEP 2016 25

ALUMNI SCENE Past and present NUSSU Presidents, including Guest-of-Honour Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, gathered to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of the Students’ Union.




The Food Science and Technology (FST) Programme Alumni Group aims to create a relevant, enriching community for its members.




Members of NUSSU Alumni are dedicated to forging strong bonds with students, past and present as well as giving back to the alma mater.


Presentation of token of appreciation to Prof S Jayakumar, former Deputy Prime Minister and union leader, during an In Conversation dialogue.

firm believer in the merits of well-connected alumni, Mr Soh Yi Da (Arts and Social Sciences ’14) is determined to get former students to know one another. “It’s important to nurture a group of alumni champions who believe in staying connected and giving back,” he says, adding that this encourages their peers to do the same. His current role as president of NUS Students’ Union (NUSSU) Alumni — which he assumed in 2014 — allows

Join Us! Check out NUSSU Alumni’s Facebook page at To get in touch with the group, email 26

Mr Soh to do just this. On 30 July, the group will organise a homecoming and fundraising dinner at Kent Ridge Guild Hall. “We are raising S$150,000 from dinner proceeds to set up a new NUSSU and NUSSU Alumni Endowment Fund that will support needy students,” says Mr Soh, 27, who works at Singtel as a Group Investor Relations Manager. The event will be open to all former and current NUSSU volunteers. NUSSU comprises students of different faculties and CCAs, but Mr Soh says the group’s members share a common “passion to serve and to stay connected”. This is why its activities are geared towards bringing members together. Popular events include dialogue sessions with notable alumni, such as former Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar. The group is also involved in

grooming the next generation of NUSSU leaders. “We share knowledge with (new leaders) to ensure institutional continuity,” says Mr Soh. The two groups work together to organise gatherings. Mr Soh’s passion to connect young and old is not new — it was evident even when he served as NUSSU’s president in 2014 when he mooted and embarked on a massive contact tracing exercise. “Our team ploughed through our archives and compiled an extensive contact list,” he recalls. Using this list, NUSSU organised a mega-reunion to commemorate its 65th anniversary. It brought together, for the first time, three generations of students’ union volunteers and leaders from NUS and its predecessor institutions, the University of Malaya and the University of Singapore.


ince its inception in 2009, the Food Science and Technology (FST) Programme Alumni Group has sought to create a community that enriches the lives of its 550 members. To do this, the group organises talks by industry leaders, says Mr Daniel Chia (Food Science and Technology ’03), who was elected its president in 2015. Sessions are designed to be innovative and professionally relevant to members. “We understand that (some members) are very involved in their careers. Therefore, recent talks were

Mr Daniel Chia (third from right), with the FST group at a Thirsty Thursdays session in April.

Join Us! related to the latest updates in food science research and trends in the halal food industry, which naturally attracted many participants,” says Mr Chia, who is currently Carlsberg Singapore’s Head of HR & Administration. Notable academics — such as Professor Shen Zuowei, the dean of NUS’ Faculty of Science — also attend the events, giving members valuable networking opportunities. The group also gets together for sports meets and various community outreach initiatives, such as a charity event to be held on the upcoming NUS Day of Service


on 3 September. This will see nearly 50 FST members ‘adopting’ an old folk’s home for the day and serving residents a nutritious meal. While the group is dedicated to forging strong bonds among alumni, it has also engaged with current students by setting up two bursaries for them in 2010. “It’s our way of supporting FST and paying tribute to the programme’s first director, Associate Professor PJ Barlow,” says Mr Chia, referring to the PJ Barlow Book Prize. The award is presented annually to top-performing and needy students.

NUS FST Programme Alumni Group’s inauguration ceremony on 12 February, 2015. A professional talk was also held on the day.

JUL– SEP 2016 27





adam Agnes Sng (Law ’84) has nominated the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law as the beneficiary of her Central Provident Fund and has also pledged her body to research and education at the University. But it was not a straightforward decision. Mdm Sng asked herself questions such as whether she should donate her organs together with her body to science or whether her organs should go toward saving other lives? If she should spread her funds so that she can help as many as possible or if she should give all to one fund to create a deeper impact? Then came the Eureka moment. “In Singapore, education is a great leveller. With a sound education, you can achieve many goals. It doesn’t matter who your parents are. When I help young students pursue their education, there is a multiplier effect when they in turn go on to help many others when they do well later in life,” muses Mdm Sng. The Law alumnus lived in four countries (Germany, Egypt, Bulgaria and Romania) in 11 years of working overseas with her German husband, who was a regional director in a not-for-profit foundation. Over the years, Mdm Sng’s travels exposed her to political and social issues, and the difficult living conditions of some of the locals in her host countries. That experience and the pockets of poverty she also saw in Singapore when helping out with community services were catalysts for Mdm Sng’s wish to contribute where she can. The integrity of an institution like NUS made the choice an easy one, as she could be confident that donations would be managed in an accountable way. Mdm Sng has very fond memories of the then relatively small and close-knit NUS Law Faculty. Although she has not worked in the legal industry since 2011, the noble profession is dear to her. With her


gift to the Law Faculty, she hopes to honour the memory of the late top criminal lawyer Mr Subhas Anandan (Law ’70). “I met many inspiring professionals and had the privilege to work for a few members of the Judiciary who left an indelible impression on me. They not only have a superior intellect, but also great humility and compassion. Mr Anandan was a champion of pro bono work and a firm believer of fair representation and giving everyone a second chance,” says Mdm Sng. The former Singapore MDM AGNES SNG Chinese Girls’ School student is now back home in Singapore with her husband, and works in administration. “I remember schoolmates who had to work to finance their studies, and yet many of them achieved very good results. Students like them should have the opportunity to fully enjoy all aspects of university life without worrying about finances, wherever possible. That is the other factor that motivates my contributing,” she says.

When I help young students pursue their education, there is a multiplier effect when they in turn go on to help many others when they do well later in life.

FOR IVY TSE WING MAN (BUSINESS AND ENGINEERING ’11), receiving the Lee Kong Chian Global Merit Scholarship as a National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate opened up a world of opportunities and gave her the freedom to discover the passion that would shape her future career choice. The Scholarship – established from gifts from the Lee Foundation and awarded to individuals who demonstrate academic excellence, all-roundness and leadership qualities – gave Ms Tse the opportunity to throw herself into the many activities on offer at NUS outside the academic programmes. In her Third Year of study, she got into the NUS Student Exchange Programme and spent a semester at the University of Waterloo in Canada. The experience was one she will never forget and she believes all students should have a chance to spend time overseas and broaden their horizons. “Beyond immersing myself in the culture and seeing the world out there, travelling is also a process of selfdiscovery,” says Ms Tse. Throughout her time at the University, she played an active role in community service, serving in several stints including the Sheares Hall Voluntary Corp, NUS Rotaract Club, NUS CSR Student Movement and also led a team to Laos under the NUSSU National Volunteer Action Committee. Ms Tse’s community engagement work at NUS allowed her to ignite her passion for helping young people to discover themselves and realise their potential. This led to her career switch from the corporate world to a role in the not-for-profit sector in 2012. Today, Ms Tse is the CEO of the Halogen Foundation Singapore, a local charity with a focus on transforming young people through leadership and entrepreneurship education. “My previous job in the corporate world had a great culture and challenging work environment. However, when I reflected on what I wanted to devote the next few decades of my life to, it became really clear that purposeful work had to be at its core.” she shares. She recognises that the financial support from the Scholarship played a big part in supporting this pursuit for passion. As Ms Tse explains, “The Scholarship helped tremendously in relieving me of obligations such as repaying my study loans upon

Ms Ivy Tse (back row, centre) with Halogen Foundation Singapore staff.

graduation. I do not think I would have made that same leap so freely if I had financial obligations.” As someone whose life path has been shaped by the generosity of others, she feels strongly in giving back to society. “I think giving needs to be a mindset that comes from within. It is a mindset that allows us not to fear that we have less by giving, but to embrace the notion that sometimes ‘giving up’ might actually enrich our lives and yield abundance. We need to stop seeing giving as sacrifice but consider it as a way of living — who we choose to be, what we stand for and our relationships with one another.”

We need to stop seeing giving as sacrifice but consider it as a way of living. MS IVY TSE WING MAN

JUL– SEP 2016 29

TAKING HER MISSION GLOBAL Ms Garza, who is single, has spent nearly two years at Instiglio working on projects in Colombia, Chile and India, helping organisations to achieve and sustain greater impact. Based in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, she focuses on developing the Performance Management Practice for these organisations, coming alongside to empower and equip them. “Recently, I spent two and a half months in India, working on the Educate Girls Development Impact Bond, to help improve education for 18,000 children in Rajasthan,” she says. “Educate Girls is using data to improve the impact of its programme, which not only shows that we can do more to reduce poverty, but that, more crucially, we’re getting better at it.” She relates an encounter that further fuelled her mission. “I spent eight weeks in rural Pakistan for a project on empowering women through the dairy supply chain. In Pakistan, most of the milk comes from small farms where women do most — if not all — of the work. As the country’s dairy sector grows, there is a big opportunity to empower these women.” During a focus group session in rural Punjab, Ms Garza met a girl who had to walk two hours daily to her school and who topped her class. “She said she wanted to prove to


Bridging the GAPS Ms María del Mar Garza (Masters, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy ’14) is dedicating her life to making poverty and gender inequality a thing of the past. BY THERESA TAN


from it,” she says. Ms Garza put her learning to practice after that, working with the non-profit organisation MAKAIA in the city of Medellin, where she consulted for different social programmes to help improve their impact. Though inspired by the hard work of thousands of organisations in improving the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, Ms Garza found herself overwhelmed by the size of the challenge. “I realised that I needed specific skills and knowledge to drive the impact I wanted to see,” she says. This led her to enroll for a Masters programme at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) in the National University of Singapore. NEW PERSPECTIVES At LKYSPP, Ms Garza says she got much more than she signed up for. “I found a hands-on multidisciplinary programme and excellent faculty that could give me the exposure and tools I needed and yearned for,” she says. “What I wasn’t expecting was such a diverse student body, from which I got what are probably the most meaningful lessons of my time in Singapore. I still stay in touch with many of them.” During her time at LKYSPP, she co-founded a student group called Bridging GAP (Gender and Policy), which promotes the inclusion of

women in policymaking. The group’s continued good work is now her legacy. She says that she was driven to do so by her belief that “we all deserve better, and that women specifically face unique circumstances and challenges that need to be considered in policymaking and everyday life.” “Bridging GAP is today one of the most active student groups in LKYSPP. They organise events such as panels, study groups, and movie screenings. I couldn’t feel prouder of the work the subsequent batches of students have done to continue and fulfill its mission.” After she graduated in May 2014, Ms Garza immediately joined her current company, Instiglio, in Colombia, where she is now a Senior Associate. “At Instiglio, my colleagues are a diverse group of passionate individuals who work to improve the impact of social programmes in developing countries by tying funding to results,” she explains. “By doing so, we are shifting the sector’s mentality away from traditional development funding — which focuses on activities and inputs — and refocusing it on impact. Our vision is to ensure that every cent spent on social services has the greatest possible impact on the lives of the 2.4 billion men, women and children afflicted by poverty.”

ABOVE Ms María del Mar Garza with school girls in India while working on the Educate Girls Development Impact Bond.

Photos courtesy of Ms María del Mar Garza

IT WAS DURING HER UNDERGRADUATE YEARS in Colombia that Ms María del Mar Garza started on her journey to alleviate poverty and gender inequality. But her motivation and drive stemmed from way before that. “Ever since I can remember, I have deeply felt the unfairness of poverty and the fact that we are not doing enough to fix it,” says, Ms Garza, 29. “Coming from Colombia, a developing country, I’ve always been shocked by the fact that some people have so much while others have so little,” “I took classes on Economics, Political Science and International Relations, searching for answers for the world’s most pressing problems,” says Ms Garza, who is of Mexican and Colombian descent. After graduation, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Asia Pacific Studies Centre at EAFIT University in Colombia, drafting reports and articles for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Trade and international organisations. These papers covered how Latin America could work with Asia to promote economic development. “During those two years, I learned about how public policies shape development and affect the lives of millions; I also became familiar with Asia and the many things the world stood to learn

people in her village that women can be as smart, and even smarter, than men. Her words humbled me. I am not sure if I would have completed my education, if I had to walk two hours every day,” says Ms Garza. “It also opened my eyes to how hard women all over the world struggle to prove themselves. They shouldn’t need to do so, just to have access to the same opportunities as men, and this inspires my work.” What drives her is the dream that women have the freedom to choose what they want to become. “Many women would like to go to school but are not allowed to. Others would like to work but they have to stay home to take care of the children or elders. Others would like to be CEOs or presidents but aren’t given the opportunity to hold leadership roles. I wish every woman has the freedom to choose what she wants to be, and that institutions such as family, government, and private sector conspire to make that happen.” She has helped to achieve a lot, but for Ms Garza, much still remains to be done. “So long as we can still do better in development and policy, I want to continue working towards more effective poverty reduction. I haven’t thought about what my indicator of success is — perhaps it can be measured by the number of lives that are changed, thanks to my work.”



I am a big believer in the power of education, but we must emphasise the content and not just the quantity of education. PROFESSOR ALAN KRUEGER


L IFTIN G THO UGHT L EADERS HI P As of January 2016, U@live, our guest speaker series, will showcase global thought leaders. Hosted by Alumni Advisory Board member and veteran TV presenter Mr Viswa Sadasivan (Arts and Social Sciences ’83) at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House, the 1.5 hour session will also be streamed live on the U@live website. To register for future U@live events, visit


Professor Alan Krueger explores this complex global phenomenon through an economic lens, yielding interesting results. OF ALL THE SURPRISING INSIGHTS members of the audience gleaned at the U@live session featuring Professor Alan Krueger, perhaps most revelatory was that those who commit terrorist attacks are often not who we think they are. A widespread belief holds that perpetrators of such violent acts are uneducated and impoverished people who are driven to do so out of anger at their economic plight. But Prof Krueger said, “People who engage with terrorist organisations are disproportionately from highereducated, higher-income families.” This and other findings are detailed in his book, What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the

Roots of Terrorism (2007), which adopts a rational, evidence-based approach to understand terrorism. Prof Krueger is the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, USA and former Chairman of US President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers (2011–2013). For the past 15 years, he has brought his expertise in econometrics — the use of rigorous statistical analysis to test economic models — to the field of terrorism. EDUCATION MATTERS In his study on Palestinian suicide bombers and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants, Prof Krueger observed that most recruits come

from middle-class, collegeeducated backgrounds. He also looked at data from Gallup polls and public-opinion surveys, and noted that the educated in Middle Eastern and North African countries are more likely than the uneducated to argue that suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan are justifiable. That said, letting the poor and uneducated remain in their predicament is not the answer to stopping terrorism. “I am a big believer in the power of education,” he said of its potential to lift people out of poverty and enable upward mobility. “But we must emphasise the content and not just the quantity of education.” Instead of focusing solely on technical knowledge in areas such as engineering, for instance, he recommended combining it with moral education. Prof Krueger paid special emphasis to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) during his talk, given the rapid rise of this militant group in recent years. “Most foreign fighters who join ISIS are from countries with high GDP per capita… [and] where refugees have not been assimilated,” he said. The latter in particular highlights the need for governments affected by the ongoing European migrant crisis to create policies that integrate

refugees into the fabric of society, rather than isolating them from the rest of the population. Such policies, it is hoped, will deter foreign fighters from joining ISIS and from carrying out terrorist attacks after they return to their home country. To illustrate his point, Prof Krueger pointed to Germany as a good example: “Income inequality has risen dramatically in Germany over the last decade, yet the number of terrorist attacks has declined.” This, he reasoned, is largely because of the government’s generally favourable treatment of foreign immigrants. CONQUER YOUR FEARS If lack of education and income disparity are not contributing factors to terrorism, asked U@live moderator Mr Viswa Sadasivan, then what is? Prof Krueger responded that terrorists are motivated by geopolitical concerns, which — however illegitimate they may appear to most people — are valid for that group. In the case of ISIS, its objective is not to improve economic conditions, but to get rid of perceived “infidels” and gain territory to establish a Muslim caliphate. In reality, terrorist organisations rarely achieve their stated goals. But they do succeed in another aspect: making

us afraid, which brings into play the psychological motivations behind terrorist activities. “I define ‘terrorism’ as an attack that is meant to create fear among a particular group of people,” said Prof Krueger. Targeting a group rather than an individual creates the impression that it could happen to anyone, amplifying our fears. Statistics show, for example, that children are much more likely to die from drowning in a swimming pool than be killed in a terrorist attack. Yet it is the latter that raises more fear, which in turn causes people — including public officials and the media — to overreact. Already, reports have surfaced in the United States of airplane passengers being forcibly removed from flights for merely speaking Arabic. To prevent such overblown fears, Prof Krueger advised those present to think clearly and keep things in proportion. “Terrorism only matters, in a big way, if we let it,” he cautioned. When asked by a member of the audience whether terrorism can eventually be solved, he acknowledged the intractability of the problem. To reduce the incentive for people to engage in terrorism, its impact must be curtailed. “The best we can do [to combat terrorism] is to remain sober or rational, use our resources [such as employing airport security screeners and gathering counterterrorism intelligence] to minimise threats, and comport ourselves well and not overreact,” he said.

BY WANDA TAN Prof Alan Krueger spoke on 25 May 2016.

JUL– SEP 2016 33



BEMA SUPPORTS DIVERSE CAUSES ON CAMPUS AND IN THE COMMUNITY Through its annual fundraising activities, the Building and Estate Management Alumni (BEMA) has been supporting NUS in various ways — from the establishment of the BEMA Bursary, Book Prizes and Scholarships, to giving towards University Town and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum with donations close to S$260,000. Beyond the campus, BEMA has donated close to S$235,000 to the North West Student Support Fund and the North West Food Aid Fund over the past nine years. Together

MEM alumni and friends learn all about tea cultivation.

For their overseas fellowship event, Master of Science (Environmental Management) (MEM) Alumni opted for eco-tourism and headed to Cameron Highlands in March along with family members and friends. Non-profit organisation, Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (REACH), briefed the group on development issues in the Highlands — and got the group to wade into two fresh water streams at the foothills of Mount Berembun to net tiny bugs downstream. These bugs act as bio-indicators of varying pollution levels in streams. The main sources of pollutants in the waterways are

Netting water critters as part of a biological water quality study. 34

chemical pesticides, fertilisers and other harmful waste, indicating that a number of farming operations in Cameron Highlands are health threats, to people as well as wildlife. REACH monitors pollution levels regularly and works with the authorities on preventive measures. MEM Alumni donated cash, solar-powered lamps and an MEM dissertation book to support REACH. The trip reminded the group that learning to care for the environment can bring fruitful benefits to people and nature.

Macro invertebrates act as pollution bio-indicators. BY MALLIKA NAGURAN (Design and Environment ’13)

The group with REACH after a stream investigation in Cameron Highlands.

with the efforts of other corporate and community partners, the two funds benefit 3,000 needy students yearly and an average of 1,300 needy households monthly. The donation provides educational-related assistance and support to needy students through the provision of tuition, stationery, book vouchers and financial literacy workshops, as well as food aid in the form of food vouchers, food rations and tingkat meals to needy households. Dr Teo Ho Pin (Building ’85), President of BEMA and Mayor

of North West District says,“To build a caring society and a better Singapore, I hope to encourage those who have benefitted from our system to contribute back and give generously to the less-fortunate and the vulnerable in our society to strengthen our social infrastructure. This is something that I have been advocating, promoting the spirit of philanthropy and a culture of giving back.”

BY ONG YEN PENG (Design and Environment ’02)

WELCOMING NEW CHAPTERS AND BEGINNINGS IN KOREA The NUS Business School and the Global Alumni Network Office welcomed their newest alumni chapter at the Grand Hyatt Seoul in Korea on 30 April. More than 70 alumni, students and former faculty members including Professor Chang Sea-Jin (Lim Kim San Chair Professor), Professor Lee Inmoo and Professor Chung Jaiho came together for the NUS Business School Korea Alumni Chapter installation. Professor Prem Shamdasani, Academic Director of the UCLA-NUS EMBA and APEX MBA (English) Programme, flew in specially for the occasion. Chapter Chairperson Mr Park Jaewoo (Business ’07) shared how he set up an account on popular South Korean web portal Naver to provide a common platform for Korean alumni and students to connect with one another. Ten years on, the account is still

going strong and continues to grow in membership. “Back then, I was one of two Korean students in my cohort,” he said. “With the new chapter, I look forward to organising more exciting and meaningful events for my fellow alumni.” As part of the installation ceremony, members of the Chapter Committee were presented with a token of appreciation, chapter flag and pennant. A video screening of NUS Business School’s 50th Anniversary Homecoming Celebrations brought on loud cheers and the evening’s festivities ended on a high note with a congratulatory video that featured well-wishes from NUS Business School staff and faculty members. The specially produced “Walk Down Memory Lane” video also brought back fond memories of campus days for many alumni.

Toasting to a wonderful start for the NUS Business School Korea Alumni Chapter.

The inaugural NUS Business School Korea Alumni Chapter Committee. JUL– SEP 2016 35



CHINESE STUDIES ALUMNI ASSOCIATION 15TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION The NUS Chinese Studies Alumni Association celebrated its 15th anniversary on 19 March. The celebration kicked off with a talk by world-renowned scholar of Chinese literature, Professor Leo Lee, at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House. The NUS Office of Alumni Relations sponsored the event by providing alumni participants with attractive door gifts. Chaired by Professor Kenneth Dean, Head of the NUS Department of Chinese Studies, the event received a lot of positive feedback from the attendees. As part of the celebration, a dinner was held at the NUSS Della and Seng Gee Guild Hall for 300 alumni and dignitaries, including Guest-of-Honour, Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Manpower Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong (Arts and Social Sciences ’82).



The annual Scholars Programme Alumni Network (SPAN) Get-Together organised by the University Scholars Programme (USP) was held at the Marriott Singapore on 19 February, in conjunction with the Lunar New Year celebration. About 100 USP alumni, students, faculty and staff came together for an evening of memories and great company. The evening began with the new Director of USP, Associate Professor Kang Hway Chuan, and the new Rector of Cinnamon College (USP), Ms Euleen Goh, giving their welcome messages. Thereafter, the USP office also shared on how alumni can contribute back to the USP community. The alumni were also informed of the upcoming inaugural USP Homecoming to be held on 13 August as part of the Kent Ridge Alumni Family Day, organised by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. JUL– SEP 2016 37



WRITING A NEW CHAPTER IN INDIA To engage NUS Business School’s India-based alumni, the Global Alumni Network Office (GANO) recently organised a series of events beginning with the launch of the Bangalore Alumni Chapter, NUS Business School’s first alumni chapter in India, on 24 February. This was followed by two dinner gatherings in Hyderabad and Kolkata on 26 February. The Bangalore Alumni Chapter Installation Dinner, held at the Oberoi Bengaluru Hotel, kicked off with a welcome address by Dr Prem Shamdasani, Associate Professor of Marketing and Academic Director of UCLA-NUS Executive MBA and APEX MBA (English) Programmes. Dr Shamdasani acknowledged the commitment and contribution of the alumni in Bangalore towards raising NUS Business School’s branding and image in India. He also congratulated them for building a cohesive alumni community and successfully launching

the first alumni chapter in India. The Bangalore Alumni Chapter was officially installed with the handover of the Chapter Plaque by representatives of the School. Mr Rahul Tadimalla, President of Bangalore Alumni Chapter, announced, “One of our responsibilities is to be the advocate of NUS Business School in India, and the link between GANO and India-based alumni.” He added that the Chapter committee will focus on strengthening the brand equity of NUS at large, as well as facilitating social and professional networking among NUS alumni across faculties and geographical locations. Before returning to Singapore, School representatives from GANO and the Dean’s Office hosted an informal dinner gathering in Hyderabad on 26 February. Mr Rahul Tadimalla also attended the dinner and shared his committee’s plans on community engagement in Bangalore. In Kolkata on the same evening, Professor Ravi Jain played host to the

Making Mentoring Our Business

The NUS MBA Mentorship Programme kicked off its latest mentoring cycle, and brought together students and alumni to exchange knowledge, insights, ideas and experiences over drinks and dinner. Current mentor Titus Yong (Business ’00) highlighted the two-way nature of the mentoring relationship and shared that “the mentor-mentee relationship should be symbiotic, not parasitic. While mentors can introduce mentees 38

Business School’s alumni at Chinoiserie in the Taj Bengal Hotel, with the support of Alumni Representative for Kolkata, Ankita Singhania (Business ’10). The dinner marks the first time the Kolkata alumni have come together.

to internships and opportunities, mentees can introduce new technologies and potential business contacts to their mentors and even share their overseas experiences and cultures if they are not from Singapore.” Mentor Anson Dichaves (Business ’09) emphasised the importance of a good mentormentee match in sharing experiences and networking. “My mentee and I both come from an engineering background and have worked in the same company before,” he explained. Fellow mentor Kwok Lih (Business ’06) echoed these sentiments, “I want to reach out to the younger generation. With more than 20 years of working experience, I have contacts that I can introduce to them.” Mentees also benefit immensely from the programme as they glean valuable insights from their mentors. “I’ve been mentored before in other settings and have seen how it can help me in my career,” said mentee Michael Chang. Fellow mentee Tomoyuki Shigeta agreed, “I’m considering running my own business in the future so it’s helpful to build relationships with mentors as they have more insight and industry experience.” Experienced mentors like Tan Boon Chin (Business ’03) are encouraged by the positive feedback. “Although it’s not my first time mentoring, I enjoy this aspect of giving back to the Business School and mentoring young people,” he enthused.

After and numerous attempts to get together, the Class of 1975 from the NUS Faculty of Dentistry finally held their 40th Anniversary Reunion this year at Fraser’s Hill, Pahang, Malaysia from 4 to 6 March. Of the batch of 35 graduates, 21 of them from Canada, Australia, Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia attended the reunion. There was a buzz of excitement and emotions as old friends sighted each other — some have not met for as long as 40 years. During the trip, the group shared the ups and downs of their lives over the years, as well as stories of their diligence, perserverance and enterpreneurship. BY DR JAMES LEE MOH KIANG (Dentistry ’75)

Workshop on Project Management

On 17 March, the Engineering Alumni Singapore (EAS), organised a project management workshop for students from the Faculty of Engineering, in collaboration with the NUS Centre for Future-ready Graduates (CFG) . Co-hosted by the President of EAS, Dr Nian Jialiang Victor (Engineering ’07) and Vice President, Mr Seah Kwang Leng (Engineering ’94), the workshop is one of EAS’ initiatives to connect and contribute back to the Faculty of Engineering, and to instill the spirit of volunteerism among the students. The workshop received overwhelming response and the trainer was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm and participation. After the workshop, EAS shared with the students on the value of contributing back to school.

Class Reunion Reminisce. Reconnect. Reunite.

Do you reminisce about your university days? Would you like to reconnect with your classmates? Reunite with them in one of the following ways: Joining or forming an Alumni Group

Attending OARorganised events

Planning for a class reunion?

Call us at 6516 5575 or email We would like to hear from you.


China Film Festival 2 Dates

| 10 – 12 October 2016


| 8pm

Venue |


cnff2016 / t n e v e / g s . u d e . s nline at al

gister o Please re



Only You 11 Oct (PG)

Wolf Totem 10 Oct (PG13)

Ballet in the Flames of War 12 Oct (PG13)

Free Admission Organised by:


中华人民共和国驻新加坡共和国大使馆 Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Singapore


An Invitation to All SPS Alumni


To commemorate the 20 th anniversary of the Faculty of Science’s Special Programme in Science, an Anniversary Dinner will be held on Friday, 28 October 2016 with NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) as Guest-of-Honour. For more information, please contact Andreas “Andrew” Dewanto (Science ’01) at 6515 2817 or

Shaw Foundation Alumni House, Auditorium




The NUS Nursing Alumni, and staff and students from Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies co-organised a Career Management Forum for the graduating class on 17 February. This forum was introduced as part of the Year 3 core module Contemporary Nursing last year. 12 alumni from different nursing backgrounds formed two panels comprising six members each. Each panel addressed questions regarding typical or atypical nursing career paths, and questions submitted by students prior to the forum. Students gave the feedback that the forum helped them to understand the latest nursing opportunities, and to better prepare and plan for their careers in nursing.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY TRENDS On 31 March, the Engineering Alumni Singapore (EAS) organised an industrial seminar in partnership with the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) at the NUSS Suntec City Guild House; a second joint event between EAS and IChemE. The seminar was well-attended by members of EAS and IChemE, and special industry guests. The speaker, Mr Antonio Della Pelle (Managing Director of EnerData Singapore) gave a broad picture of the global and regional trends on energy consumption and actual energy efficiency implementation results. He also showed the expected outlook on energy efficiency penetration and presented a few case studies covering different sectors. BY DR NIAN JIALIANG VICTOR (Engineering ’07)

Forging ties and building business through food The Food Science and Technology (FST) Alumni Group organised a series of talks conducted by alumni on business in the food industry. Over 80 alumni gathered at the University Hall on 6 May to network and re-connect during the event. They also gained new perspectives on being an entrepreneur in the food industry and picked up new ideas from recent market trends. Ms Dewi Hartaty (Science ’03) shared on the rising trends of the halal market and how companies can take advantage of this wave. Ms Verleen Goh (Science ’10) related her journey as a food entrepreneur and inspired alumni to use their training to venture into new business opportunities. Associate Professor Huang Dejian from the FST programme talked about his experience as a businessman translating his research into consumer products and services. Young alumnus Mr Sean Tay (Science ’14) felt that the event was educational and helped him to understand more about new food industry trends. He said, “Hearing stories about entrepreneurship inspire me to want to start something and to contribute to the society”. Dr Liu Mei Hui (Science ’03) added that “with the network that we maintain through this alumni group, we have the advantage of tapping on the expertise and experiences of our fellow alumni to start new businesses in the food industry.” Mr Daniel Chia (Science ’02), President of the FST Alumni Group, welcomes FST alumni to connect with the group and said, “Whether you are in the food industry or not, you are welcome to attend our events which appeal to a broad range of professions. We care about helping our alumni develop both personally and professionally as they will always be part of our big family. Come and make new friends and re-connect with old ones.”

Sponsored by:


JUL– SEP 2016




Hong Kong Overseas Chapter Gathering The NUS Hong Kong Overseas Chapter held a reunion dinner on 15 April at the AVA Restaurant Slash Bar, Hotel Panorama in Tsim Sha Tsui, that boasted 270-degree views of Victoria Harbour. Approximately 120 alumni and their spouses, and special guest Singapore Consul-General, Mr Jacky Foo attended the gathering organised by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR) in collaboration with the Hong Kong Overseas Chapter. The event (which included a dinner) provided an opportunity for Hong Kong alumni to network with one another. The event began with welcome remarks from Chapter Chairperson, Mr Tang Kin Ching (Computing ’07). Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Director of OAR also shared the latest updates from the University and encouraged alumni to come together and create a strong alumni community in Hong Kong.

LONDON OVERSEAS CHAPTER GATHERING The NUS London Overseas Chapter held a gathering on 23 April at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in West London, organised by the Chapter’s Chairperson Dr Tan Peng Guan (Dentistry ‘70) and his committee. The event was attended by 90 alumni, and graced by NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (Medicine ’83) and the High Commissioner of Singapore to the United Kingdom, Ms Foo Chi Hsia. The gathering facilitated the reunion of many old friends and meeting of new acquaintances. During the event, Prof Tan shared thoughts on his recent visits to various research laboratories and their cutting-edge

projects. He spoke about the areas that NUS and other institutions and universities are currently working on, and where NUS stands as one of the top universities in the world. The updates were very well-received by the guests. Late into the dinner, guests were treated to two wonderful and heartwarming songs sung by Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences ’72), Director of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations. Before the night ended, exciting raffle prizes kept many on their toes, especially the top prize of a Singapore Airlines return ticket to Singapore.

Thursday, 13 October 2016 1pm Shotgun, Raffles Country Club, Lake Course


Chill Out! Admission is FREE

Goh Chok Tong

Venue: Shaw Foundation Alumni House Auditorium Time: 7.30pm Register at:

28 july


18 august


29 September



Guest-of Honour: Emeritus Senior Minister

In support of NUS Alumni Bursary Endowed Fund which provides financial assistance to needy students. For enquiries, please contact Mr Chua Sin Chew at or 6516 5005

Prize Presentation Dinner

For enquiries, please contact Mr Delon Lim at or 6516 5769.

7pm, NUSS Kent Ridge Guild House Organised by:

In collaboration with:




Enjoy Adonis Chlorophyll Facial, 1st Trial at S$58 (Worth S$180). W: AdonisSingapore

Your complimentary AlumNUS Card entitles you to a host of benefits and privileges! Get your complimentary AlumNUS Card at We welcome alumni business owners to come on board as our AlumNUS Card merchant partners. Drop us a note at and make an exceptional offer to fellow alumni.


1 year National Geographic Magazine (12 issues) at S$48, Free World Map [newsstand: S$110.40] 1 year National Geographic Kids (10 issues) at S$44 [newsstand: S$75] 1 year National Geographic Little Kids (6 issues) at S$32 [newsstand: S$45] 1 year National Geographic Traveller (6 issues) at S$40 [newsstand: S$55.20] W:

Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay

Enjoy 10% off when you sign up for the Esplanade&Me White Card. W:

The Tiong Bahru Club

15% off total club food bill (min S$20 spend). Enjoy Happy Hour All Day. W:

Giovanni L

Enjoy 10% off total bill. W:

Seattle Pike Chowder Enjoy 10% off total bill. W: seattlepikechowder

S$39 for 75 mins award-winning Phytopeautics Everlasting Face Care (worth S$288). W:

Blow+Bar Natural Healings

S$38 for Spinal Check, Postural Analysis & Chiropractic Adjustment. W:

Enjoy 15% off à la carte hair services. W:





Consultation, Scaling & Polishing @ S$89 nett. DIY Teeth Whitening package (includes 1st Consultation, Scaling & Polishing) @ S$490 nett. In-office Teeth Whitening (includes Consultation & 4x15-min Bleaching Cycles) @ S$998 nett. W:

One free trial class on the below listed programmes: • Kapap Executive/Youth/Ladies Personal Protection Programme • Anti-bullying. Anti-kidnapping classes for kids • Piloxing – the revolutionary workout of the year • Submission Grappling/ Catch Wrestling W:

Sentosa Islander


Additional one month for Islander Individual Membership. (U.P S$25/year) W:

Outlet by Club 21

Additional 10% on top of prevailing discount. W:

Glacier Yogurt

10% off all purchases. W:



The Fullerton Hotel Singapore

10% discount for all beverages or enjoy 3 complimentary toppings. W:

20% off prevailing best available rates inclusive of breakfast for 2 persons at Town Restaurant. W:

Gifts Less Ordinary Star Cinnamon

2 cinnamon rolls for S$4.50 (Enjoy 10% off). 3 cinnamon rolls for S$6 (Enjoy 20% off). W:

Pies & Coffee

10% discount off total bill OR 50% off sliced cakes with 2 savoury pies or brunch items purchased. Birthday Month Special: Enjoy 20% discount off whole cakes. W:

S$10 off minimum spend of S$50 storewide purchase. W:

10% off membership package. W:

Benjamin Barker Peperoni Pizzeria

10% discount on à la carte items for lunch menu. 15% discount on à la carte items for dinner menu. W:


50% off first signature drink. 10% off total Chaiholics food bill. W:

It’s Just Lunch

25% off regular-priced shirts. 50% off suits. 10% off accessories. 10% off menu items at The Assembly Ground. W:

Hotel Kai

15% off à la carte lunch and dinner menu at Bistro Kai. 30% off best available rates for hotel rooms. W:

Terms & Conditions apply. The NUS Office of Alumni Relations and the AlumNUS Card merchants reserve the right to amend the terms and conditions governing the offers without prior notice. All information is correct at press time. Visit for the latest privileges and promotions.




“The networks and connections made with course-mates, peers and How did an NUS education prepare them for professors have working life? Recent alumni share their views. been crucial in growing I started my digital my business. journalism career at Yahoo, When I am then moved to Channel stuck with NewsAsia. My double major an issue or in New Media and English need advice, Literature has helped me I still turn bring a blend of creative to my former and analytical thinking to my lecturers and journalism work. All that essay-writing in university was also perfect course-mates.”

to Workplace

practice for what I do now on a daily basis.” JUSTIN ONG, 29, Digital Journalist (Arts and Social Sciences ’12)

CLOVIS TAN, 27, Senior Officer, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (Computing ’14)

FU YONG HONG, 27, Entrepreneur, Vegetarian Eatery GreenDot (Business ’14)

An education in NUS forces you to be resourceful, as you work through projects, papers, and so on. It prepares you for what goes on in the corporate world. You will never be able to singlehandedly take on every challenge, so being resourceful allows you to tap on platforms of information, resources and people who may have the expertise, experience and knowledge you need. I’ve also learned to be daring and not be afraid to experiment.” MICHAEL REECE RANASINGHE, 26, Management Associate (Arts and Social Sciences ’15) 46

My education and extra-curricular activities at NUS have prepared me for work in a team-based environment. I am also able to see the bigger picture and think out of the box when it comes to solving problems. Having been in the workforce for some time now, my advice to others is to always look on the bright side.”

NUS Pharmacy equipped me with the clinical knowledge and critical thinking skills to prepare and evaluate the use of prescribed medication at the hospital where I work. The various team-based learning opportunities at NUS have also helped me function as a better team player in a multidisciplinary healthcare team.” JASON QUEK, 28, Pharmacist (Science ’13)

ON A NEW HIGH NUS places 17th in the world in the

“My first job was as a Digital Product

Manager at Singtel. I then landed in entrepreneurship, working with two startups before joining DBS Innovation, where I am now working on a programme to train millennial talents to have an entrepreneurial mindset. My education in NUS pushed me to the limit as I strove to excel and this has made me very resilient — something you need to be in today’s tough job market. Through a Technopreneurship minor, I was also exposed to design thinking and new product creation, which have come in helpful in my current role. ” JOAN CHEONG, 27, bank associate (Computing ‘12) 27, Bank Associate JOAN CHEONG, (Computing ’12)

2015 Global Employability University Ranking — a ranking that measures how universities perform on producing the best “ready-for-work” graduates. This was an improvement from 2014 when it ranked 39th. NUS is also the only Singapore university among the WORLD’S TOP 20.

Median salaries for GRADUATES in 2015 rose to a new high of S$3,300, up from S$3,200 for the class of 2014, according to the results of a joint graduate employment survey of 10,028 full-time, fresh graduates in November 2015 by the three universities – the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University.

NUS graduates took home a mean salary of $3,469, about 4.3 per cent higher than the 2014 batch.

JUL– SEP 2016 47


Life’s a stage



JU LY T O SE PT E M B E R 2 0 1 6

eing a Theatre major has taught me that it is never a waste of time to pursue what you’re genuinely interested in. Theatre Studies (TS) was one of the smallest majors in FASS. Many people thought TS majors were idealists who would end up living in cardboard boxes – this was even a running joke among TS majors! I loved learning in TS. Every module made me thirsty to acquire more knowledge. I was definitely anxious over my future (as) I knew (after graduation) I would be a freelancer, unlike other students from other departments who might already have a job lined up. But I wasn’t fazed. Now as a fully-fledged arts practitioner, I can see the fruits of my labour.”

JULY 2 JUL (SAT) BUKIT TIMAH HOMECOMING 2016 5.30pm, Upper Quadrangle, Bukit Timah Campus Register at event/BT16 Enquiries: Ms Josephine Chng at


“ I re a l l y challenged

M YS E L F AS A N AC T R E S S when I played Sylvia from Tribes and Feng San Niang in Liao Zhai Rocks. Working on these roles expanded my world view by leaps and bounds. For Sylvia, I had to learn sign language and get into the mind of a deaf person. For Feng San Niang, I had to re-acquaint myself with Mandarin, and as it was a period piece, to shed my modern outlook on life to transform convincingly into my character.ˮ




I can transform into other people and identify with their struggles and triumphs as an actress, and I equally love exploring my own life and thoughts as a singer-songwriter.”



and growing exponentially. There are many things going on, from major plays and musicals in big venues, to small workshops and experimental works in intimate venues… I feel very privileged to be a part of it.” 48

.Dates to Remember

28 JUL (THU) MOVIES ON THE HOUSE FAST & FURIOUS 7 (PG-13) 7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at event/MMjul16 Enquiries: Mr Delon Lim at


18 AUG (THU) MOVIES ON THE HOUSE THE MARTIAN (PG-13) 7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at event/MMaug16 Enquiries: Mr Delon Lim at

SEPTEMBER 3 SEP (SAT) NUS DAY OF SERVICE Register at event/DOS16 Enquiries: Mr Casper Heng at

29 SEP (THU) MOVIES ON THE HOUSE THE INTERN (PG-13) 7.30pm, Shaw Foundation Alumni House Register at event/MMsep16 Enquiries: Mr Delon Lim at

5.00pm, NUS University Town Register at event/KR16 Enquiries: Mr Delon Lim at

NUS PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION ACT (PDPA) As of 2 January 2014, in line with Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, you may indicate your preference for receiving marketing messages from NUS on your Singapore telephone number via the various methods. If you wish to make changes to your preference, you can update at

As of 2 July 2014, in view of Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), the NUS Office of Alumni Relations would like to inform you that NUS will continue to engage you as an alumnus through the following ways: • Providing you information about the University and alumni-related initiatives and activities. • Sending you invitations to NUS and alumni-related events. • Requesting you to update alumni information. • Sending you invitations to participate in alumni surveys. • Sending you alumni-related communication collaterals. If you wish to withdraw your consent to be contacted, please visit

All information is correct at time of print and is subject to change without prior notice. Ms Ethel Yap is currently working on an upcoming single, Beautiful, with a view for an EP release. She is also working on a short film about racism in Singapore, featuring the life experiences of Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo (Arts ’56).








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