Every year, the NUS Economics Alumni joins National University of Singapore Day of Service.
For 2020, we worked together with the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Science for the second time to host the patients of both Outram Community Hospital and Sengkang Community Hospital. The event was held online on 9th September through Zoom due to the pandemic.
The participants listened to a medley of songs, had a warm-up exercise and a round of Bingo game. All participants were given gifts. The nurses were gifted Polar food gift sets which were sponsored by the NUS Economics Alumni. The event ended with a recorded sing-along of 2 songs which were put forth by the NUS FASS community comprising of staff, students and Economics Alumni.
The event was well received from the patients, nurses, hospital staff, NUS team to NUS Economics Alumni. The alumni look forward to continuing this tradition of community giveback.
On Saturday 15 August 2020, NUS Economics Alumni created history with the biggest virtual event – Q&A Career Sharing Panel and Networking Event – attended by 101 people! A robust career sharing session by 4 outstanding alumni of Ms Rui Hua Chang (’02), Group Managing Director (Capital Markets and Investor Relations) at ESR Group, Mr KC Ho (’12), Facebook’s Sales Strategy and Operations Lead for Greater China, Mr Cliff Chew (’09), Senior Data Analyst at Grab and Ms Cheryl Heng (’18), who is an Epidemiology Team Data Analyst at Ministry of Health; and moderated by Ms Valerie Chow (’97), President of NUS Economics Alumni 2020. Followed by an online networking session to continue building ties among the alumni, staffs and students.
NUS Economics Alumni Committee organised its inaugural virtual networking session during COVID-19 Circuit Breaker period – created history as 1st virtual event. Alumni who graduated from 1980s to current, from around the world including Shanghai and Tokyo, attended the event. A fun, engaging and memorable networking.
Every year, the NUS economics alumni joins the rest of NUS in the Day of Service, and this year was no different. On the afternoon of 7 September 2019, we headed to Sengkang Community Hospital to chat with the patients, as well entertain them with games.
Sengkang Community Hospital has a variety of volunteering opportunities, including conserving and contributing to the greenery of the hospital by helping with garden activities, helping out with community events, livening up the atmosphere in the wards through a variety of arts such as music, guiding visitors and patients around the hospital, and also reading and chatting with patients. Volunteers can even play mahjong with the patients there!
After a short briefing by the hospital staff, we headed off to the wards to chat with patients and keep them company. We talked to the patients and their families, and also facilitated some activities with the patients such as colouring. We also helped to distribute some small souvenirs to the patients.
The inaugural Economics Alumni Homecoming event was held on 9 December 2017 at the NUSS Guild House @ Suntec City. Alumni, professors, postgraduates and undergraduates from the Economics department convened for reunion and networking over food. This year was particularly memorable, as it was the NUS Economics Alumni’s 10th anniversary.
Our alumni president, Ms Chang Rui Hua, warmly welcomed the = attendees of the night in her SEE opening address. She recounted the history of how the alumni committee was founded — an idea that was conceived during a dinner with her university friends — and hoped that the alumni circle will continue to grow. Ms Chang highlighted the need for maintaining the relations and friendships forged during our university days. Despite being the most active alumni in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, there is a need to continuously reach out to the alumni and encourage them to be active members. Many alumni give back to the alma mater through mentoring undergraduates and sharing their experiences in the job market with them. The NUS Economics Alumni has been active with the NUS Economics Society, co-organizing speed mentoring events and alumni sharing sessions for the undergraduates. Some alumni also provide financial support in the form of bursaries for the needy students in the Economics department. The Alumni Committee will continue working closely with the NUS Economics Society in helping the Economics undergraduates.
Following the opening address, attendees then enjoyed the sumptuous buffet dinner, accompanied by music from a live string trio. Icebreakers such as the “Human Jackpot” and the “Fashion Catwalk” were played. During the “Human Jackpot”, three members of the alumni committee played the role of symbols in a jackpot machine. To try their luck, contestants “inserted” $2 into the human machine. Contestants who won the jackpot walked away with highly sought after vouchers. Much cheers and laughter came from this game of chance.
The night drew to a close too quickly and the alumni gathered to take a group photo before bidding each other good-bye. It was a great night of bonding between the alumni, strengthening their sense of identity and spirit of the community. Many remarked that they were heartened to reconnect with their friends and are looking forward to the next event organized by the alumni committee.
The event was organised by Mr Tang Wee Lip, a member of the class of 1966 who took on the job of organising an annual get-together of that class during the 1990s. Since then, the group has been meeting at least once a year, thanks to his hard work.
Since this is the only graduating class to organise an anniversary, Dr Lee supported it as he was the honorary adviser to the NUS Economics Alumni group (it is not a separate organisation but merely a subset of the Economics Department which pays for its mailing cost, hosts the email address and allocated a staff, Diana Binte Ismail, to help out quarter or half-time).
NUS Economics Alumni was started by Mr Tan Tai Kiat, class of 2002 and myself, as a grouping of alumni interested in keeping together. The current president is Chang Rui Hua who is ably assisted by a group of volunteers making up the committee. The website is http://www.nuseconomicsalumni.com/
This class is memorable because of the changing times Singapore went through in 1966. Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 and this dislocated those in Singapore, this class of students entering their undergraduate studies when Singapore was IN Malaysia, and graduating when Singapore was OUT of Malaysia.
There were changes in the university, political landscape and external changes around Singapore.
Changes in the University
With the Federation of Malaya becoming fully independent in August 1957, the formerly known University of Malaya split into two divisions – Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Renamed as University of Singapore, we got a new Singaporean vice-chancellor, Professor Lim Tay Boh. Former appointment holders were British. The class of 1966 were the first to experience a three year honours programme. One of the reasons was accelerating the replacement of expatriate senior civil servants with local talent.
The language of instruction was English to meet the growing needs of the then British colony. Back then most schools taught lessons in Chinese, many prospective students needed to go through further language instruction in order to enroll in the new university, a big challenge to many.
Changes in Political Landscape
Singapore left Malaysia in August 1965, the People’s Action Party (PAP) split in 1961 with left wingers, mostly chinese-educated, forming the Barisan Socialis. Nationalism was strong in the 50’s, drawing strength from both the Chinese and English educated. One of the students from the class of 1966 had leftist views and was politically detained. Two other graduates became ministers of state in the PAP government.
Changes in External Landscape
The class of 1966 went through the Indonesian confrontation in 1963-65, against the formation of Malaysia which led to bombings in Singapore. There was the Brunei opposition against British rule and also escalation of the Vietnam war by the Americans. The separation from Malaysia led to building up of armed forces, disagreements over common currency and formation of National Service.
The class of 1966 became close in the face of changes, going through crises and emerging stronger. They even hold meet ups at least once every year since 1986, despite that they had an English-medium and Chinese-medium divide years ago.
Some quotes from the class book:
“Immediately upon graduation from the Teachers’ Training College, I asked to be posted to Victoria School, my alma mater. That was a fateful move. At Victoria School, I noticed that my fellow teachers who were graduates drew double my salary, or more, even though we put in the same amount of work. So, I was determined to get my degree… any degree would do. While working as a school teacher, I prepared for my “A” level exams and also saved up for my tuition fees. I worked and studied day and night and finally made it.”
“On reflection, I must say the two subject degree of Economics and Chinese had greatly held my career development. BA Degree opened doors for my employment. Economics helped me to obtain employment in banking jobs as well as understand how to do business in Singapore. Chinese studies helped me acquire business knowhow to penetrate the China market.”
Ng Kim Soon
“My economics training has come in useful in understanding international economic and financial issues in the course of my work. My foreign service experience has embedded in me a sharper sense of what Singapore’s interests are, the realities and challenges, the intricacies of power politics, and the causes for the rise and fall of nations, both big and small. To me, the legacy of a government, or for that matter, of a political leader could only be judged not by what the politicians and social media say, but by results and outcome.”
See Chak Mun
“As it was the final year we were more engrossed in our studies and research work, each going about in his own way. But the study group became more rooted with better understanding and stronger fellowship. In fact, we were more concerned with one another in respect of common subjects. We continued with collecting and sharing exam worthy resource materials. We were earnest that we all would do well and graduate together. We were more conscious of the coming final exams and less aware of the changes outside the campus. The final exams finally came and finished off. It was a great relief. We were happy not so much about the performance but that the group had emerged unscathed. Members of our group had made it, some with flying colours! The climax came when we received the scroll from the first President of Singapore, Inche Yusof Ishak. Soon we marched out of the campus to face the harsh reality outside. We had graduated with new found freedom.”
Foo Kia Toh
“The Sixties was the best time to be in college. Life was simple and promising. If the internet especially “Google” and other social media were readily available they would have influenced the way we viewed our lectures, selection of courses, library books. While it would have helped us in the pursuit of knowledge they could also have been a distraction. The world today has changed so drastically. Life has become so competitive and complicated.”
Over thirty children and family members from the Kids Integrated Development Service (KIDS) 0-3 Centre had a fun-filled Saturday morning in their visit to the River Safari on Saturday, 22 October 2016. Professors Julian Wright and Basant Kapur joined with Alumni volunteers to accompany the families to see the various wildlife attractions, including the Giant Pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia, manatees and river otters.
KIDS 0-3 Centre provides health, social and educational services for vulnerable children and their mothers. The Alumni Committee has partnered with the Centre for this trip as an ongoing effort to help our alumni give back to the wider community. Volunteers such as Harry Lim (Class of ’89) found the event meaningful and interesting, and relished the opportunity to “bring cheers to the kids on a Saturday morning”.
During lunch break, volunteers led the families in playing Charades. Children were initially shy to act out scenes in front of the audience, but quickly warmed up with our volunteers’ help, and became enthusiastic participants. Participants received shopping vouchers for their efforts, and families also received goodie bags.
Acknowledgements: We thank the Department of Economics for providing generous financial support, Denieru Tatsu F&B Holdings (S) Pte. Ltd. for providing goodie bags, and Associate Professor Alberto Salvo for donating shopping vouchers. We also thank Committee members Shen Xiaoying (Coordinator), Daniel Lo, Edwin Chen, Chua Yeow Hwee and Chan Kok Hoe for their efforts in organizing the outing.
The National University of Singapore’s Economics Alumni committee kick started 2016 – the year of the monkey with the annual Lo Hei lunch. On 20 February 2016, in the beautiful ambience of the China Club, the traditional ‘Lo Hei’ ritual, or tossing of the yusheng to invoke Chinese New Year blessings, was attended by a mix of economics alumni, current students, professors, and family & friends.
Ms Chang Rui Hua, the President of the Economics Alumni Committee, opened the event with a speech. Welcoming the guests and highlighting that the economics alumni committee will be celebrating its 10 years in 2017, Ms Chang shed light upon how far we have come and how much we have accomplished since the inception of the Economics Alumni committee in 2007.
The Lo Hei lunch provided an opportunity to the economics alumni committee to meet and mingle with five of the eight economics bursary recipients who attended the lunch. It was a pleasure to see that economics alumni scholarships were making real difference to the lives of the recipients. It was also a wonderful opportunity to understand, how better, we as the economics alumni, can add value to the experience of the current economics students.
Furthermore, the lunch was a great opportunity for networking for the current economics students. Over lunch, a lot of information and knowledge was exchanged; many current students were able to speak do alumni in professions ranging from finance to investor relations.
Overall, the two hour – luncheon session was full of comradery, joy and laughter and brought the NUS Economics family a bit closer. We are very grateful to Professor Julian Wright – Head of Economics Department, NUS for his continuous support and to Professor Basant Kapur for making the time to attend the Lo Hei Lunch. Most importantly, we would like to thank everyone who attended the lunch and contributed in making the event successful. Thank you and hope to see you again next year.
Helping undergraduates is a big part of the NUS Economics Alumni’s mission
By Chia Ee Khim
Beyond the usual bonding and networking sessions for its alumni, the NUS Economics Alumni is very much focused on supporting Economics undergraduates. Since setting it up its Alumni Bursary in 2010, three years after the group was first established, it has helped 16 financially-needed Economics undergraduates. This year, the alumni group aims to get the fund endowed – their target is to raise S$250,000 and so far they have received donations of S$170,000 in total.
The NUS Economics Alumni also has plans to expand its Mentorship Programme, which pairs a mentor alumnus with a number of undergraduate mentees. The mentor meets up with the mentees on a regular basis to give them advice on career and other issues.
Having been with the alumni group since its inception, Ms Chang Rui Hua (Arts and Social Sciences’12) hopes more alumni will step up and help Economics undergraduates, especially the underprivileged ones. “The more alumni who join us, the more people we have to help spread the cause – and it becomes a virtuous cycle,” says Ms Chang.
As for deepening the relationships between Economics alumni, the group continues to do so through various activities and two key events every year: the Chinese New Year Lo-Hei and Year-End Dinner, where old friends can catch up over a meal in a relaxed environment. In mid-February 2016, the Chinese New Year Lo-Hei will be held at China Club and previous guests-of-honour who attended past NUS Economics Alumni dinners will all be invited.
In its second year running, the speed-networking event, an informal session designed to accelerate exchange between returning alumnus and undergraduates, saw 11 mentors from a variety of industries sharing valuable career and interview advice. Amongst the industry, the banking and finance sector received overwhelming attention.
Despite candid sharing regarding the long hours behind a career in a prestigious bank, undergraduates were undaunted as they listened intently for tips to excel in the notorious assessment centre. Assessment centres have become the norm as part of many large corporations’ rigorous selection process. While many are willing to give it their all to build a successful career in the banking sector, only a handful will eventually succeed. The competitive job market also underscores the importance of interview tips and guidance from mentors. When asked about her observations regarding hiring from foreign banks, Cheryl Tan, an Economics alumna formerly in Goldman Sachs but now in JP Morgan, shared that “A major weakness of many local students is their lack of confidence. So, the key to stand out is to project your confidence during interviews”.
Surprisingly, undergraduates in their first and second year were spotted at the event. Joel Lim, a year two undergraduate was grateful for the opportunity to interact with alumnus. “I am glad I signed up. The networking session allowed me to learn so much about what challenges to expect ahead. Today’s sharing will help me prepare for my internship.”
Although every student was assigned a mentor, some students were disappointed as they were not assigned to their preferred mentors. Pius Tan, the organiser and founder of the event, acknowledged the issue. “The demand for mentors from the finance industry was overwhelming, and we tried our best to allocate each student to their desired mentors, but it is not possible to accommodate everyone,” he said. Despite demand exceeding supply, students had many opportunities to mingle with other mentors towards the end of the session. Apart from the finance industry, alumnus from other industries also provided students with a glimpse of careers in education, healthcare and civil service.
“It was not easy coordinating this event,” an exhausted Pius began, “but I am glad that all went well. I would like to thank the mentors who came down for the event, and my team for doing a great job! I hope that this annual event will continue benefitting future generations of NUS Economics students.”
This article was published in ECONews in August 2015