SMU to help students design their own purpose-driven education

Singapore Management University president Lily Kong said the university is exploring the idea of getting a small number of committed students to define their mission at the end of the first year of studies.
Singapore Management University president Lily Kong said the university is exploring the idea of getting a small number of committed students to define their mission at the end of the first year of studies.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - University students are usually asked to declare their majors at the end of the first year. But Singapore Management University is looking at getting its students to declare their life missions.

Newly installed SMU president Lily Kong, who announced the move on Tuesday (Feb 12), said the university is exploring the idea of getting a small number of committed students to define their mission at the end of the first year of studies.

The renowned social, cultural and urban geographer who took over the helm from Professor Arnoud De Meyer last month explained a student might want to pursue sustainable business and economic practices, or be passionate about addressing the issue of social equality.

The students will be guided by the faculty mentors to build a resume with the right mix of courses, research and internships that will enable them to fulfil their mission.

She said the university has already launched several inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary programmes to cater to students' career interests and will continue with the momentum.

Programmes include politics, law and economics, and smart city management and technology.

Professor Kong also touched on another initiative that SMU has embarked on - to ensure that all its students head abroad.

She announced that SMU students can look forward to more global exposure opportunities with the set-up of Global Centres around the world, starting with the Asean region, in cities such as Bangkok, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta.


Newly installed SMU president Lily Kong said the university has already launched several inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary programmes to cater to students' career interests and will continue with the momentum. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Of the 1,775 SMU students who graduated in 2017, 87 per cent had at least one form of global exposure activity during their time at the university, and 55 per cent had two.

She said the centres will be SMU's "footprint in these cities", helping to seek out the opportunities, coordinate and curate the university's activities, including coordinating student internships, innovation immersion and community service projects.

They will also be the base for SMU to offer executive education programmes and skills training to corporate companies around the region. The centre will facilitate the research link-ups for SMU professors and help SMU connect with its growing alumni in the region.

"Together, the Global Centres have the potential to contribute to our international presence and form a network of centres which SMU can leverage to raise our profile, engage, cooperate with and build relations with global communities," said Prof Kong.

Not forgetting SMU's role in Singapore, she said the university will strengthen and deepen its partnerships with various industries. The partnership models can be "varied and bespoke", she said, with the possibility of even housing some companies on SMU's city campus to benefit the corporates, academia and students.

She added that as "Singapore's only university in the city", SMU also endeavours to contribute to thought leadership and ideas, as well as to be a place in the city where compelling and relevant ideas are being discussed and debated.

With this in mind, SMU will launch City Dialogues to engage the broader community in discourse on topics that matter to the "city", such as reducing inequality and remaking the economy.

Prof Kong also officially announced the appointment of its new Provost and Dean for the SMU School of Social Sciences (SOSS). Provost-Designate, Professor Timothy Clark, will take office from April 1, while SMU SOSS Dean-Designate, Professor Chandran Kukathas, will join the university from July 1.

Prof Clark is presently Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Social Sciences and Health) at Durham University where he overseas 11 departments representing a broad range of disciplines, including sociology, archaeology, the business school, the school of government and international affairs, the law school, and sport and exercise sciences.

Prof Kukathas heads the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).  He also serves as the Chair of Political Theory in the Department of Government.

Prior to his appointment at LSE, he has taught at the University of New South Wales, Oxford University, Australian National University and the University of Utah.