A very warm WELCOME to all Students!
On behalf of all our professors, researchers and administrators, I warmly welcome all you, our freshmen (yes, our graduate students included) and all seniors returning to a new academic year!
As many of you may already know, student experience at our University – learning within and beyond the curriculum – is guided by our vision of NTU Education. Together, we aim to create a special learning environment with emphasis on five core values:
We want NTU students to learn to become women and men of good character – taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and having personal regard for others.
We want our students to “learn to learn” – mastering competence in specific disciplines, always acquiring and creating new knowledge.
We want our students to learn the art of communication – leading, and working with, team members collegially, and conveying ideas effectively to others.
We want our students to learn to approach challenges with creativity – striving for betterment, taking risks, learning from failure, combining insights from different disciplines, and devising innovative solutions.
We want our students to learn and practice civic-mindedness – making use of one’s competence, communication skills and creativity not just to improve one’s own life but also to improve the world around us.
Character, competence, communication, creativity, civic-mindedness – now you might ask, what’s so special about these five ‘Cs’? These are clichés! Every great university would have such ideals or values in its vision or mission statement.
Indeed, but let’s take ownership for our own university – what do we want for NTU and for NTU students and graduates? Do we really believe in what we say we want? Do we practice what we say?
And when I say “we”, I also include all our students. What do students want to become? Do students – together with our professors, researchers, administrators, really believe in what we say we want? Do all of us practice what we say?
You see, it is often said that good teachers produce good students. In reality, students are the ones who learn to question, who are curious about the world around them, who try out new things, who take ownership for their learning, who are responsible for their actions, who give something of themselves to others. It is these students who bring out the best in university teachers and administrators, who help make a great university, and not only the other way around.
With this in mind, permit me to share with you some valuable lessons that we have learnt from NTU students and alumni:
1. Making the most of university life
Your personal and collective effort in making the most of your university years will determine your benefitting the most from your university experience. This is a special time for making a transition from earlier years of education. Perhaps even unlearning what you have learnt before, and learning new things in different ways. This is also a precious time for personal development. Doing things that you never imagined you could ever learn to do – and making new friends, friends who are partners in your learning experience, some of whom will remain “friends forever”.
As university students, you are not passive consumers of education, you are not customers buying a degree and demanding customer satisfaction, you are not clients who are served by consultants telling you the solutions. At NTU, we say, and this is what makes NTU special: together with professors and administrators, you are the co-owners, co-drivers, and co-creators of your own student experience.
At NTU, we like to say: “We bring the best out in each other”.
2. Learning to live and work in an internationalized, multicultural environment
Our diversity in terms of nationality, ethnicity, culture, and discipline is one of NTU's greatest assets. As students who will work in globalised settings, make the most of the internationalized environment at NTU and in multicultural Singapore. Why wait till you graduate to discover what it means to live, work and thrive in such an environment when you can do this every day on NTU campus, learning from students, professors and staff of diverse backgrounds, and learning to respect each other and to cooperate with each other to achieve common goals?
At NTU, although we have so-called International Students and Local Students or International faculty and Local faculty – coming from more than 100 countries, we are all striving to become internationalized, with our perspectives enriched, and even challenged, by constant interaction with each other. Every day, we are learning and improving our “intercultural competence”, which is so crucial in a cosmopolitan – but far from inclusive or harmonious – world.
We ask all students who are Singaporean citizens and residents to offer their support to our international friends as they make their transition to living in Singapore. During your years at NTU, you will have the opportunity to live and learn in other countries, experiencing what it is like to be a newcomer in a new environment. Perhaps, you may wish that the residents there welcome and reach out to you. To our students from abroad, we ask you to step out of your own comfort zone, and interact with students from other different nationalities and cultural backgrounds.
3. Learning to exercise leadership in an interdisciplinary and vibrant campus
University learning is not about the passive transfer of knowledge from teacher to student; it’s about the active creation of new knowledge by respecting and questioning what has been achieved by those who have come before us.
At NTU, learning beyond the curriculum involves grappling with all kinds of issues – from ideas for improving campus life to global challenges related to environmental sustainability. NTU graduates are working in multidisciplinary teams and leading professionals from diverse backgrounds. Interdisciplinary learning and leadership training begins in NTU! Yes, you are encouraged to take up General Education courses and venture beyond your Major. You will also discover new horizons by engaging with other NTU students in your Halls of Residence and in student organizations, such as the Students’ Union and the many clubs and societies in areas such as culture and the arts, welfare services, and sports and recreation. So, get involved – and have fun!
One special feature of today’s NTU is that student leaders, as representatives of their fellow students, are being consulted about many areas of campus life. For example, students are represented in the university-level budget meetings, and they are consulted about the design of new academic buildings and hostels and the improvement of campus facilities and services. This also means that student leaders have to be prepared to think through issues in a more rigorous way and to be able to engage with the student body and with the university management in a constructive and effective way.
At NTU, we steer away from a passive culture of complaint; we are building a culture of active engagement. Many areas of university life must and can be improved, and we need to do this together by coming up with the best ideas and turning them into reality.
4. Learning to keep healthy in body, mind and spirit
University life is filled with opportunities for personal development. In making use of such opportunities, students face many challenges related to academic progress, relationships, family responsibilities, living arrangements, time management, financial needs, and part-time work. Some of you may encounter unusual obstacles, become discouraged or feel unable to cope. In such instances, peers, faculty, staff and counsellors are here to offer advice and support.
This is the thrust of NTU’s “campus community approach” to student wellbeing, in which all members of the university community have a role to play in advising and supporting any of you who may be going through a difficult phase in life. In addition to professors who offer academic guidance, pastoral care managers and administrators in each School help address problems faced by students. You are also welcomed to have a word with our counsellors and specially trained student peer helpers, who will always offer a listening ear. Our Student Wellbeing Centre, and its team of counsellors, not only works closely with School staff and student peer helpers, but also organizes talks, training sessions, and other activities that help you to learn to make the most of university life.
5. Learning to serve
University students have a privileged status in any society. A meritocratic system places primary emphasis on personal success based on individual talent and hard work. However, “no individual is an island”! An individual lives and thrives among others and in relation to others. One’s success in life can also be attributed to social factors such as family, school, community and public support, including subsidised university education.
NTU Education emphasizes civic-mindedness as one of our core value in our students and graduates. Our University has publicly dedicated itself to nurturing creative, socially responsible and entrepreneurial leaders. Hence many NTU students are involved in public service or community engagement projects on and off campus in Singapore, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. In addition to “giving back something to society”, our students are engaged in “learning by doing” – learning by going beyond the formal curriculum by actually doing things and working with people from diverse backgrounds. This also builds character and collegiality, draws on disciplinary knowledge and interdisciplinary collaboration, develops organizational and communication skills, and sharpens the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.
NTU – Who are we? What do we want to be?
As a faculty and Associate Provost (Student Life), I have had the privilege of learning from, a great many NTU students over these years. I have often been asked about the best characteristics of NTU students. Through the students and alumni that I had interacted with, here is a list of easy to remember adjectives. NTU students and graduates – ideally and in reality – are:
Passionate… idealistic, we can change the world.
Pioneering… resourceful, we welcome new challenges.
Positive… constructive, we make things better.
Proactive… hands-on, we find practical solutions.
Persistent… determined, we don’t give up.
Persuasive… credible, we lead by example.
And in learning and working together, we – students, alumni, faculty, researchers, and administrators – take personal responsibility for our actions. We cultivate personal regard for others from different backgrounds. These precious qualities are all part of our NTU Spirit.
Make the most of your years at NTU, and enjoy your university Life!
Assoc Prof Kwok Kian Woon
Associate Provost (Student Life)
Nanyang Technological University