Published on 06 Oct 2021

Powering volunteerism

Executive Director for Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving Ms Yap Su-Yin discusses Convocation 2021, the first-ever NTU Service Week in 2022, and what volunteerism brings to the OneNTU community.

By Yap Su-Yin

With Convocation just over, what came to mind?

Family. This period was an emotional roller coaster for many families. Under the spectre of COVID-19, some families grappled with WFH, QO and enhanced health measures, while others separated due to work or further studies. More than 10,000 NTU students graduated, and the majority will join the workforce. For many graduands and their families, including some of us who witnessed the occasion, Convocation brought feelings of pride, relief, nostalgia, anxiety or anticipation. The journey to reach this milestone was hard-won.

What can our newest members of our alumni family look forward to?

Going by the career trajectories of NTU alumni, many graduates will be courted by companies. Some will build companies or even start their own. Whichever path they take, there are two valuable credentials to earn.

One concerns advancing in their chosen professions. The other is accorded by civil society, when graduates add value and contribute purposefully to it. Wherever NTU graduates grow roots, if they work in tandem with others, care for one another and value their worth, this can bring personal and professional fulfilment whatever their chosen fields.

Amongst NTU's global alumni of over 265,000, there are many role models who are successful at this. On 23 October 2021, 71 of them will be accorded the illustrious Nanyang Alumni Awards. Four will be conferred the Nanyang Distinguished Alumni Award - the highest honour for NTU alumni - for stellar contributions to their countrymen and to society at large. By studying the trials and tribulations of these senior alumni as carefully as their triumphs, our young alumni can glean valuable life lessons.

Why did you create the NTU Service Week? How can we get started?

The University Advancement Office (UAO) will be launching the first-ever NTU Service Week next January. There are compelling reasons for this.

First, the willingness to gift one's time and skills can be as valuable as donations. Volunteering presents opportunities for that value exchange, where individuals gift time and expertise. Volunteers receive a meaningful experience in turn. Such opportunities can re-kindle or enrich bonds between alumni and alma mater, educators and students, seniors and juniors. To mark NTU's 30th anniversary, we invite the different constituents making up the OneNTU community to collaborate with community partners in meaningful ways.

Second, volunteers are a lifeline for non-profit organisations. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has restricted their presence and participation. It has also added pressure points for many segments of society. As such, NTU Service Week will home in on four areas: Digital Inclusion, Health and Well-being, Sustainability and Social Welfare.

Mr Benjamin Chan and Mrs Kathleen Chan with their daughter Dominique, who recently graduated. 

Family ties - Proud parents Mr Benjamin Chan and Mrs Kathleen Chan with their daughter Dominique, who recently graduated. Mr Chan is Executive Director of Empower Ageing, where NTU alumnus Mr Alvin Wah works as an exercise physiologist for seniors. The charity is participating in NTU Service Week, 22 - 29 January 2022. (Photo by Benjamin Chan)


Third, the OneNTU community has much to offer. They can contribute skills aligned with their academic disciplines, skills or hobbies. This could take the form of knowledge-sharing to inspire young learners, such as holding STEM workshops for pupils from disadvantaged families or organising excursions to NTU's Smart Campus and iconic facilities, including a gazetted National Monument. UAO welcomes alumni, faculty and staff, and students to register as volunteers. No doubt some will go the extra mile and rope in colleagues, friends and family for a good cause.

NTU Schools and alumni are responding positively. For example, a group of volunteers from the Graduate College plans to pair up with seniors to produce artworks inspired by the elderly, whom they wish to build closer connections with.

Mind Palace, founded by School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) alumnus and President of the ADM Alumni Association Mr Eugene Soh, will use virtual reality technology to trigger recollections and conversations with people with dementia, who cannot easily move about.

NIE's Sport Science & Management alumnus Mr Alvin Wah, an exercise physiologist with charity Empower Ageing, will design exercises for seniors to do at home with their loved ones as an intergenerational activity. With these videos, participants can encourage their elderly family members to stay active.

Another opportunity where volunteers can participate is in strengthening family relationships. Nanyang Business School alumna Ms Lam Moi Kwai, who is CEO of the charity Life Community Services Society, welcomes volunteers for family-bonding activities that improve ties between parents and their children.

The list goes on. What's certain is how these upcoming initiatives demonstrate our potential to share what we have gained from a lifetime of educators. We still have much to learn from one another, as we move through the different seasons of our lives. As NTU progresses, how we grow closer, care more for, and age gracefully as OneNTU family, will be a mission worthy of putting our heads and hearts together for.

To register your interest to volunteer, please fill in the form here.