Published on 17 Jan 2023

Redefining New Year's resolutions

Today, self-improvement has become more up close and self-directed. NTU’s Executive Director for Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving, Yap Su-Yin, shares how alumni have been making that special connection between them and the community they are a part of.

By Yap Su-Yin

Be it for our work or personal lives, here comes that time of the year when we craft new year resolutions, revise bucket lists and for some of us, truly own our goals. Recently, over the vacation break, I caught up with alumni, faculty and staff and students. Far from resting on their laurels, they are bustling with vigour and making positive things happen wherever they are. Partnering the University Advancement Office (UAO), some are packing a heady cocktail of volunteerism and infusing philanthropic rigour into NTU’s We Belong 2023.

Welcome fitness with Best Foot Forward 2023

Into its second year, the campaign hops out of pandemic-mode with its first-ever in-person flag-off of the Best Foot Forward (BFF) run on 3 February 2023 at The Wave. For the first time, NTU Runner’s Club will dovetail its “X Campus Run” with the Best Foot Forward. Warmly welcomed are students, alumni, faculty and staff who wish to enjoy a sunset jaunt around campus and round off the evening with a soirée to reconnect with one another. 

The first week of registration saw about 400 sign-ups, with Board of Trustee member, Lianhe Zaobao editor Goh Sin Teck (NCPA/2014) registering for the 7km route for the physical run, and NTU Senior Vice-President (Administration) Tan Aik Na (NBS/1993) signing up for the 3km route.

“It’s a great way to welcome the new year. Our message: Let’s stay fit and do good whilst enjoying ourselves!” said Alumni and Development Committee (ADC) Chairman Lo Kien Foh (EEE/1988), who’s leading Team ADC for the virtual run. The virtual run is on from February till end-March to raise funds for NTU Bursary Fund, School Advancement Funds and NTU Wellbeing Fund. 

Thrive sustainably

Since the first NTU Service Week last January, the momentum to continue contributing to the wider community has grown, with more than 70 service projects taking place from Singapore to Africa.

Ms Yap Su-Yin (front, 4th left) with members of the OneNTU community at an art and craft workshop for seniors from Yong-En Active Hub. 

Tana River Life Foundation in Kenya, founded by alumnus Gabriel Teo (NBS/1988), received 50 laptops refurbished by UAO, which were donated during NTU Service Week 2022. Since then, the students have downloaded study material and watched videos for concepts that they could not fully grasp from the textbooks. “Very few students have access to computers in Tana Delta, so the laptops have certainly expanded their learning possibilities tremendously,” he observed.

Led by students from NTU's environmental club, Earthlink, the NTreeU project launched their greening drive near NTU campus last August and started crowdfunding for greening initiatives. Their efforts blossomed. They have raised enough support to start planting 100 saplings to mark NTU Service Week (25 February to 4 March 2023) at its launch event.

“Our club seniors started this movement that we are taking forward, one sapling at a time, to educate, plant, advocate and make a lasting difference for our juniors,” said Elijah Goh, NTreeU Co-Chairperson, Earthlink 30th Management Committee, who is studying Environmental Earth Systems Science (Year 2).

On 25 February 2023, the launch of NTU Service Week will be graced by Singapore Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Grace Fu, and will feature NTU’s unabated efforts in serving four key causes of sustainability, health and well-being, digital inclusion and social welfare - beyond a week, beyond borders.

Encouraging fellow alumni to take the first step in giving back, Gabriel Teo said: “Based on my personal experience, I find that for service to be sustainable and fulfilling, it must be symbiotic in nature, for the party that serves and the party being served. For example, a party who gives, should receive, and the one receiving must also be allowed to give in another way. In that way, service becomes beneficial and sustainable.”

Make a difference in any way

Excelling in her studies, Dr S. Supraja (EEE/2016) received monetary awards, only to donate half back to support bursaries for other needy students. “I received many blessings, so I wanted to share and give back,” she explained. 

Dr S. Supraja treating some of the campus cleaning crew to lunch, to show her appreciation.

This philosophy extended to her work life. With her first pay, she gathered some of the campus cleaning crew for lunch. “Thanks to them, we have a clean environment to work and study. I wanted to express my appreciation.” Their delight made her entire week buzz with joy. “Ironically, I treated them one fast-food meal, but they treated me with happiness that lasted many meals.” 

To celebrate NTU’s second Giving Day on 23 March 2023, Dr Supraja will share her journey from being a receiver to a donor during the panel session at the launch event

Embrace something new

Last year during the Christmas season, UAO donated food items and held art and craft workshops for seniors who missed out on their families’ holiday plans.

Upcycled accessories and scrapbooking workshops with seniors from Yong-En Active Hub. The handmade items will be exhibited during NTU Service Week launch on 25 February at NTU’s Nanyang Executive Centre.

Among the volunteer befrienders was Nanyang Alumni Service Award 2022 recipient Aaron Chia (CEE/2007). Even for a veteran volunteer like Aaron, partnering UAO and the charity was new to him. “Come with an open mind and you realise you will learn a thing or two. I did from chatting with the elderly who shared their life experiences with me,” said Aaron, who serves as NTU CEE Alumni Association Vice-President. 

The busy executive regularly conducts first-aid and life support training at the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) Academy. He was active with the Red Cross Youth NTU Chapter as an undergraduate and met his spouse when volunteering. The couple immersed their sons in volunteering since their primary schooldays, from flag days to food packing. 

His new plan? Rekindling the NTU Red Cross Alumni Association. He advised: “Don’t be afraid to try new areas. You widen your circle of friends each time. And because you share similar values, you find good – even lifelong - friends!”

Click here for service initiatives to volunteer for.