Published on 28 Aug 2023

Convocation 2023 – Valedictorian

Photo of a female undergraduate, SCSE valedictorian.Arora Srishti, Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Science) 

My last four years at SCSE have offered me some of the most cherished memories. As soon as I entered university, I got the opportunity to participate in SCSE’s Dinner and Dance Pageant. I was neither a dancer nor a fashion model, and I was intimidated by the idea of dancing in front of my entire school. However, I agreed to participate because it sounded fun, and I wanted to test my limits. For the next six weeks, I spent about 3-5 hours every day to choreograph and practice my dance moves and ramp walk. To my surprise, I was able to pull off a decent dance performance with a couple of power moves. That day I realised that there is no limit to our potential. Our potential is everything that we are willing to practice enough.  

Back in high school, I would say coding is my hobby. I liked it so much that I would hide from parents to work on some random projects when I was supposed to study for exams. My interest in the subject was kindled by my high school Computer Science teacher. Our class had an equal number of boys and girls, and I was not aware of any gender biases. I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who encouraged me to pursue this field. However, by looking at the number of female engineers in my cohort and by interacting with several students, I realised that not every girl was fortunate like me. Even though “Diversity and Inclusion” is a major focus area for various firms and institutions today, and a lot is being done to encourage women in engineering, the efforts are often misunderstood. While hiring female employees boosts the gender ratio, being hired based on gender is not empowering and does not provide a sense of accomplishment. I spent my second and third year of university building and leading NTU Women in Tech to ensure that every girl has access to a supportive community where we can learn from each other and grow enough to reach our career milestones using our skills. Some of the events which we hosted include several networking events and technical interview preparation workshops which were attended by around 300 NTU students.  

My interest in academics was furthered when I took up my final year project with Prof. Guan Cuntai. My project titled ‘Emotion Profiling using Deep Learning’ was aimed at identifying the neural response to different classes of music-based emotion stimuli. I started with absolutely no knowledge of how the brain works, or how we perform basic signal processing, but my supervisors – Prof. Guan and Dr. Neethu – guided me throughout the project, corrected me when I was headed in the wrong direction and motivated me to produce innovative ideas. Through this project I tried something that I had never done before and worked towards creating a tiny impact in the field of mental health.

Collage photo of SCSE valedictorian - Class of 2023.

As I mentioned in valedictory speech, I have been extremely fortunate to find an amazing group of friends at SCSE. Our university experience is most strongly impacted by our friends and peers. I was an international student and spent my four years staying on campus. The pandemic forced me to stay away from my family for a couple of years, but my friends helped me stay sane. Ritik, Varun, Pratyush, Siddharth, Atul and Tejas – they became my Singapore family because they were there when I wanted to cry, when I wanted to laugh, when I wanted to talk, or when I wanted to discuss my weird (interesting) ideas. I am grateful for sharing some of my most amazing memories with this group.  

SCSE has an insane number of opportunities to offer its students (your email inbox will be flooded), it is up to us, how much we are willing to get our hands dirty with. While some students have a clear understanding of what they want to pursue (I really admire all of you), many students are unsure about their passion. I would advise my juniors to take up projects and internships in different fields and domain to get a better idea of what you like or do not like doing. Reach out to professors if you want to explore research, reach out to people on LinkedIn if you want to explore the industry and apply to every opportunity that interests you. Do not reject yourself before even applying, remember that if you do not ask, the answer is always ‘No’.  

I understand that coursework can get overwhelming at times, I have been there, and what helped me was staying curious about the topic I am studying and discussing the content with my friends. As you continue your academic journey, I hope you remember to take care of your mental health and help others in need whenever possible. This is journey which is best travelled together.  

Good luck to all my juniors! A warm welcome to the SCSE Freshmen – You have a got a long way to go, make the most of this journey.  

Interview with Valedictorian:   

Convocation 2023 – Valedictorian Speech: