Address By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President Of Singapore University Of Social Sciences, SUSS Scholarship Award Ceremony, 16 August 2019
Good afternoon students,
Distinguished guests, and
This is a happy occasion. I hope we are all in celebratory mood, and looking to meeting some very talented and well-deserving SUSS students as they come forward to receive their scholarship awards.
Talking about scholarships, I cannot help but think back twenty, thirty years ago, and earlier, about scholarships then. In those days, scholarships were at times the only way a bright student from a poor family could get university study with good pocket money, all tuition fees paid. Or get to university overseas. There were more eligible applicants than there were scholarships – it was rather competitive.
Today, if we were to scan the Scholars supplement in the news-media or websites of organisations giving out scholarships, we will see many attractive offers. Yet, for some years, there are more scholarships than applicants wanting them. How circumstances have changed.
But, does that devalue the scholarships, including the ones SUSS is giving out today? I don’t think so. I hope you agree with me.
Materially, a scholarship may mean a small windfall for you, the recipients. It can also mean pride of achievement, and recognition of distinct worth. The standards we use in awarding scholarships are high; besides academic achievement, we look for people with other qualities like purpose, openness, tenacity. And few are chosen each year - out of our pool of about 13,000 students, we received about 166 applications. And after a rigorous review and selection process, we are according scholarships only to 16.
I am sure your family members and loved ones are proud of you.
But, it surely means more than money, pride and recognition. Let me cite three other implications:
- Within yourself, a pressure has built up.It is to uphold your pride in getting the scholarship and continue to do well in your studies.You should be elated now but you will feel the weight of needing, wanting, to excel in your programme.
- We have put our faith in you.We’ve screened you and selected you, we are rooting for you, and we trust our judgement is right.To honour our confidence in you is an added weight you will gladly bear on your shoulders, I hope.Your family and loved ones, and the donor of your scholarship, will have that hope, too.
- You will carry the name of an SUSS scholar – it is written in your academic record.You will display the ‘Head, Heart, Habit’ characteristics like all our other graduates, but, I hope, you will be among those who display these traits more than their peers.You will apply your knowledge well, you will learn with passion and perseverance all through your life, and most of all, you will have a passion for the good of others, a heart for those who are in lesser conditions than you.And, for a start, I hope that as you succeed in your studies here, you will volunteer to help your peers who may be struggling with theirs.And then, go serve the greater good of society.This is a mark of a true SUSS scholar.
Like the saying goes: “To whom much is given, much will be required”. I believe you are all up to it, because as I reviewed some of our scholar profiles this year, I am much inspired by your stories. And, there is a common thread - of the strength of “tenacity” in each of your experiences. The drive to overcome your personal challenges, may they be financial, health, family, disappointments, grief and loss of loved ones.
Take the case of Melissa Tan. Melissa is currently pursuing a Master in Non-Profit Management with SUSS. She has had an accomplished career in the finance and insurance sector. Through her volunteering experiences both locally and abroad, she rekindled her passion for the social and non-profit sector that was previously drowned out by busyness and her full time work. She is now aspiring to bring her commercial experience along with the more structured learning and exposure from the Masters programme with SUSS to consider a new career switch (or “adventure”) into the social service and non-profit sector. She is a sterling model of someone who is purposeful, tenacious and open! And a shining example of what a SUSS student should be.
To our donors who are here with us today, on behalf of SUSS and our students, we deeply appreciate your generosity and support. As our students learn, society benefits. We are confident that as a recipient of an act of kindness, our scholars will also learn to pay it forward in the future. These are the ripples we want to create as a community.
Finally, congratulations, SUSS scholars, and my best wishes to you in your studies in SUSS. We will be watching you, with care, encouragement and much expectations!