Address by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat at SUSS Convocation 2021 Opening Ceremony

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Mdm Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore and Patron of SUSS

Mr Edwin Tong SC, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister for Law

Mr Stephen Lee, SUSS Chancellor

Mr Richard Eu, SUSS Pro-Chancellor

Mrs Mildred Tan, SUSS Chairman

Graduands, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. Welcome to SUSS Convocation 2021. 

Let me begin by thanking Her Excellency, Madam Halimah Yacob, for her presence and support as SUSS Patron, and Minister Edwin Tong, as our Guest-of-Honour.  We are honoured to have you here with us today.

This year, we graduate 2,593 students, of whom 2,375 have come through with bachelor’s degrees, 218 with graduate degrees (six of them PhDs) and 27 completing special executive management programmes.  Among these are the inaugural graduands from our Bachelor of Laws, Master of Management and Enterprise Leadership for Transformation programmes.  In addition to the usual demands of university studies, all the graduands have come through the COVID-19 storm, and succeeded.  Class of 2021, congratulations!

SUSS, too, has been challenged by the pandemic.  Nevertheless, the work, the striving goes on, as we must, in our spirited purposeful way to serve the present and prepare well for when we sail into a new normal.   And, we adapt.  For example, this year we held two Convocation ceremonies – one in April for our 2020 cohort and then, once more now.  Quite out of the normal.  We must recognise that we are all in the pandemic together, and it is together that we will triumph over the circumstances.

The SUSS community continued banding together to give back to society. We launched the Centre of Excellence for Social Good to boost capabilities and collaboration in the non-profit sector. Various measures were rolled out to support our students and alumni during the pandemic such as our Student Care Fund and SUSS Class Giving 2021, a student-led initiative that raises funds to help SUSS students in financial need.  The stress of uncertainty, isolation and disrupted living has affected some of our students, and we have responded with stepped-up counselling services, and we intend to do more in the future. We are proud that many amongst our students and alumni started various service learning enterprises and initiatives to help the less privileged.

Our education will evolve as we expand exposure of our students to emerging local and global issues such as sustainability, inequality, and vulnerability. These will complement existing courses on ethical and critical reasoning, the meaning of work, technology and globalisation, cities and crises, allowing our students to think beyond their professional discipline, better understand the world and its emerging issues, and work with other professionals to solve complex problems.  Our focus on adult learning will strengthen as we ramp up collaboration with the Institute for Adult Education to enable adults to have a more engaging and gainful learning experience.

Our focus on entrepreneurship continued with programmes for business leaders in collaboration with Enterprise Singapore, and start-up challenges for our students through our Alibaba Cloud-SUSS Enterpreneurship Programme and the SGUnited Venture Builder programmes.  What is the intent?  We want to create not just multiple learning pathways, but also inspire and support the creation of businesses that will provide future jobs for our people.  We want our graduates not just to get into jobs, we want many to create jobs.

But, let me turn to you, our graduands. This is your event.  You are finally at the end of your venture to win the prize of a degree; and we celebrate with you and your families and supporters.  We are always happy at convocation, when we see the fruit of our labour, sending out those whom we have nurtured and prepared for work and life as SUSS graduates.

But, let us reflect – what type of graduates is SUSS sending out? Let me touch on three aspects.

You have come through challenges, particularly in coping with the pandemic.  It was not easy. You had to attend classes and take your exams online, for instance. You persevered, overcame the difficulties, and grew stronger as a student and as a person. You adapted to an uncertain and changing environment. Well done!  My call to you is to be similarly adaptive when you face your future.  We don’t know the future, more ups and downs certainly, but you have coped well before and you can similarly adapt and thrive.

Secondly, you have done learning – self-learning, peer-learning, integrative-learning, and doing learning when there were other tempting things to do.  Don’t let this habit stop! Lifelong learning and collaboration are keys to carving out a successful career path. Learning about life makes you a wiser person, more able to deal with people and life’s circumstances. Real-world issues are often inter-connected and it is essential for you to have multiple perspectives, be open-minded and interact readily with other professionals. You caught some of these in SUSS, and you will find them useful throughout your life.

A final point – be graduates who are grateful. Gratitude is one of the values we hope you will carry with you all your life.  You were given the opportunity to earn a degree and a means to progress.  What can gratitude do to you?  You can better accept others, deal kindly with them, encourage, understand the situations of others.  And, do good.  In fact, I urge you, act on the good values that you have adopted at SUSS.  It is not what you say or hide in your hearts, but what you do that depicts what kind of graduates you are.

So, how will we, and you, measure your success? Is it merely by your academic results?  Is it by how successful you will be in your future career? Or how much of a happy life you’ll have?  Well, some of these in part. I hope your success will be much more about how you will be a conscientious citizen, someone who will give to others and uplift those in need, and who will make a positive contribution to our community.

I wish you every success.  Thank you.

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