Address by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat at SUSS Convocation 2022, 5 Oct 2022


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

Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education

Mr Stephen Lee, SUSS Chancellor

Mr Richard Eu, SUSS Pro-Chancellor

Mrs Mildred Tan, SUSS Chairman

Graduands, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me welcome all of you to SUSS Convocation 2022.

This year, we graduate 2,854 students, among whom 300 have completed our graduate and executive programmes. Among them are the inaugural graduands from our DBA and PhD programmes.  Congratulations to all our graduands.  You will join more than 40,000 who have graduated from SUSS.

SUSS has been graduating cohorts differently from traditional universities.  We appeal to a wide range of learners, from fresh school leavers to working adults and lifelong learners. We are different also in our education delivery, our strong applied curriculum and in offering some unique disciplines.  In SUSS, many find opportunities for qualification and skills upgrading to serve the economy and for personal growth.

But, we can do more, and we will.  Next academic year, we will roll out new curricula to prepare our students well for the new demands of the future economy.  There will be a major thrust in Continuing Education & Training (CET) with new relevant timely courses and learning pathways.  Together with the Institute for Adult Learning, we will raise the capabilities of adult educators and transform companies to support active learning among their employees.  We will strengthen our applied research in areas of relevance to Singapore’s economic and social well-being through new research centres.  A good proportion of our students require support academically or financially.  We will increase our effort to guide students in their studies and expand our counselling service. From next year, we will provide tuition-free education to all our students who fall below a threshold income and housing criteria – recently, Quantedge Foundation pledged $2.6M to partner with us for this purpose.  No SUSS student should be prevented from our education because of dire financial difficulties.

As SUSS grows and speeds ahead, we will have new and able leadership to steer SUSS forward.  Come 2023, Professor Tan Tai Yong will lead SUSS as its new president.  Together with our Chairman, Mrs Mildred Tan and new board members, as well as provost, Professor Robbie Goh, the new team will make waves for SUSS.  Graduands, I hope you are proud of SUSS.  Come back and continue to be a part of the SUSS adventure.

And here is a word for you, graduands.

You have not just completed a rigorous education in your discipline.  You have done it despite your own demanding circumstances, with many juggling the needs of family, work and personal challenges amidst studies.  And, doing so in the midst of the pandemic. 

Seated among you today is Amberyce Ang Xing Yee, SUSS’s first PhD graduate in gerontology. A mother of three young children, Amberyce was pregnant with her third child while on her programme and working full-time. She had deferred her studies for a semester after giving birth but managed to complete her PhD within time.

Another is Rohani Bte As’ad, who fought cancer while studying at SUSS.  She suffered from memory loss, fatigue, difficulty interacting with faculty and fellow students, and chronic anxiety.  And, she survived not only cancer, but the gruelling programme to gain her BSc (Business) degree.

Amberyce and Rohani epitomise the perseverance and resilience of our students. Armed with your degree, you will find more doors opened and more opportunities available.  Take them on with the same adaptability, determination and spirit as you had displayed in SUSS.

We salute all of you, our graduands.  You are our pride.

SUSS prepares students for a VUCA world

The pandemic brought unsettling experiences, such as work-from-home, home-based learning, interacting online rather than F2F, lockdowns and isolation.  These seem quite distant and bearable now, but there are new disturbing developments – we have got war, geo-political tensions, supply-chain disruptions, inflation, extreme weather events – and they are all coming together in a perfect storm.

Against such a backdrop, you — the Class of 2022 — will have to prepare yourselves for the challenges that will surely come your way.  But, I am confident that the knowledge and skills you have acquired in SUSS will enable you to cope – No, to prosper!

Importantly, I hope we have also imparted to you a community spirit.  You see, your education is not for you alone.  Yes, it is for your career advancement, your personal growth.  But, it is also for your employers who look to you for their growth and success.  And, your education is for your community, our society – if all of us think this way, we can uplift others and improve our society so much more.  I hope you will grow a big heart for others.

Make your next life stage count

So, make your next life stage count.  Here are three ‘C’s to guide you along: 

(1) Courage. The times ahead are uncertain.  You need to have the courage to embrace change — no matter how unsettling it can be. Be a change-maker instead.

(2) Curiosity. Keep being nosy about life and what it brings (not busybodies, mind you). Don’t cling to your comfort zones; look out. Don’t dismiss that new app or fad as something only for the next generation. You may even find something useful for yourself.

(3) Compassion. Do your best for yourselves and your loved ones, but grow your compassion for those around you. Lend a helping hand to those who need it – you will learn much about yourself in the process, and deepen your gratitude for what you have.

Your learning journey shouldn’t stop with graduation. Lifelong learning is now a fact of life, not just a slogan.  During the pandemic, I exercised by walking.  And, I saw many who did so too on my route.  Then, the pandemic lifted, and now alas, I found myself often walking alone.  I wonder what priorities replaced the heathy walking habit.  Learning is like that, I suppose; now that you have started, you’ve got to keep this great habit and make it your priority. So, I hope to see you back at SUSS soon, and often, to attend SUSS’s broad range of CET courses.

Finally, let us recognise those in your lives who have contributed to your success.  Especially your family and supporters.  They deserve your best as you start on your next big step in your life.

Congratulations again and I wish you success in your future endeavours.

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