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Speech By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat At SIM University Convocation Ceremony 2010

Speech By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University, At SIM University Convocation Ceremony, 9.30am On 6 October 2010 At SIM University


Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports;
Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chairman and Chancellor, SIM University;Members, SIM University Board of Trustees;
Graduands, parents and families;
Distinguished guests, colleagues and friends;
Ladies and gentlemen;


  1. Good morning and welcome to the SIM University Convocation!

  1. This convocation will see the biggest cohort yet of our students graduating – a total of 1,482 over four ceremonies – including the inaugural batches of graduands from the undergraduate programmes in Counselling, Social Work, Business Analytics, IT & Business - ERP, General Studies, and Master programmes in Environmental Science, Social Work and Taxation.

  1. We, and in particular our first cohort of graduates in social work and counselling who are here in this morning's ceremony, are honoured with the presence of Mrs Yu-Foo. Mrs Yu-Foo, your ministry, the MCYS, has been most supportive in UniSIM's thrust into these as well as other areas that contribute to the social well-being of our population. We are thankful for this collaboration and look forward to an even stronger partnership with MCYS.

  1. This year, UniSIM celebrated its fifth anniversary. Five years is a relatively short time for a university. But, these were not ordinary years for UniSIM. These were pioneering, groundbreaking years of laying the foundation to establish a university that is different from the rest in Singapore – one that is uniquely dedicated to providing adult learners the opportunity to get a university degree.

  1. And in that short history, we have accomplished much. Our student enrolment has doubled from about 6,000 to some 12,000 in a span of five years. The number and repertoire of programmes, and our relationships with industry and other universities, have been greatly expanded. Our alumni membership has crossed 10,500. We have also grown in staff numbers – from just over 100 to 250, enabling us to better attend to all our stakeholders. We have embarked on collaborations with some 50 universities, government and industry players, and earned for our students the privilege of fee subsidies from the Ministry of Education – something available only to UniSIM students out of the thousands who study for their degrees in Singapore's private university sector.

  1. This year, we introduced seven new degree programmes – at the undergraduate level in Accountancy, Human Factors in Safety, Facilities & Events Management and Early Childhood Education with Management, while at the postgraduate level, disciplines included Urban Transport Management, Counselling and PhD in Chinese Language and Literature with Nanjing University. Our research has broadened to include areas that range from bio-engineering and materials to business analytics, social media and e-Learning. We forged new partnerships with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (the world's oldest and largest university specialising in aviation and aerospace), Nanjing University, University of Indonesia, the NTUC SEED Institute, the Land Transport Authority, and the Building and Construction Authority. By the end of this year, a new six-storey annexe next to this SIM HQ Building will be ready, providing additional quality space and amenities for both our students and staff.

  1. Milestones such as our fifth anniversary afford us the opportunity to look back and take stock, but also to look ahead and plan for the future. Hence, we have formulated our next five-year plan that will strengthen our education offerings and enhance the reputation and relevance of our University. A central feature is the increasing provision of e-Learning that will help us fully realise the "Quality Education, Anytime, Anywhere" value proposition for our students. A study by the US Department of Education in 2009 gives convincing arguments for e-Learning as a major mode of learning, showing evidence that (I quote) "on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction". In this plan also, our students and alumni are our most important connection to that future, and I am pleased that so many of you are with us today.

  1. So let's talk about you – our new graduates. This convocation marks a peak of your academic and personal achievements at the end of an arduous but hopefully exhilarating learning journey. Your graduation has the words 'commitment' and 'determination' written all over it. You conquered many obstacles, you had to work much harder, and exercise more discipline, than those who study fulI-time at other universities, to be that skilful juggler of career, family, social responsibilities and studies. And I'd venture that many of you couldn't have done it without your family, friends, colleagues and employers who had stood by you through those long days and nights with their encouragement and support. Let's thank them.

  1. We have many examples of students who can model such grit, tenacity and passion. One of the graduands here this morning faced three tragedies in her family in the last few years – two of them propelled her to take up the social work programme at UniSIM. She has been through a lot in life but according to her, "challenges in life will always be there. We can either thrive or die from these. It is a choice, it is an attitude." Another graduand suffers from a condition that left her wheelchair-bound. In her early days, she missed a lot of school because of long stays in hospital. That didn't stop her from living a normal life or pursuing her academic interests. Instead of self-pity, she immersed herself in volunteering at two associations for the disabled. Today, she is a UniSIM graduate and come next month, will be getting married! Another is graduating at the age of 58, topping her class, no less, showing that there is no bound to learning and excelling. These are stories that inspire and raise the human spirit to make the best of our lot.

  1. Thinking about what we do at UniSIM and what our adult learners make of the educational opportunities at UniSIM remind me of the 'American Idol' or variants of it in other countries. What do you enjoy about this show? Well, it is the entertainment, and the thrill of the chase to qualify for the grand finals. But, it is also, for me, the pleasure, sometimes surprise, of seeing people with great talent come on to the stage with the desire to make it to the finals and hopefully win. 'American Idol' is a platform where 'undiscovered talent' can be surfaced, where people from all walks of life have the chance to show just what they have to offer, to demonstrate that they not only have abilities, but also the guts, audacity and self-confidence to perform before a national audience and very critical judges. Who would have thought that the ordinary-looking and modest Susan Boyle would wow the audience and the judges on the 'Britain's Got Talent' show the way she did, and become the overall runner-up eventually. Her audition video has even been viewed several hundred million times. Do you know that after the finals, the first album she cut sold more than nine million copies in the first six weeks of release? I also watched Bianca Ryan, just 11 years old, perform at the 'America's Got Talent' contest in 2006 – such power in her voice and singing, described as 'pro' by the judges, and who eventually signed a five-album record deal with a large music studio.

  1. These just grab us, making us aware of all the hidden talents, abilities and potential, all waiting to be showcased and recognised. Our graduates are like that too – having abilities and determination that were just waiting to be demonstrated as they made it through our programmes. Mind you, I am quite sure (and I think you surely are, too) that it is much tougher at UniSIM than 'American Idol'!

  1. For UniSIM, this convocation is the end of a journey which began when we first received you as our students. It is a satisfying moment to see your accomplishments. But, it is also a beginning – a different and yet already familiar relationship with us as we welcome you as our newest alumni. Though you are graduating from UniSIM today, you are still a vital part of our community. I hope that you will do three things: (1) remain engaged with us, (2) remain connected with your fellow graduates and be a help to our students, (3) be proud of your qualification and fly the UniSIM flag well wherever you are practising, and make a positive impact on the community you are in.

  1. A university's reputation and growth depend much on how its alumni impact society and how it returns to serve its alma mater. UniSIM looks to your support in fulfilling its mission to provide opportunities for adult learners to upgrade their qualifications, knowledge and skills so that they can contribute to the Singapore society. Rise up to the challenge of making this University the centre of excellence that we all want it to be.

  1. Today is your day and you richly deserve this moment. We are confident that you will make an impact in your career and family, and be a positive influence to all around you.

  1. My colleagues at UniSIM and I wish you every success ahead! Thank you.

  1. Today, we are grateful and honoured to have Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports as our Guest-of-Honour. In 1984, Mrs Yu-Foo was elected Member of Parliament. She is currently representing the Bukit Timah Constituency which is part of the Holland – Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

  1. Mrs Yu-Foo started her career as a Senior Industrial Relations Officer with the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) soon after her graduation from the university, and rose to become Deputy Secretary-General of NTUC. She has served on several statutory boards, co-operatives and listed companies such as the EDB, SingTel, JTC, NTUC Fairprice, NTUC INCOME and the People's Association.

  1. In 1995, Mrs Yu-Foo was named 'Woman of the Year' by 'Her World' Magazine and in 1997, she was awarded the Rochdale Medal by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation. In May 2008, she was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Education by Wheelock College, Boston, USA.

  1. It is my pleasure to invite Mrs Yu-Foo to deliver her address.
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