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Speech By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat At The SUSS Convocation 2017

Speech By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), At The SUSS Convocation 2017 On 11 October 2017, 9.30 a.m., The Grand Hall, SUSS

Guest-of-Honour, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of Parliament; 
Professor Aline Wong, Chancellor, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS); 
Members, SUSS Board of Trustees; 
Graduands, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen;

  1. ​I warmly welcome all of you to SUSS Convocation 2017. 

Convocation 2017 

  1. This year, SUSS will graduate 2,137 students over four ceremonies. Among them are our pioneer batches of graduands from the undergraduate majors in Music Education, Sports & Physical Education and master programmes in Applied Linguistics, Business Administration and Urban Transportation.
  2. This year, we received our first students into our Law School. We started new full-time programmes in Early Childhood Education and in Business Analytics. Together with those on our other six full-time programmes, we have an enrolment now of 1,450 full-time students. This sit with almost 13,000 part-time student enrolment in the undergraduate programmes and 493 in graduate programmes.

A new chapter for SUSS 

  1. Let me congratulate our new graduates. For you, this is a special year when you finally complete your arduous learning journey with us and triumphed. For SUSS, this is also a special year, when we turned from UniSIM to SUSS, and from a private university to an autonomous university. These changes are significant. For one, the university is firmly in Singapore’s university landscape, joining the five other autonomous universities in serving our country as its national universities. Secondly, the new status brings additional resources to bolster SUSS’s effort to continually raise our quality and increase our depth of operation. Thirdly, and most importantly, the change recognises the quality and relevance that SUSS has built, and the new status enhances SUSS’s standing and that of its graduates. We at SUSS are grateful for this clear and strong endorsement.

Looking ahead–SUSS 

  1. In reality, we have been functioning as a full-fledged university since we were set up in 2005. Over the years, we have pioneered programmes, pedagogies, systems and operations that have placed us quite uniquely in the higher education space. One just needs to look at our inclusive multi-pathway admissions, our ‘only-one-in-Singapore’ programmes, our modular flexible system, our deep online and mobile capability, our value-for-money degree offerings, our applied pedagogy and our ‘head-heart-habit’ philosophy, and it will be clear what our unique proposition is. 

  2. A chapter has shut permanently for UniSIM, and a new chapter begins for SUSS. What and who we are as a university will not change essentially – we will continue to be the lifelong learning university for Singapore, inclusive, providing many applied pathways for learning and for qualification in many disciplines. Our focus is on people development and we will remain student-centric. However, in the years ahead, we will embark on twin effort in the social sciences: (1) increase our offerings of courses and programmes in the social sciences, and (2) bring elements of the social sciences, the thinking about community and social impact into every programme. In the future, while technology, big data, smart urbanisation, digital transformations make dramatic inroads into our work and lives, it is the social aspects, how these will impact on individuals and community, that will demand attention. The certainties of an exploding ageing population, the high probability of job losses and dislocations, the disorientations brought about by rapid and widespread urbanisation, the social tensions seeded by nationalistic, ethnic, religious differences – these will add urgency to the training of our graduates to recognise and deal with the social aspects. We hope that every SUSS graduate will be imbued with head, heart and habit – armed with the required knowledge, with an applied-oriented capability, a heart for others, and a habit of learning for life.
  3. Even as we make learning more accessible, we will reinforce our learning support so as to increase the success of our learners. And, we will employ analytics, online learning, digital mobile solutions and adaptive learning to make learning more personalised, more effective, more enjoyable.
  4. These support structures are important for student success also as we ramp up our effort in SkillsFuture. We have started many new initiatives with industry for continuing and professional education, many Earn & Learn and work-study programmes and we will do more to promote learning among our adults throughout their lives, modifying and re-purposing our courses for knowledge and skills refreshing all through a person’s work life and beyond.
Inspiring change, creating new perspectives – SUSS and our graduates

  1. Our theme this year is “Inspiring change – creating new perspectives”. Let me say a few words to our graduands on that theme. To inspire change, you ought to have experienced or embarked on change yourself. You, our graduands, are well-qualified to do so. You’ve gone through our programme, the grind of studies amidst busy schedules, you have adjusted your pace and way of living even, and change the way you work along the way. You can show the way to get others on this journey.

  2. But, change is not just about an action. It is an attitude, a frame of mind towards anticipating, meeting new challenges, situations, circumstances. Being able to change is a lifelong posture, and as you leave SUSS, I hope you have caught that mindset and ability to change as frequently as needed.

  3. With change, you will get new perspectives. In going through SUSS, you have deepened in your discipline or took on a new one, but you will also look at your work, your company, your professional sector in a new and different way, and you’ll act differently. You would have discovered quite a bit about yourself – a resilience you didn’t think you had perhaps, or an ability for studies that you thought you had left behind. I hope you will bring new perspectives to your workplace and to those around you.
  4. With new perspectives, you’ll make choices differently, too. To give the example of Benny Thiam, who is graduating in social work today and who was in the video you’ve just viewed: he made a choice to forget his past of drug addiction, and made a fresh start. And, in his degree pursuit, he made the choice to help those with social and personal life problems. Then there is Vijayan Suriaputhuran, today’s MBA graduate, who worked with his MBA classmates to help in the Ashram halfway house, and delivering food rations to needy families, and who has now chosen to be active in CSR. All of you will make choices – what will they be? Understandably, focus will be on personal gain, but will you do more than that? Will you choose to maintain your values at work? Keep learning for life? Lend a hand to help someone level up even at your expense? Keep community in view when you make difficult decisions? How would you choose to gain success? Justine Lee, our new master graduate in Community Leadership and Social Development aptly described success this way: “success is not measured by what you can get, but by what you can give – how you can make a difference in the lives of others”. Graduands, if you don’t remember much of what I said, do take this last thought with you.

Final exhortation 

  1. ​Class of 2017, you’ve succeeded. Congratulations! You did not succeed on your own. Many others paid a price to get you here today. Take some time to reflect – who accompanied you to success? – your loved ones, family, parents, spouses, children, friends, teachers, encouragers. They gave something of themselves for you, too. They made the choice to support you. If you are not grateful to them, then we have toiled with you in vain, degree or no degree! Let us thank them all now.
  2. Together, let us make SUSS strong and a force for good in our society. Congratulations and thank you. 

Introduce Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin 

  1. Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my privilege to introduce our Guest-of-Honour, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore.
  2. He was elected Speaker in September 2017, making him the 10th Speaker of Singapore’s Parliament since the First Legislative Assembly of 1955.
  3. Mr Tan has been an elected MP in the Marine Parade GRC since May 2011. He served as the Minister for Manpower from May 2014 to April 2015, and then as the Minister for Social and Family Development from April 2015 until his election as Speaker. When he was helming the MSF, our students in the helping professions had the privilege to interact with him on campus, gaining helpful insights from him and encouragement to do more for the social sector.
  4. Prior to his election to Parliament, Mr Tan had served in the Singapore Armed Forces for nearly 24 years. He holds a Master Degree in Defence Studies from King’s College, London and a Master Degree in Public Management from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS.
  5. Mr Tan enjoys running and photography. In 2014, he published a book capturing his travel photographs and has auctioned his prints in support of charitable causes.
  6. It is my pleasure to invite Mr Tan to address us today.​
  7. Mr Tan, please. 
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