Of Courage and Character – The Story Behind the New Sociology Scholarship

We are pleased to announce that the new SP Shotam and Sarojini Shotam Scholarship has been up in memory of Mr SP Shotam and Ms Sarojini Shotam at the FASS. The Scholarship will be awarded to students majoring in sociology, with preference given to candidates who double major or minor in social work.


The following article on the courage and character of the Shotams was kindly contributed by the donor.

This scholarship is in memory of Srirekam PuruShotam and Sarojini Shotam, who gave generously – materially and otherwise – to their families and friends, acquaintances, and even strangers who came into their orbit. S. P. Shotam was a British Subject, and passed away before Singapore attained independence.  Sarojini Shotam, born British Malayan, embraced Singapore’s independence with a glad heart.

Both of them provided all who were blessed to be connected with them with real-life lessons of courage and daring; of staying steadfast in times of immense difficulties; and of enjoying, with gratitude, the gift that Life is.

Two aspects of their lives suffice to illustrate this. S. P. Shotam was interned and suffered terrible tortures at the time of the Japanese occupation of Singapore. He survived, to live on without rancor nor bitterness of any kind.  He rebuilt his business, S. P. Shotam & Company Ltd at 12 Orchard Road.  He set up home at 21 Balmoral Road.  He loved the challenge of his work and balanced it well.  His hobbies included communicating globally via the ham radio system he set up in his home, at a time when wireless communication was relatively new.  As a member of the Royal Singapore Flying Club he would fly over his house to the delight of his children. But the war had taken its toll on him: he died five days before his 44th birthday.

Sarojini Shotam was 38 years old when she became a single mother to eight children. The eldest was in her teens and the youngest was five months of age.  She was a phenomenal role model to all who knew her.  A prime aspect of her character was understanding the power of resources which went well beyond the material.  Her home and her table – filled with the amazing food she always provided – was always open to all and sundry despite her having eight children to feed!  She glowed with an inner strength and compassion that is hard to describe. Her gentle firmness and her certitude about the Truth, came from her deep interest in philosophy and history. Nary a day went by without her spending some hours in the afternoon studying the Bhagavad Gita.

It is hard to abstract the potency of their lives in a short brief. S. P. Shotam, to give one example, was skin and bones, terribly ill and severely in pain after his internment.  His wife was not yet back in Singapore:  He had insisted she take the last boat out, with two young children.  There was to be no communication between them thereafter.  Her ship was bombed and he presumed she had died.  She, similarly, had no clue he had been accused of anti-Japanese activities, imprisoned and tortured.

But S. P. Shotam had made an impact on people that would be repaid to him at this time. Former servants returned to him to care and tend him back to life after the Japanese Occupation. Indeed, one of them had saved him from death in the ‘camp’:  he took a job there and risking his own life, surreptitiously provided him with extra food and nursed him whenever he could.  Others returned to take care of him after the occupation:  nursing him, feeding him, providing for him at a time when he was physically unable to work, hire anyone to help him, nor be fully aware of what was being done for him out of the love he had engendered among former servants. He never forgot their love and kindnesses:  a gratitude his wife shared, when she finally returned to his side after the war.  His plight was still unbearable to see, but he had survived despite all the odds.

Sarojini Shotam also had a character that drew people to her. After she passed away, one of her children had called for a taxi to take her from her mother’s home to work.  The taxi driver, a Chinese man who was mostly conversant in Mandarin, said, “Oh I know the woman who lives here.”  “My mother” she replied.  “Oh how is she?” he asked. “She passed away”.  On hearing this the cab driver, who had already driven some way off, asked to please return to her home so he could his respects to her.  She had such an impact on him that he went before a framed photograph of her, prostrated before it, and using incense sticks like Chinese joss sticks, did what devotees at a Chinese temple would do.  When asked how he knew her, he said they talked when she had used his cab, three or four times in all!

Through a marriage arranged early in their lives, S. P. Shotam and Sarojini Shotam, shared a sense of direction and purpose. They were independent of thinkers, beyond the times they lived in, and their lives provided the example of living not by what others thought and did, but with an inner compass of a Spirit within.

The recipient of this study is thus chosen with respect to sociology; preferably paired with social work. Sociology harbours a project similar to the way S. P. Shotam and Sarojini Shotam were in their thinking if the potential of its intellectual daring is recognised.  It asks questions of assumptions that are considered unquestionable and it refuses to allow one the comfort of living merely by received knowledge.  Social work underlines the importance of lived experiences connection to varied lives and a recognition that when we give generously we are also simultaneously being given in return.  Both can lead to that most amazing gift of all that both the Shotams had:  the beauty of the silence within which gave their lives that Light that this scholarship celebrates.

The Department of Sociology has selected one scholarship recipient in Academic Year 2016-17. For more details on the Scholarship, please click here.

FASS Forward to the Exams



Dear FASS Freshmen,
As we approach the end of the semester, the Dean’s Office is organising a 2-hour session next week to help you prepare for your first exams at FASS. Specially designed for students in their first year, FASS Forward to the Exams features 4 lecturers and 4 senior-year students across different disciplines, who will share their insight on how to deal with your exams in an interactive seminar setting.

If you would like to obtain first-hand study tips and advice from lecturers on how to cope with exams, this session is just for you! Together with senior students from Economics, Political Science, Psychology and Southeast Asian Studies, our very own FASS lecturers from Geography, Philosophy, English Literature and Japanese Studies will be there to share their personal experiences, study tips and exam strategies!

Format: Panel session and Small-Group Q&A

Details of Event
Date: Tuesday 25 October 2016
Time: 10am-12pm
Venue: Seminar Room B, Block AS7, FASS

Refreshment will be provided after the event.

Register HERE: http://www.tinyurl.com/fassfwdtoexams16

Due to limited places, we’d encourage you to register ASAP before it’s fully subscribed.

Contact: Lynn Seah (lynnseah@nus.edu.sg / 66013496) for more details.

ArtsConnect – Careers & Networking Event on 5 October 2016

5 October 2016
University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore

by Yang Yilin, Year 2, Yale-NUS College

artsconnect-edm-as-of-20-sepOn 5 October 2016, NUS held the inaugural ArtsConnect – Careers & Networking Event at the University Cultural Centre. The event was jointly organized by the Centre for Future-ready Graduates, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Yale-NUS College, NUS Centre For the Arts, supported by the Office of Alumni Relations and was targeted at students interested in pursuing careers in the local Arts and Culture scene. Unlike the plenitude of networking events available that are geared towards the fields of business consulting and entrepreneurship, ArtsConnect provided an unparalleled platform to connect undergraduates with the elusive and commonly misperceived Arts and Culture scene in Singapore.

Given the full house turnout for the event, it was evident that there is a high level of curiosity and concern with regards to post-graduation career prospects. The event kicked off with a comprehensive keynote address by Ms. Yvonne Tham, Assistant CEO from The Esplanade. As a veteran in the local Arts and Culture scene, she shared with us her valuable experience of working in both public and private organizations in the sector. In her keynote address, Ms. Yvonne Lim highlighted the ample and often overlooked opportunities available for graduates in the booming Singapore’s Arts and Culture sector in recent years. It is no longer a niche that attracts specifically skilled individuals, but it has also become an increasingly competitive territory which requires the inter-connectedness of a multitude of talents to sustain itself both regionally and globally. In other words, there is definitely a place for every interested and passionate individual to be part of within the Arts and Culture scene.

From left to right: Dr. Danny Tan, A/Prof Loy Hui Chieh (moderator), Ms Cystal Lim Leahey (Director of CFG), Mr. Gaurav Kripalani, Ms. Yvonne Tham, Mr. Steven Chia, Ms Sharon Tan (director of CFA), Ms. Hoon Jia Jia, and Mr Novin Ng (Director Yale-NUS)

With this new knowledge on the multitude of opportunities available, the next burning question raised by attendees during the event was “What exactly does the Arts and Culture sector look for in a fresh graduate?” This concern was well addressed during the panel discussion by prominent representatives from respective fields in the local Arts and Culture scene. The panelists included Ms. Yvonne Tham from The Esplanade, Dr. Danny Tan from Odyssey Dance Theatre, Mr. Steven Chia from Channel NewsAsia, Ms. Hoon Jia Jia from National Arts Council, and Mr. Gaurav Kripalani from Singapore Repertory Theatre. With their light-hearted and whimsical sharing, all panelists affirmed the one crucial quality they look for in a fresh graduate – passion! Given the multi-faceted and bustling Arts and Culture scene, embodying a passionate stance is essential for one to sustain and thrive with a positive attitude as he or she embarks on this journey.

After the insightful panel discussion, all panelists and attendees enjoyed light refreshments during which they had the opportunity to network and engage in more intimate conversations. Apart from the panelists, there were also other networking representatives present during the event. They included organizations and corporations such as NUS Museum, ArtScience Museum, National Gallery Singapore, National Library Board, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Checkpoint Theatre, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Centre For the Arts (CFA) and Asian Film Archives.

ArtConnect was truly an engaging and enlightening event that broadened my perspective on Singapore’s emerging Arts and Culture scene. I left with interesting anecdotes and advice from prominent leaders who have helped to shape the local Arts and Culture scene into the lively platform for creative thought it is today. The event also served as a reminder for the increasing need for young talents like us in this booming sector, which is set to grow and develop further in the years to come. ArtsConnect equipped students with the knowledge and empowered them with the passion to continue their pursuit in the Arts and Culture scene, and we all look forward to the next instalment of ArtsConnect!

Launch of Ancient Southeast Asia by John Miksic & Goh Geok Yian (Fri, 11 Nov, Level 16, The POD, NLB, 6:30-8:30pm), presented by The Singapore Research Nexus (SRN)

Professor John N. Miksic (NUS Dept of Southeast Asian Studies) and Associate Professor Goh Geok Yian (NTU HSS) will talk about their latest book, Ancient Southeast Asia, published by Routledge Area Studies, on Fri, 11 Nov, at Level 16, The POD, National Library Building.

Discounted copies of the book will be available at the launch. Seating is limited, so please register your attendance here: https://www.eventbrite.sg/e/book-launch-of-ancient-southeast-asia-by-john-n-miksic-and-goh-geok-yian-tickets-28352702697

Hope you can join us next month for the launch!

Details of the event are below and at the link above.

Launch of Ancient Southeast Asia (Routledge, 2016), presented by The Singapore Research Nexus (SRN)

John Miksic and Goh Geok Yian will discuss how they decided to structure Ancient Southeast Asia, which is organized not by modern ancient-southeast-asiapolity, nor by reference to modern ethno-linguistic groups, but by smaller geographical units corresponding to what O. W. Wolters termed mandalas. The units can be grouped in a 3×3 grid which stretches from the north tropics, to the equatorial zone, to the south tropics, and from west of the Wallace Line to Wallacea, to the area east of Weber’s line. They will also discuss relations between mainland-island and upland-lowland. Miksic and Goh emphasize trade, travel, and connections rather than isolation and independent development.

The authors will then speak on the prehistoric period, after which they will focus on the position of Singapore in the larger scope of ancient Southeast Asia. Singapore was part of a class of trading ports of the Late Classical and Post Classical eras. It was an example of early hybrid societies which appeared when Chinese enclaves developed. They will touch on the historiography of Southeast Asia and the usage of literary theory to analyse Southeast Asian oral and written traditions.

They will discuss, in addition, how knowledge of the premodern period is essential to understanding what transpired in Southeast Asia after 1600, when the book ends.

A Question and Answer Session of half an hour will follow the talk, which commences at 7pm and lasts approximately 1 hour. There will be a Registration period of half an hour before the talk begins and light refreshments will be provided (6:30pm).

Books will be available for sale from Routledge at a special discount. Payment by cash or credit card only.

Original price: S$53.20
Less 30%: S$37.30
7% GST: S$2.70
Total: S$40.00 


Registration & light refreshments – 6:30pm
Talk by John N. Miksic and Goh Geok Yian – 7pm
Q and A – 8pm
About the Authors

Professor John N. Miksic joined the newly-formed NUS Southeast Asian Studies Programme, as the Department was then called, in 1991, having taught at the NUS Department of History after moving to Singapore in 1987. He has served on the National Heritage Board and the advisory boards of the National University Museum and the Asian Civilisations Museum and has received awards from Singapore and Indonesia for contributions to the study of Southeast Asian culture. Miksic served on the board of the Center for Khmer Studies from 2000 to 2016. His current research projects include the archaeology of ancient ports on the shores of the Straits of Melaka, early cities in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Myanmar, and ceramic analysis. Miksic also manages the Department of Southeast Asian Studies Archaeology Laboratory.

Associate Professor Goh Geok Yian joined the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at NTU in January 2008. Her research interests include archaeology and early history of Southeast Asia, with particular focus on Burma and Southeast Asian mainland, world history and civilizations, classical and modern Burmese literature, and early communication, cultural, and trade networks between regions particularly those of Southeast Asia with the Indian Ocean and South China Sea regions. Her current research focuses on the study of Buddhist architecture and mural paintings of Bagan, a medieval Burmese kingdom. Goh’s other research work includes the study of early urbanization and cities in Burma, particularly on comparison made with other contemporary Southeast Asian polities and the applicability of theoretical models. She is also working on an English translation of a 20th-century Burmese novel by a well-known author, Ma Sandar.

Malaysia’s troubled Muslim-Hindu ties (Opinion, Page A26)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Straits Times

This was an article contribution by Associate Professor Syed Farid Alatas from the Departments of Sociology and Malay Studies, in which he discussed the recent incidents involving Hindus and Muslims in Malaysia that have heightened fears of a gradual erosion of Malaysian harmony. Prof Alatas opined that it is vital, for the sake of maintaining mutual respect and tranquillity in Malaysia, that the political and religious leaders continuously speak out against bigotry and violence in the name of religion.

Click here to read the article.

Should S’pore stop its red-light camera programme? (Opinion, Page A21)

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Straits Times

This was an article contribution by Dr Timothy Wong from the Department of Economics at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, in which he discussed whether Singapore should abandon its red-light camera programme as red-light cameras fall out of favour in many cities around the world. On whether red-light cameras are ineffective, Dr Wong highlighted that the appropriate metric is not the number of collisions at an intersection but the cost of collisions at intersections. He also cited a study by the NUS Department of Civil Engineering which found that red-light cameras in Singapore significantly reduce the vulnerability of motorcyclists at intersections, who are more likely to suffer incapacitating injuries or die in collisions. He opined that Singapore should not abandon the programme and that to placate concerns regarding any surplus revenue from the programme, police could dedicate such funds to other road safety programmes that would further increase traffic safety in the city.

The ‘Ask: NUS Economists’ column is a monthly series by the NUS Department of Economics. Each month, a panel will address a topical issue.

Click here to read the article.

FASS Psychology Student Mr Elvis Tan Wins National-level Singapore Psychological Society Gold Medal


We are delighted that our CDP (Concurrent Degree Programme) student Mr. Elvis W. S. Tan has snared the coveted Gold Award conferred by the Singapore Psychological Society at the national-level Student Research Awards on 1 October 2016, on the basis of his ongoing Integrated Thesis research mentored by Dr. Stephen Lim, Director of the NUS Cognition and Education Laboratory. This was a joint research venture with the Division of Cognitive Psychology in Education, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University.

The researchers comment: “Here, we explored the role of cognitive processes — global versus local processing styles — in students’ academic risk taking tendencies. Participants first read a short passage, which provided the context for their subsequent academic risk taking decisions. Following which, participants undertook the Navon’s task and attended to either global letters or local letters only, i.e., were either globally- or locally-primed. The effects of priming on academic risk taking were then assessed using a perception-based measure (Experiment 1) and a task-based measure (Experiment 2). Experiment 1 provided preliminary evidence, which Experiment 2 confirmed, that globally-focused individuals took more academic risk than did locally-focused individuals, after controlling for participants’ need for cognition (how much they enjoy effortful cognitive activities). Additionally, the inclusion of and comparisons with a control group in Experiment 2 revealed that locally-focused participants drove the observed effects. The theory of predictive and reactive control systems (PARCS) provides a cogent account of our findings. We discussed future directions and practical applications in education.”

The winning research, titled “The influence of global-local processing styles on academic risk taking”, has recently been accepted for publication in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (Impact Factor: 2.130).

Elvis shares his research experience: “Research – the notion of testing our ideas fairly and rigorously – is a truly integrative experience. The process of research is arduous, exciting, and humbling all at the same time. It has taught me to move forward with a sense of confidence and humility – not only in the field of research, but also in education and in life. Whilst research may seem like a primarily independent endeavour, this journey is fondly shared with mentors, family, friends, and eager participants. I would like to dedicate this award to the giant in my academic journey, Dr. Stephen Lim, for his dedication, guidance, and inspiration.”

We extend our congratulations to Elvis and Dr. Lim!

NUS Environmental Studies Alumni Inaugural BES Homecoming and Welcome Party for Class of 2016

Inaugural homecoming for the alumni’s was successfully organised by the NUS Environmental Studies Alumni (NUSESA) on 13 August supported by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations (OAR). The alumni had the opportunity to connect with each other including the BES Lecturers, Professor Leo Tan (Science’69), Associate Professor Victor R Savage (Arts and Social Sciences’72), Professor Matthias Roth, Dr Joanna Coleman and Dr Joseph Chun.

Prof Savage, whom represented OAR, urged everyone to meet regularly to keep up with energy of the alumni group. Prof Tan also mentioned that the alumni’s are the best ambassadors to spread the word on BES to members of the public.


Alumnus Magazine Oct-Dec 2016 Issue (Pg.35)

Sociology’s 50th Reunion

On 12 March, the Department of Sociology celebrated their 50 years of anthropology and sociology at the NUS Kent Ridge Guild House. The event started with a welcome speech by Professor Vineeta Sinha, the current Head of Department, followed by games and quizzes.


Alumnus Magazine Oct-Dec 2016 Issue (Pg.39)