Department of Social Work Honours its First Alumni Award Recipients

Three distinguished alumni from the Department of Social Work – Ms Koh Wah Khoon, Dr S Vasoo and Mr Udhia Kumar – were the inaugural recipients of the Ann Wee NUS Social Work Alumni Award.

The Awards were given out on 22 September 2015 at an event held in conjunction with the annual Appreciation Tea for the Department’s Field Educators.

The Award, launched at the Faculty’s 85th Anniversary Dinner celebrations in November 2014, recognises alumni who have made major contributions to the social work education and practice.

It was also affectionately named after Mrs Ann Wee, the longest serving Head of Department of Social Work, who has inspired many with her selfless contributions to the sector. Dr Rosaleen Ow, Head of Department of Social Work, says, “the award is for alumni with a similar spirit to Mrs Wee who ‘serves without seeking rewards, give without seeking recognition’, in their work for more than 20 years.’”

One of the recipients, Ms Koh Wah Khoon, Senior Director at Singapore Children’s Society Family Service Centre (Yishun), dedicates her award to the people she has had the pleasure to work with namely Singapore Children’s Society, other social service practitioners, donors as well as supporters.

On her hopes for the social service sector in Singapore, Ms Wah Khoon acknowledges that social problems and sufferings will always be present in the society.

Despite that, she hopes the “social service sector would keep its ears to the ground so as to stay relevant to the changing needs of our people. That social service practitioners remember that social work is the gift of self, involving person to person transactions in order to bring about desired outcome for our clients.”

Dr S Vasoo, Associate Professorial Fellow at the Department, shares his sentiments about the sector as well. In essence, he feels that there is a need to adopt a more preventive and developmental approach while dealing with client populations as there is a tendency for social workers to take on a remedial approach instead.

“Such an orientation does not help to deal with the prevention of human breakdown,” he says.

He suggests that “It will be cogent for our human service professionals to help individuals and families to be inoculated with good human values, social skills and to be encouraged to acquire relevant industrial skills.”

Additionally, contributions can be more effective when more helping hands are involved in community development and community building.

Lastly, the current social work curriculum should be strengthened to equip trainees with invaluable skills such as the ability to anticipate social issues and problems to ensure a more dynamic social work profession.

“In understanding and analysing these aspects, they can develop a clearer sense of service direction for their organisations and make in-roads into areas where there are potential needs to be met and take proactive steps to tackle them,” he says.

Mr Udhia Kumar, Executive Director at Thye Hua Kwan Family Service Centre @ Tanjong Pagar, looks forward to more respectful sharing sessions with the Southeast Asian region and beyond.

“We should propagate or come up with our own indigenous models to uplift the community as the social service sector in Singapore is truly a unique one. We can share this knowledge or approaches with other nations who need not necessarily emulate us but adapt the approaches in a way that best benefits them. Likewise, we can also learn from other nations and I look forward to more of such sessions in the future,” he says.

The celebrations concluded with an Appreciation Tea for the field educators. Certificates and acrylic awards were also presented to various field educators and organisations for supervising students at the Department. Click here to see the full list of recipients.

Congratulations to all the winners!

129 (Alumni Award Recipients)
Inaugural Ann Wee NUS Social Work Alumni Award Recipients 2015 (From left to right; Assoc Prof T C Chang, Ms Ang Bee Lian, Ms Florence Neo, Mr Udhia Kumar, Ms Koh Wah Khoon, Dr Vasoo S , Dr Rosaleen Ow, Mrs Ann Wee and Dr Peace Wong)


182 (Field Educators - Individual Recipients)
Assoc Prof T C Chang and Dr Rosaleen Ow with individual awardees for their dedication in field education


Assoc Prof T C Chang and Dr Rosaleen Ow with Organisation Representatives
Assoc Prof T C Chang and Dr Rosaleen Ow with organisation representatives for the organisations’ continuous support for field education

Dr. Stephen Lim wins Appreciation Award at NUS Sports Awards 2015

Dr. Stephen Lim, NUS Sports Awards 2015 Awardee
Dr. Stephen Lim, NUS Sports Awards 2015 Awardee

The NUS Sports Awards 2015 Ceremony was held at the University Town on 25 September 2015, graced by NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost Professor Tan Eng Chye.

We congratulate our Assistant Dean, Dr. Stephen Lim, for being one of only two recipients of the 2015 Supportive Staff Award. In addition to meeting and guiding FASS Sports Scholars regularly, Dr. Lim inspires and empowers student athletes beyond his classroom and research lab.

Dr. Lim comments: “In my view, holistic educational experiences are important. My wish is for FASS and NUS students to excel not just academically and in student-led research, but also in such areas as sports, the performing arts, and community work. I particularly wish, on this occasion, that many more deserving students will come to benefit from the NUS Sports Scholarships and Grants. I look forward to continually contributing towards NUS’s educational landscape in as many diverse ways as are within my capacities.”

Congratulations again, Dr. Lim.

CNM offers new online Public Relations Specialisation programme for public through Coursera

Singapore, 14 September 2015 – The National University of Singapore (NUS) will introduce a new online specialisation programme in Public Relations for Digital Media. Designed for those who are keen to pursue a career in public relations in a digitally transforming global landscape, the programme is the University’s latest massive open online course (MOOC) to be offered through Coursera, a leading online leaning education provider.

The programme, which is offered by the Department of Communications and New Media at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, is the first online specialisation programme of its kind to be offered globally on Coursera. The programme will be made available online via the Coursera platform from 15 September 2015.

NUS first announced its collaboration with Coursera as a partner university in February 2013. The University currently offers two MOOC courses via Coursera – Write Like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music Composition and Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues By Plato.

Professor Mohan Dutta, Head of the NUS Department of Communications and New Media, is leading the new specialisation programme with Assistant Professor Iccha Basnyat and Dr Tracy Loh. With many years of experience in research, innovation in practice, and experimentation in cutting edge theorising of communication processes, especially in a digital media framework, this team of academic experts will emphasise theory-practice linkages through examples and real life problems drawn from across the globe.

Prof Dutta said, “The nature of Public Relations is rapidly changing, with the democratising role of new communication technologies in facilitating participation and engagement. This Specialisation course captures the Department’s core strength in leading the global conversation on drawing the theory-practice bridge. Moreover, the Specialisation depicts our continued innovations with new technologies as frameworks for delivering learning in globally accessible and culturally meaningful forms. Through this Specialisation, we hope to add to our continued contributions to the industry in leading the conversation on the practice of communication for cultivating a sustainable and just future.”

The Public Relations for Digital Media Specialisation programme

The new Public Relations for Digital Media Specialisation programme is specially designed to cater to individuals who have limited access to public relations education and who are keen on becoming public relations practitioners, including undergraduate students and professionals in other fields. It is also targeted at public relation practitioners who would like to delve deeper into theory practice conversations.

The 16-week certification programme will emphasise on the use of digital media in strategic communication activities in organisations. It will cover four courses – Introduction to Public Relations, Public Relations Research, Public Relations Campaigns and Social Media in Public Relations. The courses will be conducted using a staggered approach such that the level of specialisation and difficulty of each level will build on the previous one. The courses may also be taken individually for those who are keen only in specific topics.

Students who pursue the full specialisation programme will be required to complete a Capstone Project, whereby they are expected to apply their theoretical knowledge, undertake research and provide strategic solutions to communication issues in the form of a Public Relations Plan. At the end of the programme, students will be able to analyse public relations problems, understand the role of research in problem solving, develop strategic plans and implement the public relations plans in social and digital media contexts.

NUS will continue to create suitable MOOC offerings through Coursera. On 28 September, the University will be introducing another online course on Coursera titled ‘Superhero Entertainment’, which will examine the social and cultural significance of superhero comic books and films.

For more details regarding the Specialisation programme, visit

My Joint Degree Programme Experience at King’s College London

In the autumn of 2014, I arrived at King’s College London (KCL or King’s for short) under its Joint PhD Degree Programme with NUS. Located in Central London by the side of River Thames, King’s is a vibrant academic community and the home of more than 10 Nobel Laureates. My stay in London and study at KCL have been a fruitful and eye-opening experience.

Year-end lunch organized by King's Interdisciplinary Social Science for its members.
Year-end lunch organized by King’s Interdisciplinary Social Science for its members.

One feature I think very positively about King’s academic community is that the links across departments are strong and the boundaries are almost nonexistent. For example, although I was officially hosted by the China Institute for the Joint Degree Programme, I was able to appoint a professor from the Department of Management as my main supervisor because of the close proximity between my research and his. The King’s Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Centre (KISS-DTC) was established with the aim to build links for social scientists across the college. Soon after I arrived at King’s, I became a member of the KISS-DTC and benefited a lot from the methodological training I received at the center. In the process, I also got to know and became friends with many doctoral students from other disciplines of social science.

Celebrating the 2015 Chinese New Year with the classmates of King's College London
Celebrating the 2015 Chinese New Year with the classmates of King’s College London


Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria. Taken during the 2015 European Political Science Assoiation Annual Meeting
Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria. Taken during the 2015 European Political Science Assoiation Annual Meeting

During my time at King’s, in addition to researching for my dissertation, I had the opportunity to audit two modules on European political economy and public policy. The insight gained from the modules complements my current research very well. Given that I focus on monetary policy, the case of the European Monetary Union has greatly enhanced my understanding of the topic and at the same time, poses many theoretically challenging questions for me to reflect on. Furthermore, these materials are very useful for a political economy module that I am currently teaching at NUS, as they allow me to introduce a European perspective to a mostly Asian audience.

IAPSS World Congress 2015, Birkbeck College, University of London
IAPSS World Congress 2015, Birkbeck College, University of London

One good thing about studying at King’s is that one automatically has University of London. That brings about much more opportunities and resources beyond KCL itself. When I was at King’s, I often walked across the (highly dangerous) road to attend seminars at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), talk to the scholars in my field of study or visit the British Library of Economics and Political Science (the LSE library). Moreover, the geographical location of London makes academic conferences in Europe much more accessible and affordable. Within the academic year, I managed to attend three conferences held in Jerusalem, London and Vienna. At the conferences, I received valuable feedback for my research and greatly expanded my social network.

Academic conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Academic conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel


St. Anthony's College, Oxford University
St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University


In front of the International Court of Justice (Peace Palace), The Hague, The Netherlands
In front of the International Court of Justice (Peace Palace), The Hague, The Netherlands

My life in London was certainly not all about academics. During my free time, I often walked along River Thames and visited the parks and the museums of London. On weekends, I could travel to other places in the UK for sightseeing or join my friends studying at Oxford or Cambridge. In addition, I also travelled to other European countries such as France and the Netherlands for slightly longer holidays during my stay in London. The marvel of the European culture and civilization only not opened my eyes and mind, but also constantly made me reflect on themes such as humanity, modernity and scientific progress.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France


Louvre Palace, Paris, France
Louvre Palace, Paris, France


St. John’s College, Cambridge University, where Mr. and Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew took their photos three times in their lives.

Today, when people ask me what I miss about London and the UK, I can easily give them a long list, which includes, among other things, the vibrancy and diversity of the society, the splendid culture, the spirit of the Industrial Revolution that continues to inspire us today, as well as the Green and Pleasant Land, the British sense of humor and the aphrodisiac accent. Virginia Woolf, a famous modernist English writer and alumna of King’s College London once wrote: “London itself perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play and a story and a poem…” That is, I think, the most accurate and vivid summary of my memory of London.

A marvel of art on the bank of River Thames, an embodiment of British creativeness
A marvel of art on the bank of River Thames, an embodiment of British creativeness


Big Ben and red telephone box, two icons of London
Big Ben and red telephone box, two icons of London

Li Xiang
Department of Political Science

Tracking Down Human Trafficking

NUS News

Students from the FASStrack Asia Summer School course in human trafficking recently returned from a 11-day field trip to Cambodia and Thailand.

The field trip was a great learning experience as it provided opportunities for them to do hands-on research and interviews. Besides being able to apply theories learnt in the increasingly popular module, the trip involved meetings with government officials, representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and victims in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, as well as Bangkok and Mahachai.

Department of Political Science Dr Kevin McGahan who led the field trip added that the students’ research projects and policy recommendations will be shared with the people and organisations they’ve met during the trip.

To read the full article, click here.

CNM Media Writing Students Take All Three Top Positions at the Future News Competition

Our heartiest congratulations to three Department of Communications & New Media students – Desmond Koh, Celine Leong and Chng Yan – for the unprecedented achievement at the Future News Competition, an international competition for aspiring journalists.

All three students scooped the top three places at the competition and will be headed for a three-day, fully-paid journalism conference in Edinburgh this month. There, they will meet leading journalists and learn more about multi-media reporting and editing.

The students who undertook the module NM3211 News Reporting and Editing were mentored by Ms Ee Lyn Tan, an award winning journalist who has received the Asia Human Rights Press award and has also worked at Reuters previously.

To view the works of these students, click here.

Congratulations to all FASS National Day Award Recipients!

National Day Awards are a means of recognising various forms of merit and service to the nation. This year, a total of 3,888 individuals in 23 award categories received National Day Honours.

We are pleased to announce the following National Day Honours awarded to our FASS faculty and staff members.  Our warmest congratulations to:


Prof Brenda Yeoh
Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Assoc Prof Chan Wai Meng
Associate Professor, Centre for Language Studies


Ms Karen Chan May Ling
Associate Director, Dean’s Office


Mdm Koh (Chong) Mui Gek
Management Assistant Officer, Department of Geography


Dr Alexander Lee Earn Yung
Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Work

Assoc Prof Maribeth Erb Mucek
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Mdm Yuen Sau Yoong
Management Assistant Officer, Centre for Language Studies

Flourishing under guidance and supportive environment


Annisa Ridzkynoor Beta, a graduate student of the Cultural Studies in Asia programme, is a recipient of the Graduate Students’ Teaching Award – an award that recognises and rewards the teaching efforts of FASS graduate students.

Annisa has facilitated the module ‘Social Capital’ together with Dr Vincent Chua (Department of Sociology) for a semester.

Recently, we caught up with her to congratulate her on the award and to find out more about her thoughts on pursuing a graduate programme with FASS as well as her experience as a Teaching Assistant.

1. Why did you choose Cultural Studies in Asia?

It was essential for me, when I was looking for PhD programmes, to study in an environment that will allow my research interests to flourish, not just to have a degree. The programme’s focus on Asia allows me to learn about and further investigate important notions in Asian context that are not taken for granted for its ‘Asian-ness’.

My main research interest is on Muslim women in Indonesia, specifically on their movements and subjectivity. Being in Cultural Studies in Asia PhD programme has allowed me to critically read previous studies about Muslim women in Southeast Asian context. There has always been a conscious effort in the programme to rethink ideas such as identity, representation, power relations, subject formation, and politics of the body in Asian context, and I found it indispensable for my research progress.

Thus, I found Cultural Studies in Asia fitting to my criteria to further my study.

 2. How has FASS and NUS contributed to your journey thus far?

Taking different modules from different departments has shown me how supportive FASS and NUS has been for an interdisciplinary student like me. The scholarship scheme, campus facilities, as well as events and seminars organised in the university has facilitated my intellectual growth, and I believe that FASS and NUS have provided me the most vital contributions I need as a young scholar.

3. How do you feel about the award that you have achieved?

I am grateful, and I cannot express how happy I am to receive the award. Assisting Dr Vincent Chua for a semester has opened up a lot of fields of study that I have not thought of before.

Knowing that the module ‘SC3225 Social Capital’ was new for me, Dr Chua was really kind and encouraging, and his sessions were engaging, allowing me to position myself not only as a Teaching Assistant but also as a student of the class itself. Being awarded for an opportunity to learn has made me realized how lucky I am as a PhD student in a very supportive institution like NUS.

4. Can you tell us more about your experience as a Teaching Assistant?

Starting the semester with the module was a bit challenging. However, Dr Chua was very supportive and I felt involved and engaged with the materials. My students were also very interested in the topics in the module, so I felt challenged to work harder as a teaching assistant. For the tutorials, I looked into extra materials, and the students were also asking stimulating questions, and by the end of the semester, I felt like I learnt a whole new set of knowledge.

5. Were there any challenges during the course of teaching?

Not really. Dr Chua provided guidance and information, and students in my tutorial were cooperative and interested in the module.

6. What were the memorable moments?

I always enjoy receiving emails from students in my tutorials. They inquire about issues that may not be addressed in the lectures or tutorial sessions, and I found those electronic discussions motivational for me as a teaching assistant.

 7. Has the teaching experience changed your outlook on learning, academic interests or personal aspirations? How so?

Yes, mainly because ‘Social Capital’ was a field that prioritises quantitative analysis, and I have been accustomed to humanities’ qualitative approach in doing research. I learnt that social inequality can also be critically approached via quantitate based research, and for me this opened up more areas in understanding gender issues.

8. What are your future plans with regards to your academic development?

I plan to earn my degree in the next two years, and to focus on developing my research interest through research projects and teaching.

Turning your Dream into Reality

john mead

He has a passion for dance, with over 40 years of experience in the performance arts. This year, at the age of 62, John Mead graduated with a PhD in Communications and New Media from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). John, who was also one of our Valedictorians for the Class of 2015, shares his thoughts on pursuing his graduate education at FASS.

  1. Tell us a bit of your professional background in performing arts.

I am an internationally recognised choreographer, performer and educator. I began my career in the performing arts by dancing professionally for 12 years, primarily in the United States and Europe. Subsequently I became a choreographer having choreographed over 120 concert stage works over the past 30 years, which have been performed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States. In 1988, I won the prestigious “Lausanne New Choreographers Competition” hosted by Bejart Ballet Lausanne, Switzerland and subsequently worked periodically for four years as a visiting faculty member of the official school of the Bejart Ballet: Rudra Bejart Lausanne. From 1993 to 2000, I was the Artistic Director of John Mead & Dancers in New York City, and was also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the New York University Programme in Dance Education during that same time period. I am currently the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of two Singapore-based companies: the John Mead Dance Company (JMDC) which presents concert stage choreographic works and Firefly Tales (FFT) which is JMDC’s affiliate organisation dedicated to narrative film production and dance education outreach. Since 2002, I have lived in Singapore and am now a Permanent Resident of the country. Recently, on 31 May 2015, after 6 years in the Communications and New Media (CNM) Department at NUS, I was awarded my PhD, and chosen to be a doctoral Valedictorian of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

  1. Given your professional background, why did you choose to pursue a PhD in Communications and New Media at FASS? Which part of the programme appealed to you?

In 2009, I made the decision to apply to the CNM Department to pursue my PhD on a “part-time” basis as I continued to direct my Singapore-based dance company.

The reason I applied to the CNM Department was because there are few universities which offer a doctoral degree in the performance aspects of Dance. In the performing arts, a Masters of Fine Arts degree (MFA) is often considered to be a terminal degree. In order to go on to the doctoral level in Dance, you usually have to study some tangential subject area – such as Dance Anatomy/Kinesiology, Dance History, Dance Philosophy, Dance Ethnography, Dance Anthropology, etc. I wasn’t interested in pursuing any of those disciplines since I already had a certain amount of knowledge in those areas from all of my years in dance. My real interest was to engage in the philosophic study of performance-related work, so when I decided to pursue the PhD at NUS, the only two departments I thought might be relevant with my arts background and two Masters of Fine Arts degrees (in Dance and Film), were the Department of Philosophy and the Communications and New Media Department (dance being one of the most ancient forms of communication). I applied to both. Because of my extensive background in the performing arts, I was accepted into the CNM Department.

  1. Can you tell us about your experience in the programme?

My experience in entering the CNM Department was probably a bit different than that of younger students who enter the department – especially since I was 56 years old when I entered. I’ve worked professionally with my own companies most of my life and even though I had wanted to earn a PhD one day, I had never made the time to do it. However, I’ve never felt age should be a deciding factor regarding important dreams in one’s life, so I went ahead in 2009 and began my pursuit of the PhD. It was a bit difficult at first to re-enter an academic environment as a student after having been an Adjunct Professor at New York University for 8 years, and to be in classes with other students that were less than half my age, but I soon forgot the age difference and began to enjoy my studies. The required classes I took during my first two years in the CNM Department were challenging, and opened my eyes to ideas about academic inquiry and doctoral level work. The last 4 years of work were primarily oriented around my research and thesis writing. This proved to be the most demanding, and in turn, rewarding area of my studies. The many discussions I had with my excellent doctoral advisor, Dr. Lonce Wyse, concerning a host of intellectual and difficult philosophic ideas in connection with dance, the arts, technology and the concept of practice-based research in the arts, was a consistently rewarding experience, that helped to clarify my research, and deepen my related thought processes.

  1. Were there any challenges during the course of study?

There were many challenges on many different levels during my course of study. Even though I considered myself to be a decent writer, one challenge I soon discovered was to learn to write in an academic, doctoral fashion – which I came to realise, is a very specialised way of communicating. With the help of my doctoral advisor, the tone and style of my writing evolved over the years of my candidature, toward a more academically rigorous quality.

  1. How has the programme benefitted your career?

My doctoral thesis is titled, A Framework for Understanding Practice as Research in Dance. It is a study of the nature of dance practice that is simultaneously considered to be research. My related work as a practicing choreographer in one of the most primal areas of communication, i.e. human movement, is primarily driven by the desire to create authentic art work for the simple sake of creating it – letting the artwork speak for itself.

It is yet to be seen what impact my research work may have on my chosen field of study. Hopefully it holds potential to add to the dialogue which exists concerning the nature of practice as research in the arts, in relation to knowledge acquisition, transmissibility and the ability to gain new knowledge from areas where we continue to lack information.

In my current choreographic work, I continue the investigation of movement as my chosen communication medium. The PhD I’ve earned will benefit my career by hopefully opening doors to academia as well as avenues to other aspects of society for which the PhD stands as representative of a level of achievement that is respected in many quarters. The study I conducted while at NUS serves as a model for future investigations I plan to continue to make into my chosen field.

As I leave the CNM Department and FASS, I would like to thank all those who made my journey possible and meaningful!