FASS Anniversary Dinner: A Night of Asian Nostalgia

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FASS ended its year of celebration with a bang! The Faculty’s 85th Anniversary Dinner. centred on the theme of “Asian Nostalgia” was held at the NUS Society Kent Ridge Guild House on 22 November 2014. It was graced by Guest-of-Honour, NUS Board of Trustees Chairman, Mr Wong Ngit Liong, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, NUS Provost Professor Tan Eng Chye, former deans of the Faculty and 300 alumni, faculty members, students and friends of the Faculty.

In her opening address, Professor Brenda Yeoh, Dean of FASS said, “This evening, we are in the mood for nostalgia, and I would like to take you along a short journey from the beginning to relive how it is that we have grown to become one of the largest Faculty on campus in terms of undergraduate numbers, with 17 Departments, 20 Major Subjects and 7,000 students…The Faculty certainly has cause for celebration, and indeed, all segments of the Faculty have celebrated our 85 years in their own way.”

Prof Yeoh brought the audience back to the founding of the Faculty as part of Raffles College in 1929 to the present day and our celebratory events for the year. She then followed up her address with a quiz for all the guests to see if they had been paying attention during her address!

We also launched two awards that night; the FASS Student Leadership Award (FSLA) and the Ann Wee NUS Social Work Alumni Award. Mr Wong Ngit Liong and Prof Tan Chorh Chuan led the launch for the FSLA which was set up in commemoration of the Faculty’s 85th anniversary to recognise the efforts of FASS student leaders beyond academic excellence by focusing on experiential learning and student life leadership within FASS and the wider community. We also held the Faculty’s first ‘silent auction’ of artworks contributed by faculty, alumni, student and friends that raised over $42,000 in support of the FSLA.

The Ann Wee NUS Social Work Alumni Award was launched by Prof Tan Eng Chye, Provost, NUS. He said, “This award is a reminder that while we strive for world class standards in research and innovation, ultimately the work we do impacts community and society. I hope that our alumni, not just those from Social Work, will be inspired by the selfless contributions from Mrs Wee and the social workers as symbolised in this award.” The idea of setting up the award and naming it after Mrs Ann Wee was mooted by several social work alumni and friends to reflect the memory and affection they have for her as the longest serving Head of the Department and to recognise the work of the many unsung heroes in the profession.

Starting with an energetic starting performance by the Jigri Yaar Bhangra, Singapore’s pioneer Bhangra Company, the guests were regaled throughout the evening with performances by the Faculty’s very own singers – Mithila, who is currently a postgraduate student in the Department of Economics, and Farisha, an undergraduate in the Faculty and winner of Singapore’s The Final One competition. Mithila sang a wonderful rendition of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep followed by the upbeat Mamma Mia. Farisha sang two songs, Soulman, and Hidup Ini Indah, a self-penned number from her album, “Aligned”.

Guests were also entertained by re:Percussions who performed the Chinese Drum Medley 2211, arranged specially for this performance. The medley is a collection of music played on Chinese percussion instruments that contain elements of traditional Chinese, Western, Indian and Malay percussion music at its core.

It certainly has been a busy year for our Faculty and we would like to thank everyone for their support for the past 85 years. We are also looking forward to the excitement the years ahead will bring!

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First ever prize devoted to Singapore history

Singapore, 13 November 2014 – The Department of History at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has introduced the NUS Singapore History Prize, the first ever prize devoted entirely to Singapore history. Created in support of the national SG50 programme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, the NUS Singapore History Prize will be awarded to an outstanding publication that will make a lasting impact on our understanding of the history of Singapore.

Mooted by Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, the Prize aims to invigorate research relating to the history of Singapore. It seeks also to inspire the highest scholarly standards in research and publications that address the history of Singapore and also to promote critical interest in studying the history of Singapore.

Prof Mahbubani said, “History, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not dead. It re-surfaces politically from time to time, influencing both international affairs (for example, China-Japan relations) and domestic debates (for example, the struggle against the communists). Even as Singapore celebrates fifty years of peace and prosperity in 2015, there will be debates about Singapore’s history. The goal of this prize is to inspire new historical studies of Singapore and generate an informed historical discussion which will help future generations understand what was truly unique and special about Singapore’s history.

Professor Brenda Yeoh, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, hopes that the Prize will create a “multipier” effect that will spawn more research in all aspects of Singapore history, especial in the “histories of the people and ordinary lives of people”.

The NUS Singapore History Prize will be awarded every three years and the author of the winning publication will receive a cash award of S$50,000, which makes it the largest prize devoted to Singapore history.  The winner of the Prize will also speak at a public lecture hosted by the Department of History, during which the Prize will be presented. Nominations for the Prize will open from 1 January 2015 onwards, and the inaugural award will be presented in late 2017.

The Prize will be an open global competition and will accept nominations from any author or publisher of any work, published anywhere in English (written or translated). Nominations will have to be a book-length work of non-fiction; be authored or co-authored, rather than edited. The work should address any time period, theme, or field of Singapore history, or include a substantial analysis of any aspect of Singapore history as part of a wider story. The work will also need to be published at any time between when nomination opens and the final date for submission of nominations.

For the 2015-2017 competition, the Department of History has invited eminent Singaporeans and scholars to serve on the Jury Panel that will determine the winning publication. They are Ms Claire Chiang (Senior Vice President, Banyan Tree Holdings); Professor Peter Coclanis (Director, Global Research Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill); Professor Wang Gungwu (Chairman, East Asian Institute at NUS); and Professor Kishore Mahbubani. The Jury Panel will be chaired ex-officio by Prof Brian Farrell, the Head of the Department of History.

The NUS Singapore History Prize website will be available on 1 January 2015, which will provide further details on the Prize, nomination criteria, forms and other information. 

The NUS Singapore History Prize is now open for submission. Click here to access the page.

Celebrating Words

It was a gathering of an all-star cast of Singapore poets and writers under one roof. From Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo to author and poet Felix Cheong, the event was a celebration of our literary scene and proved that with their vibrancy and creativity, Singapore’s literary minds have much to share with us all. The event, Celebrating Words: A Symposium of Poetry Readings by ELL Alumni and Friends, was held on August 23 in NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Thirteen prominent writers were invited to share their experiences and answer questions from eager students and members of the public. The fourteen prominent poets, all alumni and friends closely associated with the Department of English Language and Literature (ELL), were Felix Cheong, Elangovan, Gwee Li Sui, Heng Siok Tian, Aaron Lee, Lee Tzu Pheng, Oliver Seet, Kirpal Singh, Paul Tan, Edwin Thumboo, Eric Valles, Cyril Wong, Wong Phui Nam, and Yong Shu Hoong. Celebrating Words was co-sponsored by the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation.

In his opening address, Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo reminisced about the “old days” decades ago with a whole gang of young poets who loved and honed their craft through the years. Some, as he noted, are not known for their poetry, but for other aspects of their public life, yet he remembers their creative output fondly. In the panel sessions, the thought on not being known for their poetry continues to be echoed. Lee Tzu Pheng spoke of no one in her parish knowing that she wrote poetry, almost for a decade. Paul Tan added that he wears the hat of a poet “awkwardly” especially as our day jobs may be most “unpoetic”.

In the next panel session, a student raised the very pertinent question about what the hardest part of writing poetry is. To Kirpal Singh, the greatest challenge to poetry was being honest, echoing Hemingway’s insistence on writing words that are honest and true. For Cyril Wong, it was to continue writing despite social rejection of his poetry and even being turned away from events and sessions. On the other hand, Elangovan found poetry writing not a challenge at all, because to him it was “zen” – something to bring peace and calm in routinely crafting a work to represent the communities he was looking at. Yong Shu Hoong agreed that if a poem took a great amount of effort, it might not be meant to be. These insights were very illuminating in showing the students in the audience what it takes to be a poet and how these local literary greats honed and perfected their craft.

The final panel launched into a spirited discussion on gender. A member of the audience enthusiastically brought up the male gaze, used in poetry and prose when the female is objectified as the target of the male character. In response, Felix Cheong discussed one of his works where he took on the point of view of a woman and turned the male gaze on himself in that sense. The discussion also delved fruitfully into the purpose of poetry, when Oliver Seet very aptly pointed out that the purpose of poetry is to project oneself into different points of view and cultures and take on varied voices.

In sum, the stellar cast of local literary greats provided the audience with a session of poetry and enlightening discussion. Ultimately, they prove more than ever, that the local literary culture is not just existent, but flourishing. As Prof Thumboo noted, poetry is about passion. With passion in the human psyche, there will be words to translate that passion into poetry.

blog 2The event was attended by almost 200 students from schools, universities and members of the public.

blog 3Panellists for the 1st of 3 sessions: (from left) Edwin Thumboo, Gwee Li Sui, Lee Tzu Pheng and Paul Tan.

blog 4Paul Tan: “It was very meaningful to come back to NUS and see all the familiar and friendly faces.”

blog 5Celebrating Words (from left): Organising Committee member Vincent Ooi, Cyril Wong, Kirpal Singh, Yong Shu Hoong, Elangovan, Wong Phui Nam, Kirsten Law from the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, Edwin Thumboo, Oliver Seet, Lee Tzu Pheng, Heng Siok Tian, Eric Valles, Paul Tan and Aaron Lee. Absent from photo were Felix Cheong and Gwee Li Sui.

blog 6Panellists for the 2nd session (from left):  Aaron Lee, Yong Shu Hoong, Elangovan, Cyril Wong and Kirpal Singh.

blog 7Panellists for the 3rd session (from left): Heng Siok Tian, Felix Cheong, Oliver Seet, Eric Valles and Wong Phui Nam.

blog 8Felix Cheong: “It was great to be back in NUS to do a reading.”

FASS establishes Professorship in Social Sciences in honour of Singapore’s First President Encik Yusof bin Ishak

The University will establish an endowed Professorship in Social Sciences in honour of Singapore’s first President, Encik Yusof Bin Ishak. The Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences pays tribute to Encik Yusof’s distinguished contributions to Singapore, especially his profound interest in promoting harmonious relations in a multiethnic and multicultural nation.

The endowed professorship will be established at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). It will enable FASS to attract and appoint leading social science academics who have demonstrated excellence and established international recognition in teaching and research in the areas of multiethnicity and multiculturalism.

Read the full article here.




National Day Award Recipients from FASS

Every year, a good number of staff from FASS receive the National Day Awards to honour their commitment and services to the nation, and this year is no exception. We would like to extend our hearty congratulations to all of them!

The Public Administration Medal (Bronze)

Assoc Prof Pakir, Anne
Director, International Relations Office
Associate Professor, Department of English Language & Literature

The Commendation Medal

Miss Wong Swee Eng
Senior Associate Director, Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

The Efficiency Medal

Ms Hannah Lim Mong Yee
Management Assistant Officer, Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

The Long Service Medal

Mdm Jamunarani d/o Danakkody
Management Assistant Officer, Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Mrs Kamariah Bte Sumshuddin
Management Assistant Officer, Dean’s Office, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Assoc Prof Lee Cher Leng
Associate Professor, Department of Chinese Studies

Assoc Prof Albert Tsui Ka Cheng
Associate Professor, Department of Economics

Mrs Fatimah Bte Ahmad
Management Assistant Officer, Department of English Language & Literature


For the full list of recipients from NUS, please click here.

FASS Congratulates Prof Tan Tai Yong!

The Faculty would like to congratulate Prof Tan Tai Yong on his appointment as NMP. Prof Tan is a proud graduate of the Faculty, having gotten his BA (Hons) and MA at the Department of History and finally coming back to lecture after obtaining his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He also served as Dean of FASS from 2004 to 2009 and is currently Vice Provost (Student Life).

To read more about Prof Tan’s appointment, click here.

Dr. Stephen Lim appointed as Fulbright Researcher

Stephen Lim

We are proud to announce that Dr. Stephen Lim has clinched the competitive 2014 Fulbright Researcher Award. Dr. Lim will be fully supported to conduct cognitive-educational psychology research at Purdue University in collaboration with Jeffrey Karpicke, whose scientific work has been featured thrice in the prestigious journal Science. During his stint, Dr. Lim will also be exchanging his views and ideas on issues concerning higher education with members of Purdue’s Office of the Provost.

We extend our warmest congratulations and best wishes to Dr. Stephen Lim.

Enter Picture Singapore, SRN’s first photo contest!

Picture Singapore

Singapore Research Nexus Photography Contest 1 July to 15 August 2014

Summer greetings from the Singapore Research Nexus (SRN)! We are pleased to announce the launch of Picture Singapore, a photography contest which is accepting entries from 1 July to 15 August, 2014.

Open to current FASS students, faculty, and staff, as well as FASS alumni, Picture Singapore seeks to encourage the FASS community to capture Singapore and ‘Singaporeanness’ through photographs – its culture, environment, heritage, diversity, society, community, everyday life and more.

All submitted photographs will form the foundation of an SRN Photo Bank, a public archive of Singapore-related photographs that can be tapped by researchers, students, writers, and artists.

If you would like to learn how to enter this photo contest, please click here to access the online entry form and here to access the submission guidelines.

You may also click here to download the submission guidelines and PDF entry form.

Picture Singapore Poster