Commencement Celebrations 2014

Another eventful year has come to pass. Another batch of graduating students marked the end of their formal school years and the beginning of an exciting future ahead with the annual Commencement Ceremony at the University Cultural Centre. On top of that, respective departments also held Commencement Celebrations for their graduates to bid them farewell, as well as to welcome them into the FASS Alumni family.

 Other than the usual get-togethers, some departments added in a dash of intellectually engaging components.  The Department of History had a quiz on history and, as with tradition, held their famous customary event – Mad Hatters! – inviting alumni from the Classes of 2013, 2007, and 2008. Some hats on display included a Samsui woman’s, a Bollywood Cop’s, a Shameless Monarch’s, and even a Bird’s Nest hat. The English Language department also had a pub quiz of sorts which tested the graduates’ linguistic and general knowledge about NUS. They also had a graduate who recited a poem he had specially penned for the occasion. Graduates too did not miss out on the opportunity to showcase their musical talents. The Department of Japanese Studies invited alumni from previous years and many friendly exchanges were made between the graduating class, faculty, and alumni, while sharing a communal Japanese meal at Waraku Restaurant. A happy coincidence occurred during Social Work Department’s graduation event – two PhD graduates found that they were classmates from the same Honours batch 18 years ago. All in all it was a joyous occasion for all parties involved.

Click on the following links to read more about the individual events that were held, as shared by the respective departments!

collage for blog

Chinese Studies     Communications and New Media     Economics    English Language     English Literature

Geography     History     Japanese Studies    Philosophy   Political Science   Psychology     Social Work     Sociology

 We wish the Class of 2014 the best in their endeavours!

Disclaimer: Links are correct and available at the time of posting.

Commencement 2013 Celebrations

This year, a good number of the departments in FASS, together with some of their alumni associations, organised events to celebrate their graduates’ commencement. Lunches, dinners, and even themed parties were held. Some of the highlights include: personalised congratulatory letters with calligraphy (Department of Chinese Studies), performances put up by the NUS Rondalla and the Chorda Trio (Department of Economics), instant photo booth with fanciful props (Department of Political Science), and students and staff coming with ‘mad hats’ of their own (Department of History). 

Click on the following links to read more about the individual events that were held, as shared by the respective departments!

   Chinese Studies      Communications & New Media      Economics       Geography

History      Japanese Studies      Philosophy     Political Science     Psychology

   Social Work       Sociology      South Asian Studies Programme    

 

We would also like to take this opportunity to wish all graduates the best in their future endeavours!

 

Disclaimer: Links are correct and available at the time of posting.

 

FASS alumni win Singapore’s highest cultural honours


– ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

We are proud to report that FASS alumni are among the award recipients at the recent Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Awards ceremony! Ms Jennifer Tham (Philosophy and Sociology major) and Mr Thirunalan Sasitharan (Philosophy and Literature major) won the Cultural Medallions in the music and theatre categories respectively, while Mr Looi Wan Ping (Sociology major) and Ms Zizi Azah Bte Abdul Majid (Philosophy and Sociology major) won the Young Artist Awards in the film and theatre categories respectively.

Read the Straits Times article here.

Click the links below to read about the artists:

Jennifer Tham (citation; artist article)
Thirulnalan Sasitharan (citation; artist article)
Looi Wan Ping (artist article)
Zizi Azah (artist article)

Lessons from South Africa – My International Internship Journey

By Timothy Siew

View while on an overnight hiking trip which brought me to Cape Point (the commonly believed meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic ocean) and the Cape of Good Hope (Southwestern most tip of the African continent).

Singapore is proudly a multiracial and multicultural society, boasting a low crime rate. We often dismiss this as government propaganda we are consistently fed to believe. However, there is a small minority who say we take what we have for granted. As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss”. How true is all of this? As I sought to uncover the rough realities faced by others in this world, I chose to go where few Singaporeans have gone before, South Africa. It was a journey of discovery for me, to experience first hand pressing issues facing other far-flung societies.

Some questioned my decision to go to South Africa, which has the strongest economy in the African continent, asking what I can learn from living in such a rich country. Especially one, on the surface, is comparable to Singapore; well-leveled roads, clean water available throughout the country and built up cities. What I can say is that they cannot be more wrong. Beneath this beautiful city exists an ugly reality which needs all the help it can get. South Africa has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world (over 50 murders a day), high rates of HIV (10-11%), and an extremely racially charged society as a result of apartheid. It is by no means a safe country to live in. The Australian travel advisory gives the country a rating of “Exercise a high degree of caution”, the same rating as countries such as Burma, North Korea, East Timor, Rwanda and Uganda, just to name a few.

A typical black township. Some residents in the townships are the poorest amongst all South Africans and crime here is rife.

Apartheid is the forced segregation of people according to their skin color; White, Coloured and Black. As apartheid only ended 18 years ago, most of the adult population had grown up during the apartheid era and hatred between racial groups is still very prevalent. Even though apartheid had ended, racial groups still keep very much to themselves. There are coloured and black townships and schools are still predominately attended by children of a certain racial group.

I did my internship at the Cape Town Refugee Centre, serving arguably the most hated group in an extremely xenophobic country. My daily commute to and fro my workplace was laced with racism. It finally hit me – this is what we have been taking for granted in Singapore, racial tolerance. Asians in Cape Town are rare, and Chinese are an extremely tough find. Every day without fail, as I walk along the streets, I get taunted with the now familiar “Ching Chow Bong”, “China China”, “Chinaman” by random strangers. I’d get people jumping at me with Kung Fu poses and asking me if I know Kung Fu. In extreme cases, I get strangers coming up to my face with racist slurs, kicks that stop right at my face and challenges to fight on the streets. Through this very rough reception on the streets by strangers, I finally understood the undervalued concept of racial tolerance prevalent in Singapore. One aspect of life in Singapore that we take for granted was now staring me in the face. I was fortunate to receive only mild racial taunting as racial targeting there can turn violent very often.

The low crime rate in Singapore is something we often take for granted, it never occurs to us in Singapore to carry a weapon to defend yourself, but it could be something essential in more dangerous cities. While Cape Town city centre has a significantly lower crime rate, my work often took me to poor townships where crime is rife and at any moment things might take a turn for the worse. Even a local policeman told me to thank God for everyday I am alive in Cape Town as I may just die anytime on the streets. Hearing horror stories of friends I know being beaten up and robbed was something I had grown accustomed to. Seeing with my own eyes people getting roughly manhandled and robbed violently by those who seem to have no humanity left in them was no longer shocking to me. My roommate had been smashed against a fence and robbed by three men with knives just outside our apartment in broad daylight on the main street. I even had someone pulling a knife on me, demanding I hand over my money. Learning how to look out for myself and to be extremely aware of my surroundings, sometimes to the point of paranoia, became a norm for me.

It finally occurred to me that we often take our safety for granted. Being able to live in a society that I do not fear for my safety or face open racism is a huge blessing. These two issues were the most glaring things that I feel many Singaporeans take for granted.

South Africa takes in tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from all around Africa each year. Doing an internship at the Cape Town Refugee Centre allowed me to come into contact with those that were in dire situations. What really struck me was that some of the refugees seeking help at the centre are people my age, or even younger. It made me reflect on how fortunate I am to be born in Singapore, and how the situation could have been so vastly different had I been born in another part of this world. In addition, the flair and passion for some to further their education made me realize how lucky I am to be able to afford education.

A traditional South African band playing tribal music at the Mama Africa restaurant in Long Street, Cape Town.

My overseas internship to South Africa was truly an eye opener that gave me the opportunity peek out of the well I have lived in all my life. Living and working overseas is a totally different experience from that of going overseas for a holiday. Residing in a country for a lengthy period allowed me to soak in the culture and better understand the problems that are faced by other societies. This is especially so for issues which have never been a problem for us in Singapore. It was an incredible journey which I do not regret embarking on.

 

Click here if you can’t see the video above.

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Timothy Siew is a Year 2 Sociology Major who decided to take the path less travelled and went to South Africa on a two-month internship instead of heading off to U.C. Berkeley on a summer school programme. While looking at the choices available to students with the NUS International Relations Office (IRO), he came across an internship/volunteer programme in South Africa and acted upon his desire to do something in making a difference where help was needed the most. Despite strong objections from his parents and his own personal fears (try google-ing crime in South Africa), Timothy knew he could not let the opportunity pass him by.

Littering in Singapore – A Sociological Perspective

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In a study commissioned by the National Environment Agency (NEA), researchers from the Department of Sociology headed by Assoc Prof Paulin Straughan found that increasing the number of bins was the most effective way of reducing littering. The least effective? Banners and signs reminding people not to litter.

The study, which ran from 2009 to 2010, looked at different ways to slash trash in various areas which included town centres, places where foreign workers congregate and at East Coast Park. The findings of the study were published in a book titled “Towards a Cleaner Singapore” which was showcased at the launch of the Clean and Green campaign on 29 October 2011. In addition to the publication, a new anti-littering campaign was developed and launched in 2010 based on the findings and recommendations of the sociological study.

Other than Assoc Prof Straughan, the team of researchers included Assoc Prof Narayanan Ganapathy and Dr Daniel Goh from the Department of Sociology.

Click here to read the coverage of the study in The Sunday Times (29 Oct 2011).

The soft copy of the book can be found here.

Image: Keattikorn