EVERYDAY HEROES: Alumnus Stephanie Seow And Mongolian Street Children

Our recent Honours Programme graduate, Stephanie Seow (Class of 2012), was recently featured on Mediacorp Television’s Everyday Heroes series for her humanitarian work in Mongolia. Stephanie is the founder of a self-funded and independent Humanitarian Project called the Mongolian Summer Camp. Every year, Stephanie and her team will gather volunteers from all over the world – America, UK, Russia, Korea, Thailand and Singapore – to run the educational camp. The vision of the camp is to bring fun, love, joy and hope to the street children in Mongolia.

When we imagine Mongolia, we are drawn towards an ancient nomadic culture and idyllic Ulan Bator with wide boulevards surrounded by pine covered mountains. But Stephanie who attended a Humanitarian Conference a few years ago was struck by Mongolian children who were displaced from the city and spent their childhood in manholes or sewage systems three quarters of the year to avoid the freezing cold winters. These manholes have pipes that transports hot steam to heaters to warm up houses in Mongolia. As a result many street children and poor children whose household could not afford heaters would flock to the warmth of the sewage systems.

Stephanie visits some of these poor families in the slum-like areas of Mongolia once every year. These families have a monthly income of only about $300, barely sufficient for the family’s basiceveryday electric bills, rent, etc. Many of the children of these poor families are forced into begging on the streets. This is where they get involved in vices such as stealing and are often brought to the shelter by the local police force for counselling and social rehabilitation.

Heartbroken by these children’s lives, Stephanie, a scout when she was younger, is inspired to bring colour and joy to their lives through fun educational camps. Many of these children, recounts Stephanie, cannot even afford a roof over their heads and much less, basic education. Her camp is an educational camp that runs English classes for these children. Volunteers from all over the world also get to introduce their own culture and language to the kids. Some would bring the recent trends in k-pop fashion, music and drama to the kids in Mongolia who are often very curious about the k-pop wave.

Every year, the camp recruits about 10-12 volunteers and aim to reach out to at least 20-25 kids from different Mongolian shelters. The camp also engages the children in music, art, games, sports and carnival games. Stephanie says that one of her future plans is to bring these Mongolian children hiking and horse riding. “Many of these Mongolian children have never gone to the idyllic country side before although Mongolia is native to such beautiful landscapes. These Mongolian children that we reach out to grew up on the streets and in Sewage Systems so what we want to do is just to bring joy, fun and hope to their lives.”

Stephanie recounts how the Mongolian children are very talented, but they need outlets for creative expression. Living on the streets and spending their lives in the manholes deprive them of creative outlets. Very often, the street children are dislocated from their own culture. This year, her camp’s volunteer includes a native Mongolian who lives in America. Stephanie hopes to work with her to bring Mongolian folkdance and culture to these kids at this year’s camp.

The preparation that builds up to the annual camp takes about six months of independent fundraising, when Stephanie will run movie screenings, photography exhibitions etc. to raise money for the project. She also runs her own volunteer recruitment and network with other Mongolian NGOs.

Stephanie now works at the Singapore International Foundational (SIF) and helps run various developmental projects in ASEAN countries and Afghanistan. She hopes to learn how to better organize an NGO and pick up developmental project know-how, as she is already planning to establish a boarding school linked to a social enterprise where Mongolian street children can go to school regularly, graduate and be employed.

Stephanie says sociology has opened her eyes to social inequalities, the needs of marginalized people and many other developmental issues that have become her life’s ambition to tackle. Her other sociological interests includes the negotiation of ideal femininity in Singapore. She is interested specifically in how the women of modern Singapore, especially Christians, reconcile their career and life aspirations with their religious beliefs. This remarkable and gallant lady is doing exactly that.

written by Caryn Tan, 30 Aug 2012

Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied invited to be Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University

Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, Assistant Professor in the Department of Malay Studies has been invited to be an Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University, Australia. It is a position usually reserved for senior academics and to be invited for this post is a rare honour for someone relatively new to the academe. We caught up with Dr. Aljunied to hear more about this accolade and his research: http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/research/khairudininterview.html

ENRIQUE LEVISTE: Recipient Of Ananda Rajah Best Graduate Thesis Award 2012

“I am humbled and honoured to be given this award. Professor Ananda Rajah strikes me as a very charismatic educator, a very down to earth person, a person who is of great scholastic caliber but at the same time willing to engage his students. He is your quintessential teacher. To be put in the same vicinity is both a privilege and a challenge to be mindful of my place as a teacher whose primary role is to continually engage in the most genuine and transformative sense. I think Professor Ananda Rajah stood for all these things. Hence, I see this award as a commencement, a beginning, rather than a culmination. The process of learning and teaching never ceases.”

Enrique Niño P. Leviste is the recipient of this year’s Ananda Rajah Best Graduate Thesis Award. His PhD thesis submitted in 2011 is titled Catholic Church Hegemony amidst Contestation: Politics and Population Policy in the Philippines (supervised by Dr Daniel Goh). Enrique’s thesis asks questions about how the Philippine Catholic Church established and maintained a hegemonic sway within a post-authoritarian political context. He is also interested to know how the Church resuscitated and preserved its influence despite several political upheavals in the Philippines and how the perpetuation of Church hegemony affects policy processes. The thesis examines the underlying forces that account for the continuity of the Catholic Church’s hegemony especially within a democratic social milieu.

Enrique’s thesis was motivated by the Gramscian analysis of politics which looks at how a dominant group is able to perpetuate power politically and ideologically notwithstanding opposition. A major issue Enrique wanted to study was how the Catholic Church in the Philippines was able to nurture and build alliances within different segments of society as exemplified by its emboldened involvement in the reproductive health (RH) and family planning (FP) policy process. Through this study, Enrique seeks to help people understand that the political arena is a dynamic, contested and heterogeneous field. In his thesis, he also highlights the prevalence of resistance coming from an evolving counter-hegemonic movement. Enrique does not subscribe to any one-dimensional, top-down interpretation of everyday politics. Instead, he lends support to the Gramscian argument that the actions of dominant and subaltern sectors both shape the overall political landscape.

As an academic, Enrique’s areas of interest include Political Sociology and Critical theory. He is currently working at the National Institute of Education as a Research Associate and has developed a strong fondness for the works of Paulo Freire, John Dewey, and Maxine Greene, to name a notable few.

As a tutor at NUS, Enrique taught modules such as SC1101E (Making Sense of Society) and SC2204 (Social Inequalities: Who Gets Ahead?). His passion for teaching won him a FASS Graduate Student’s Teaching Award (GSTA) in 2010-2011. Prior to coming to Singapore, Enrique was a Sociology lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines) for 5 years. He sees teaching as a challenging and rewarding vocation; a very creative, dynamic, and transformative process. As a teacher, Enrique aims to cultivate an environment where students are encouraged and empowered to think critically and act persuasively on pertinent issues in society. Crucial to this is Enrique’s desire to help students realize that they are not empty receptacles to be filled with knowledge; rather, every student is an active participant that can substantially contribute to the shaping of knowledge.

written by Caryn Tan, 30 Aug 2012


Make or Break Your Banking Applications! 20 Sept 12- Let Deutsche Bank share insiders’ tips to help ace your resume/interview for the Banking & Finance sector

Deutsche Bank invites you to join us at our skills workshops on resume writing and how to excel in interviews.

Learn valuable tips and techniques from our graduate recruiters as they prepare you for the typical application and interview process.  Find out what graduate recruiters look for and how to frame yourself for success before embarking on the job or internship application process.

Click here for details.

Update (7 Sep 2012): Please register via the following links.
Writing your resume: http://goo.gl/NKGiY
Acing your interview: http://goo.gl/wKzeM
To access the registration link, you have to log into Stuweb. Insert “Nusstu/” before your student number in the username field.

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.


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.

Invitation to NUS President’s Talk: “Living in the Present through Travel & Art” – 18 Sep (Tue), 4pm-5.30pm, LT13

(Update: Locate Prof Tan’s “Spirit of the Explorer” & win STARBUCKS vouchers! http://goo.gl/XPpN7)

Calling all FASS Students!

You are cordially invited to the NUS President’s Talk at FASS.


Truly a Renaissance Man, NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan’s many interests extend beyond science and academia to the arts and culture. We are thus honoured to present to you his well-received talk, entitled “Living in the Present through Travel and Art”.

Come join us for a session of tea and inspiration as Prof Tan shares his passion for landscape painting as well as insights he garnered from his travels and interactions with different cultures around the world. He will also share the photographs, sketches and paintings of the many memorable sights he took in China, India, England, Peru, Venezuela and many other places.

Don’t miss this opportunity to interact with Prof Tan and discover another side of the NUS President and Public Service Star recipient.

Please register your attendance via the NUS Calendar (http://bit.ly/UmvSel).

Passion for Public Service: Interview with MINDEF Defence Merit Scholars

Keng Meng (left) and Zach at the Political Science Department

Last month, two students from FASS were awarded the Mid-Term Defence Merit Scholarship from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). Both Political Science honours students, Tan Keng Meng and Chen Zixian Zach received the prestigious award from Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at an awards ceremony held at the Sheraton Towers.

The Defence Merit Scholarship was introduced with the aim to recruit outstanding undergraduates and groom them for senior management positions in MINDEF. With the wide spectrum of career opportunities available in MINDEF, the scholars can look forward to rewarding and challenging careers that will develop their potential to the fullest.

FASS News caught up with Keng Meng and Zach to find out more about their motivations for getting the scholarship and how they feel about joining the public service after completing their studies.


Tan Keng Meng (Second from right) with other scholarship recipients speaking with Dr Ng (right)

Congratulations on winning the Defence Merit Scholarship. Can you share with us what inspired you to take up this scholarship?

Keng Meng: A confluence of events inspired me to take up the Defence Merit Scholarship. First, I have always been interested in defence issues and I feel that every Singaporean has a role to play in protecting Singapore.

Second, as a Political Science major, I am fascinated by international affairs and foreign relations.

Third, my overseas exchange and internship experiences have been instrumental in affirming my passion for public service. These three factors converge upon a career with the Ministry of Defence. This scholarship is an opportunity for me to serve, pursue my interests, and apply what I have learnt to the benefit of Singapore and the world.

Zach: Having done an internship at MINDEF (coordinated by the NUS Career Centre), I felt a strong alignment between my personal values and the core values of the organisation. It gave me the confidence that MINDEF would offer me excellent opportunities in a dynamic work environment and at the same time fulfill my personal mission.

I consider myself fortunate that MINDEF also offers me the chance to pursue my research interest in military involvements – something that I like and am good at – as a full-time job. The scholarship was essentially icing on the cake, as it allowed me to commit myself to the organisation and vice versa. As such, taking up the scholarship was an obvious choice.


And how has your NUS education influenced your decision to join the public service?

Keng Meng: It was at NUS that I nurtured my passion for and learnt extensively about politics, specifically international relations. This was complemented by the breadth component of the NUS education that saw me taking modules outside of my major. These modules included Communications and New Media modules which I took extensively. They enabled me to connect politics with other disciplines and the wider world.

Consequently, the comprehensive NUS education helped me better understand the world I am living in. This encouraged me to do my part and make a difference to the world. In addition, it also impressed upon me the gravity of my decision to join the public service. For this, I would like to express my gratitude to NUS, in particular the Departments of Political Science and Communications and New Media, for all the knowledge I have acquired. I look forward to continue amassing a wealth of knowledge in the future.

I found an intellectually stimulating environment at NUS. I had really great and rewarding discussions with the Political Science faculty and my fellow Political Science majors on a variety of topics such as Singapore politics and the global economy. Our passion for what we study rubbed off on one another. This created an environment that supports our pursuit of knowledge and dreams. To this, I want to say thank you to the Political Science faculty, staff, and majors, especially my fellow Honours students, for all the help they have given me.

Zach: Having taken numerous FASS modules (particularly those from the Political Science Department), I have come to believe in the vital role that the public service plays in shaping the Singapore society. Whereas the private sector concerns itself with cost and benefit, profit-oriented approaches, the public sector focuses itself on maximising the public interest.

As such, this idea of working for the people appeals strongly to me. Furthermore, I feel that the various disciplines within FASS have done an excellent job in equipping its students with critical skills, with which to examine every aspect of life. Such skills have only served to benefit me in seeing many issues in contemporary societies that could be handled better or should be tackled.

Hence, these two aspects of my education made it a natural choice to aspire for a career within the public service, to get involved in charting Singapore’s future path amidst a challenging local and global environment.


Where do you see yourself ten years on?

Keng Meng: I am committed to a career with MINDEF and want to continue working in the public service. Over the next few years, I hope to develop skills and accumulate experiences that would enable me to better contribute to Singapore and the world. I also hope to be in a position in which I could make useful contributions to NUS such as participating in the FASS Mentorship Programme.

Zach: I wish to see myself as a leader within the public service, wherever I feel that I can contribute, while continuing as an avid learner. I hope to be in a position to bring about positive change, be it in my local community, within MINDEF, the Public Service or in the greater society. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to school again, because I’ll definitely be missing having academic debates in tutorials and seminars!


This is kind of unrelated, but we noticed that you guys went on the Student Exchange Programme (SEP) at University of California, Berkeley and Boston University. Can you share something about your SEP experience with us?

Keng Meng: An overseas student exchange programme is an opportunity to share and take in perspectives, especially from those of different cultures. The thing that struck me the most was the high level of student involvement at UC Berkeley. The students are extremely active in the university, community, and nation at large. They want to make their voices heard and do their part in shaping their community.

For instance, during football matches with other universities, the stadium overflowed with students that came to support their school. A town hall meeting with the school administration on rising tuition fees saw an overwhelming number of students participating in the dialogue. There is a strong culture of identification with the school and community. This is what inspired me to play an even more active role in contributing to the society.

There are passionate students in NUS too, as demonstrated by NUS Student Union (NUSSU) and the NUS Arts Club. As a member of the Arts Club, I have met friends who have sacrificed their time and energy to organise projects for the faculty and NUS. My time at Berkeley was memorable in part because of the atmosphere of energy created by the students. On this note, I feel that participating in the Arts Club (or any other faculty clubs, CCAs, and NUSSU for that matter) is a great opportunity to be involved in NUS and the community.

Zach: One takeaway for me was the need to be accommodating of diversity, in particular the diversity of thought and cultures. Specifically, my trip to Boston has taught me the importance of accepting other cultures and peoples, especially since Boston is an extremely diverse society. There is always something you can learn from anyone, no matter who you find yourself amongst. In Boston, I encountered people of various ethnicities and from all walks of life, and through these interactions I’ve since come to gain new perspectives that have considerably shaped my understanding of the world.

Thank you, Keng Meng and Zach. We wish you fulfilling and successful careers ahead!

Talk for Honours-Year Students on Graduate Studies in FASS

Dear FASS Honours – Year Students

Welcome back to FASS for the new academic Year. I trust that you had a good break and are all geared up for the final year of your undergraduate studies.

As a former Honours – year coordinator for History, I realised that at this point in your Year 4, spending two more years at NUS for a Masters degree might be the last thing you want to think about. But i also know that in every department there are a few students who are atleast considering the possibility, and we in the Graduate Studies Division want to provide the chance for those who are interested to get more information. We are therefore organising an information session especially for Honours – year students on Tuesday, 11 September, at 3.00 pm in Seminar Room B on the ground floor of AS-7.

I will give an overview of our Masters programmes and what is involved in terms of coursework, thesis research, tutoring, etc. The deadline for the applications for the August 2013 intake is 1 November, so you will still have plenty of time to prepare an application after the information session.

I look forward to seeing you at the briefing!

Assoc Prof Bruce Lockhart
Asst Dean ( Graduate Studies)
Graduate Studies Division, FASS

Please click here to register.

MacNUS Keynote 1101 Workshop

Want to learn the secrets behind making an Awesome presentation that
will STAND OUT from the crowd? We’ll teach you how to unleash the true
potential of Keynote in this workshop for FREE!

You will also learn how to deliver your presentations using Keynote on
your iPhone and iPod Touch!

Details of Keynote are as follows:

Date – 11 Sept 2012 (Tue)
Time – 4.30 to 5.30 pm
Venue – CIT Global Learning Room, Computer Centre Level 3 (Opposite
Central Library)

Sign up NOW! We have limited seats!

Please bring your Macbook/Apple devices with iWork installed
(preferably iWork ’09).