Finding the Right Balance

Netty Haiffaq

Netty Haiffaq Binte Zaini Mattar recently received the Maurice Baker Prize which is presented to the best graduate in the Department of English Language and Literature. The prize was first awarded in July 2010 to the recipient who has “achieved sufficient academic merit”.

For Netty, being an English student has always been a part of her nature. She has been teaching English Literature upon the completion of her Bachelors 14 years ago.

“I love how the study of literature opens you up to the world of human experience, the complexity and diversity of it,” she says.

“It’s a challenging subject that requires not only the study of literary texts, but also of cultural theory, philosophy and history, which gives you a broad knowledge base, and versatile skill set. It encourages you to engage with the big social and political issues of the times, and to think deeply and creatively about how things are connected, which is important and exciting,” she adds.

Hence the graduate PhD programme with the Department of English Language and Literature was an apparent choice for her. The department is academically diverse and recognised for the quality of its teaching. The abundance of available resources and financial support offered also makes for a conducive environment in which she has been able to develop her research in interesting ways.

The crux of it itself has been inspired by her supervisor, Professor Rajeev Patke whose guidance helped to sharpen her research skills and fine tune her research interests.

His guidance, coupled with various activities that the department organised – seminars, workshops, graduate tutoring programme, supported conference participation – further encouraged her development.

She also attributes her award to her committee members Dr Susan Ang and Dr Chitra Sankaran who have given their time so readily during the course of study.

Of course, challenges were inevitable as well.

The mother of two says, “Looking after my children alongside research has undoubtedly been challenging but you get through it by being flexible, making adjustments, and remaining committed. I am also blessed with an amazing support network, namely my husband and family. In addition, my supervisor has been very supportive with regards to my balancing work with domestic responsibilities.”

Indeed, the adjustments that she had to make had paid off with the receipt of the award and vast academic opportunities that has opened up.

With regards to her future plans, she says, “Right now, I am enjoying my time with my kids, but I continue to write and explore my research interests. I would like to pursue a career as an academic and perhaps teach at a university.”

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