My thoughts this National Day

2E3A8348I spoke at this year’s National Day Observance Ceremony on 15 August at NTU. It was a timely occasion for me to share my thoughts on what it means to be Singaporean and how NTU can contribute to Singapore’s future.

Punching above our weight
Last Saturday was a historic day for Singapore and the world as Singaporeans erupted in joy and pride when 21-year-old Joseph Schooling took home the nation’s first Olympic gold medal. It certainly felt like we had all won the gold ourselves! Continue reading

I went to TED and this is what happened

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Not the fluffy, cotton-wool, snoozy kind of dreams. Big dreams. Bold dreams. Beautiful dreams. Dreams that will change the world.”

This was how Chris Anderson, TED Curator, sparked our imagination as a prelude to the TED2016 Conference. For five days and evenings in February, TEDsters from all over the world converged on Vancouver for the now legendary annual conference often described as the ultimate “brain spa”. With over 80 speakers and performers and more than 1,200 participants, the week was bursting with inspiration, imagination and ignition, and it did not disappoint! Continue reading

What’s buzzing at The Hive?

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I am very proud of our new learning hub, The Hive, and at its official opening last week, I shared in a speech my thoughts on why it is not just an eye-catching building but will soon become an icon of the future of learning.

Not your regular modular building stacked up like Lego bricks, it redefines university buildings with its unusual shape and use of space for learning in the 21st century.

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Why critical thinking matters

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As an undergraduate at NTU, I have found that critical thinking is encouraged in classroom discussions. In theory, the goal of critical thinking can be said to make you a devil’s advocate. No opinion or argument is flawless; you can and will, seemingly for its own sake, find fault with anything a person says. Of course, this sounds like a surefire way to gain unpopularity.

However, by moulding you into an independent thinker, critical thinking brings benefits that far outweigh its initial drawbacks.

Here are three reasons why critical thinking matters: Continue reading

A debt of gratitude to Mr Lee

No words can express the gratitude I felt at the funeral service for Singapore’s first Prime Minister today. In his death as it was in his life, he brought all of Singapore together – One Singapore. I think I speak for all Singaporeans when I say that it felt like I had lost a father. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was indeed a father – of our homeland, Singapore.

I felt the same depth of feeling as I did speaking at the memorial ceremony NTU held last week to honour his life and legacy where I said that Singapore will be forever synonymous with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. From the early days when he first won his electoral seat in Tanjong Pagar in 1955, to the day he went into intensive care in February 2015, Mr Lee had dedicated his whole life to building the Singapore that we know today. He made this city state for today. He also spent his whole lifetime reshaping and refining the nation for tomorrow. Truly, like many Singaporeans, my family, my children and my grandchildren owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Lee. Not just for what we have today, but also for what we can have tomorrow.

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The Singapore that was 50 years ago did not have land, did not have water, did not have industry, did not have decent education, nor good health, nor military security, nor racial and religious harmony. The secret societies collected their dues in Chinatown, Geylang, Jalan Besar, Lorong Tai Seng, Red Hill and many more places. Pirate taxis roamed the streets and illegal hawkers sold food that passed on diseases. That was the Singapore I was born into as a child. We were shamefully kicked out of one country and forced to become a country in a time and in a region that could not be worse. Continue reading

Count on us, Mr Lee

It was a privilege to be invited to witness the special parliamentary session on Thursday to pay tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Some of the speeches by the ministers and Members of Parliament really moved me to tears.

As I listened to their reflections, I felt thankful that I wasn’t born into their generation at a time filled with immense changes, developments and even turmoil.

After the session, I stepped out into the Padang and took a good hard look at the city. This was what the late Mr Lee and his team built with blood and perspiration. It reminded me not to take our nation for granted. Others take hundreds of years to build a developed and First World country, but Singapore took only 50. She is indeed nothing short of a miracle. And yes, much of the credit goes to Mr Lee.

I feel proud to be a Singapore citizen and am determined to continue to build upon the foundations laid by Mr Lee. This was also what I expressed in my speech last Wednesday at the Lee Kuan Yew Memorial Ceremony held at NTU in his honour:

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It is with deep sorrow and sadness that I am speaking this afternoon.

Last Sunday evening, I felt led to make a trip to the Singapore General Hospital. I visited the Quad of SGH, a designated corner kindly set up by the hospital for members of the public to leave their well wishes for the now late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. In spite of the cold and rainy weather that evening, there were many from the crowd laying flowers and cards of well wishes. The peoples’ hope for Mr Lee to recover and join us in the coming Jubilee National Day celebrations warmed my heart. There and then, I wished that I could have met Mr Lee in the ward to convey my concern and well wishes to him in person. I knew it was impossible to do so; hence I whispered a simple prayer, hoping that he could hear it. Continue reading

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had a vision for education

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was an exceptional man. And it hit home just how much he means to all Singaporeans when I went to pay my respects to him at Parliament House yesterday afternoon.

As he lay peacefully in state, thousands of Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans from all walks of life streamed in to bid him farewell, some having queued for hours in the hot sun. I felt the depth of their grief and was reminded of NTU’s solemn memorial ceremony at the Nanyang Auditorium on Wednesday, 25 March, three days after his passing, where I shared these words:

Today, we honour Mr Lee and his legacy. And it’s rewarding to see so many that have joined in for this. In less than 50 years, he and Singapore’s pioneer leaders remarkably transformed an impoverished island with no resources and a population of 2 million who were mostly illiterate or lowly educated, to a modern city-state of 5.5 million people with the living standards of First World countries.

prez2Signing the condolence book.

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Relax, don’t cram

Hello, everyone! First things first, here’s wishing you a Happy “Goat” Xi Fa Cai. Do excuse the bad pun, just wishing everyone a happy and good Year of the Sheep! It’s a new year and a new start – our chance to do better, keep our heads up and move ahead.

One of the biggest lessons I learnt at the School of Art, Design & Media (ADM) last semester is don’t cram all your studio modules into one semester. You will NEVER have the time to finish all of them. So a heads-up to my ADM juniors! 😀 But apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed the last semester, especially my Applied Drawing and Art History classes. They made learning all the more interesting.

During my lessons in Applied Drawing, we were taught to notice the smaller details and capture what we see in a different way. For example, sometimes when we draw an object, it can look a little weird. Try a different approach by drawing the “negative” shapes instead. By doing so, we capture the forms around the area, rather than just focusing on the object itself – another way to achieve the end goal. Continue reading

Something happened in year three

We cupped our ears and squinted our eyes; the horrendous din was reminiscent of a ghoulish scene from Dante’s Inferno

That’s what it felt like as my friends and I returned to NTU to do some admin work after our graduation in August. We looked at the freshmen in their camps and had this moment of sage-like wisdom: “Ah freshmen, how little they know…” Then it dawned on us: four years ago we were in those same freshmen camps.

Something happens as you transition from being a freshman to a sophomore (year two) then a junior (year three) and finally a senior student (year four).

Suddenly, what used to fascinate you as freshman or sophomore doesn’t intrigue you anymore. Other things become more interesting and you find that freshmen start to look at you like some wise, old person. Secretly, behind your wizened demeanour, you marvel at how they can stay up till 4am and not be absolutely burned out the next day. You are amazed at how they can shout and scream and run and still have so much energy. You are amazed at the muscle-ripping figures they have, and wonder whether you ever looked that ripped in your prime. Don’t look as if you don’t know what I mean (especially the guys)! By year three or four you probably started building a tummy pillow around your waist, which I’ve always had. Well, at least I maintained the rest of my figure.

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From undergrad to full prof

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This is an excerpt of a speech I delivered at NTU’s Academic Council Meeting on 28 August 2014, where I was installed as a full professor.

In 1992, a shy young man walked into Lecture Theatre 1 for his first lesson at NTU. After running around in the jungle with his M16 rifle for two and a half years, he wondered if he could cope with his studies as an engineering freshman. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life then. Well, that young man was me.

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