In between studying for her PhD in Communications and New Media, NUS Arts and Social Sciences graduating student and Valedictorian Pauline Luk spent her time at NUS creating a more varied campus experience for all students. As a senior Resident Assistant (RA) at UTown Residence, Pauline’s enthusiasm and innovative spirit resulted in a myriad of new programmes for the residents; the two most notable being NÜSycle, which raises awareness on environmental issues, and ArtJam, which uses art to improve mental wellbeing. These programmes, combined, engaged some 1,400 student participants annually. Pauline also organised festive events, cultural sharing sessions, visits, workshops and sports events for the residents.
“I thought it was very important for students to have a diverse campus experience, both undergraduates and graduate students. These programmes were platforms to let students participate in the community, make more friends and discover more about the world, beyond just academic knowledge,” said Pauline.
Most of the projects that Pauline initiated were from the ground up. “Although the planning process was not easy, I received support from many RAs in the team who were willing to offer their time, effort and ideas to make the projects run better,” she said.
The opportunity to run events was something Pauline found very valuable, teaching her skills such as contingency planning. She recalled how the second edition of ArtJam was initially supposed to be held at Town Green but was affected by the heavy haze which suspended all outdoor events. “I was instructed to change the plan one day before the event. Luckily, with the help of the team and support from the University offices, we were able to hold it at Town Plaza instead,” she recounted.
Looking back on the many innovative programmes she initiated, Pauline mused, “We need to have the courage to try something new. And most importantly, we need to try to make it work. Even if you have brilliant ideas, if you do not carry them out, they are nothing. But once you have the courage to try, and modify, you can get things done and make things work better”.
She walked the talk herself, making the choice to immerse herself in campus life despite her own heavy workload as a PhD student. Pauline recalled that her peers often questioned why she seemed to have the time to be an RA while having to conduct heavy research projects of her own. “Yes, it was not easy to juggle between study and being an active member on campus. However, I thought it worthwhile because I got more than I gave. The friendships I made, the networks I built, the knowledge I gained, the experiences I had, and the good memories I built — all these delivered rewards that I had never imagined I could have,” she said, adding that she hopes more graduate students pursue a balanced life on campus.
Pauline credits her parents as her motivation for pressing on in her journey. “Pursuing the doctoral degree was also for my parents. They are both not educated, however they raised my six elder siblings and I and we’ve all achieved tertiary education,” she said. This year is her parents’ 60th wedding anniversary and she sees her graduation as another gift to them.
Her mother in particular is her inspiration, Pauline said, sharing a story of their recent trip to Lion Rock in Hong Kong. The iconic mountain is a symbol of the spirit of Hong Kong, and represents endurance and the hardworking attitude needed to achieve progress, Pauline explained. “When I planned to climb Lion Rock in celebration of my graduation, my 88-year-old mother wanted to do it too. So on a sunny day, my mother, my sisters and I climbed Lion Rock and reached the highest point of 495m. Everyone we saw on the trek was amazed by my mother climbing the rock at her age. They all applauded her,” she shared. Her mother’s passion, courage and perseverance constantly encouraged her during her educational journey, and the trek up Lion Rock.
Currently a lecturer in the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, Pauline is working on a 3-year project to use social media as a learning tool. She hopes to continue pursuing a career in academia.