Commencement Dinner: A journey of discovery and adventure for Class of 2023

A season of celebration and jubilation, marking the achievements of over 14,700 graduates from the Class of 2023, came to a close with a night of heartwarming speeches and uplifting performances at the Commencement Dinner held on 21 July 2023.

Taking place at the dining hall of College of Alice & Peter Tan and Residential College 4, the dinner was graced by more than 300 guests, including NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS Chairman Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, NUS Pro-Chancellor Mr Po’ad Mattar, valedictorians and graduates from the Class of 2023, as well as faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Leading the night’s proceedings were two student ambassadors hailing from this year’s graduating cohort – Ms Natalie Anjasari Gordon from NUS Computing and Dr Mick Lee Chang Jie from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Trading anecdotes of their NUS experience – for Dr Lee, it was his second time graduating from NUS since obtaining his Life Sciences degree six years ago in 2017 – the duo paid tribute to the warm support of their professors, teachers and peers who were an unwavering source of encouragement to the new graduates.

Their sentiments were echoed by the Class of 2023 representative, Ms Lum Yen Yi, the NUS Students’ Union (NUSSU)’s Student Deputy Welfare Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure, who graduated from the College of Design and Engineering and NUS College.

In her speech, she expressed gratitude for the contributions of the professors and the community of friends and families who have supported the graduates on their academic journeys, which took an unexpected turn when the pandemic struck. Lauding the tenacity and dedication of her cohort, Ms Lum said: “We have grown into being different people from the day we first stepped foot here, from dealing with the implications of the pandemic, to discovering many things about ourselves – our passions, our values.”

“Now, we have the potential to make a difference. We are ready to give back to our community and society. Just as the way the people around us have allowed us to grow and achieve the things we strived for, we could pass it on by inspiring and empowering others to do the same,” she rallied.

Closing her speech, Ms Lum called on graduates to not only look back on their university years with pride and nostalgia, but to also “look forward to our future with hope and drive”.

Warmly toasting the Class of 2023 as they venture out into the world to make their mark, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye imparted valuable advice to the newly minted graduates – the importance of remaining open-minded and receptive to change, coupled with a positive attitude towards lifelong learning and self-improvement throughout their careers.

As they looked ahead to their next chapter, it is important to be mindful that the road ahead would bring both new places and opportunities, as well as the prospect of stormy weather and difficult terrain, noted Prof Tan. But fostering traits such as curiosity and engagement would, over time, broaden their perspectives and enable them to develop a greater understanding of themselves and an appreciation of the diverse world they live in, he added.

“With every change of scenery, there is an opportunity to learn and experience something new. If you have a mindset of being constantly curious, you are always prepared to explore, to venture into the unknown, past your comfort zones,” said Prof Tan.

“Over the past two weeks, we have seen many inspiring stories of graduating members of the Class of 2023 who overcame adversity, demonstrated unflagging persistence, and accomplished remarkable goals, often while supporting and encouraging others. I am therefore confident that the graduating cohort of 2023 is well-prepared and ready, to lead our society to the next onward leg of our journey,” he affirmed.

The sumptuous dinner was also punctuated by energetic student performances that enlivened the evening.

The NUS Dance Ensemble, a contemporary dance group that has earned recognition for their unconventional repertoire marrying classic and contemporary styles, delivered an expressive sequence titled “I’mpassioned?”. Choreographed by the group’s founder, Mr Zaini Mohd Tahir, the routine channelled the passion of life and reflections of a new chapter ahead.  

This was followed by a smooth performance by the NUS Jazz Band, known for exploring both traditional jazz standards as well as fresh and progressive compositions. Delivering a rich brew of captivating jazz music, they served up soulful renditions of “Just Friends”, “These Foolish Things”, and “Honeysuckle Rose”.

The night concluded with a captivating showcase by The Sound Surge, comprising musicians from the NUS Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. The group serenaded the audience with the evocative melodies of “Café 1930” from Argentine composer Astor Piazzola’s Histoire du Tango, arranged by Ms Toh Yan Ee, a graduate of the Conservatory.

This story is the final instalment of NUS News’ coverage of Commencement 2023, which celebrates the achievements of our graduates from the Class of 2023. For more on Commencement, read our stories and graduate profiles, check out the official Commencement website, or look up and tag #NUS2023 on our social media channels!