Learning beyond the classroom: Students get a taste of NUS College’s Special Programmes at inaugural fair

The inaugural Special Programmes Info Fair held recently by NUS College brought together faculty members and staff from its Impact Experience (IEx), Global Experience (GEx) and Growth Mentoring (GM) programmes to demonstrate to students the real-life impact of their subjects and showcase the opportunities for outside-the-classroom learning.

NUS College welcomed its first cohort of over 400 students to its campus in University Town in August this year. As the University’s honours college, it offers an immersive, interdisciplinary education with unique programmes that allow students to contribute positively to society and develop a global mindset to thrive in an increasingly borderless community and economy.

Through programmes like those of IEx and GEx, students learn more about real-world issues, network with stakeholders, develop innovative solutions to benefit society, and even spend part of their summer break overseas to broaden their global perspectives and apply what they have learnt in classrooms. While getting involved in IEx and GEx, students can also concurrently tap on GM programmes and resources for academic and career advisory as well as mentorship to build up their self-purpose, values and character.

Describing the Special Programmes as opportunities which will empower students to make a global impact, expose them to cultural exchanges, and transform them into global citizens, Associate Professor Daniel Goh, Vice Dean of Special Programmes at NUS College said, “These flagship programmes are intended to be transformative and students should embrace the opportunities to learn beyond the classroom.” 

“Students should reflect on their undergraduate journey, choose wisely from the many options made available specially to them and be intentional about taking their modules. There are deep connections between what they are discovering about themselves and the courses at NUS College, NUS and beyond,” he added.  

More than 20 creative booths were featured at the fair which included a display of artefacts such as fabrics, food and even a fish-tank – each of them representing unique ways for students to learn and engage both inside and outside the classroom. An information session on various IEx and GEx programmes was also conducted, complementing the students’ experience at the booths.

Among the highlights were Dr Shivani Gupta’s booth on “Gender Matters Everyday”, one of the courses designed to let students learn about community issues like inclusivity and gender equality. Inquisitive students engaged in discussions with Dr Gupta on various topics, including the importance of intersectionality in thinking about diversity and inclusivity in Singapore and helping the city-state’s migrant domestic workers.

Dr Gupta explained how this course creates impact at two levels. She said, “First, the community will benefit through a long-term project that students undertake. Second, students learn very important ways of collaborating with communities underpinned by principles of empathy, humility, and equality.”

Another popular stop was Assoc Prof Peter Vail’s “Project: Chiang Mai” showcase, which gave students a glimpse into how they can explore and develop their interests in heritage, social development, technology, environmentalism, art and other areas.

“The students’ enthusiasm was palpable. They asked many good questions and contributed many good ideas that we can consider taking on board to refine these projects and our courses,” Assoc Prof Vail said. “The creative energy and synergy between students and faculty will set the tone for the IEx for years to come.”

Meanwhile, the GEx booths were buzzing with conversations about overseas exchange and learning opportunities. The GEx in Paris, Stockholm, New York, Toronto, Java and Mekong are specially curated by NUS College faculty, who have research interests and connections in these locations.

Students learned about the seven different locations they can explore, such as Paris for those curious about arts, culture and diplomacy, and the Mekong region for those interested in the intricacies of migration and development. In understanding the issues related to these specific geographies, students can then relate them to their own areas of studies.

Shawn Chan, a Year 1 Communications and New Media major, pointed out that the fair was a great opportunity for students to connect with their professors and learn more about their passions, as exemplified by the respective GEx projects they lead.

She said, “I am looking forward to applying for this programme in the next academic year. I have always been interested in the integration of traditional culture and advanced technology in the vibrant city of Tokyo. Dr Lee Chee Keng’s booth has further spurred me to think about how technology could also play a role in maintaining traditions that would disappear otherwise.”

With seemingly limitless opportunities for students and graduates to pursue a career in fields and causes they are passionate about, learning from the experience of others have been useful in helping them chart their desired paths.

At the fair, the GM team engaged with students to share career guidance activities and events aimed at inspiring them and building up their confidence to pursue their dreams. These activities include regular fireside chats with mentors, such as NUS alumni who are professionals from various industries and sectors, to help them discover their interests and learn more about certain fields. 

Recalling a fireside chat held earlier this year, Mr Christopher Go, a GM administrator at NUS College said, “I was impressed by the tenacity and passion our students demonstrated through their thorough questions about what it takes to succeed in a particular field.”

“Our mentors, in turn, spoke candidly about their journeys and even shared about internship opportunities students could take up to get hands-on experiences. We’ve hosted a film-maker and venture capitalist so far, and are currently lining up more motivating speakers for upcoming fireside chats,” he added.

by NUS College