By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
Delve beneath viral trend-jacking campaigns and influencer sponsorships, and you will find the social sciences at the heart of any marketing strategy. After all, savvy marketers have been known to employ the use of anthropology, psychology, and sociology to better understand their customers.
Today, generating consumer insights through social science is even more essential with the rise of the global economy — where organisations need to understand their target customers across borders and cultures.
For SMU Bachelor of Social Sciences (BSocSc) graduate Chua Li-En, currently an Associate Brand Manager — Asia and New Markets at Ben & Jerry’s, her journey towards critical thinking and embracing a global mindset began during her days as an International Baccalaureate (IB) student.
From IB to SMU
Widely known as a rigorous programme that encourages independent inquiry, the IB inculcates in its students the desire to create meaningful change in the world through intercultural understanding and respect. IB graduates are therefore well-poised to become engaged world citizens who are active, compassionate, and lifelong learners.
“IB taught me to think for myself and stand up for my opinions with evidence and confidence,” recalls Li-En.
“The small class sizes in the IB programme helped with my confidence and public speaking skills. The curriculum was super interactive, and instead of talking ‘at’ you, my teachers engaged in active debates and discussions with us.”
The IB programme’s interactive pedagogy and global worldview prepared Li-En well for her undergraduate studies at the SMU School of Social Sciences (SOSS). Having developed an undergraduate curriculum to address the ever-changing global society, SMU’s interdisciplinary curriculum challenges students to explore different perspectives as part of a versatile, multidisciplinary programme in the social sciences.
SMU Bachelor of Social Sciences
Other than enabling students to better understand the world in which they live and operate in, an education in social sciences also provides the perfect foundation for students who are keen to promote positive change in the world. Such competencies became especially relevant for Li-En when she landed her role at Ben & Jerry’s, whose values go well beyond being a purveyor of desserts: the ice-cream manufacturing giant actively addresses issues such as environmental impact, sustainable sourcing, cultural diversity and equity, among others.
While SMU BSocSc modules such as Cultural, Cognitive and Social Psychology helped shape the way Li-En thinks, the University’s flexible academic pathways have also allowed her to undertake majors across SOSS and the SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business.
“Majoring in Marketing and Psychology has equipped me with soft and hard skills to understand consumer behaviour better and sharpen my business acumen,” shares Li-En.
“In addition to all the learnings, these psychology modules taught me the value of empathy, which have come in handy during business settings. I often put on my ‘research hat’ and apply concepts like fundamental attribution error, interdependent vs independent cultures during business negotiations. These concepts have also helped me to understand the reasons behind certain behaviours or the business decisions of my colleagues.”
Global exposure opportunities for an extra edge
Across SMU, students are given the opportunity for global exposure in the form of exchange programme, overseas internship, study mission, community service or summer study programmes. By melding theory and practice through such practical fieldwork experience, students gain a first-hand, real-world perspective of issues learnt in the classroom, deepening their knowledge application across cultures and nationalities.
For Li-En, who first participated in a summer exchange programme at the University of British Columbia (UBC), it was a refreshing and eye-opening experience to interact with exchange students and professors from different cultures. Soon after, she underwent a six-month internship with Humanitarian Affairs Asia, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Pattaya, Thailand. There, she helped organise the NGO’s 5th University Leadership Symposium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, while sharing a flat with students from Canada, the USA, India, Kuwait and Indonesia.
Li-En (back row, centre) with fellow housemates on one of her internships
With digitalisation breaking down barriers and growing opportunities for global businesses, it’s no secret that global exposure provides graduates with a competitive edge. According to this survey conducted by the Institute of International Education, more than half of the respondents polled believe that their study abroad experience had contributed to a job offer at some point, for example.
Transcending cultures for success
Aptly, both the IB and BSocSc programmes focus on the importance of being a team player in the global workplace — the ability to develop cultural awareness to elevate communication and foster a sense of teamwork.
“Doing business means interacting with people from all walks of life,” notes Li-En.
“They may hail from different nationalities and cultures and speak other languages. Thus, being situationally aware of the nuances of language, which include body language, and customs have implications that might affect the outcome of a situation.
Being a global citizen means thinking beyond myself and possessing that empathetic awareness that my actions have a broader impact and extend to those around me in my community.”
Come experience the similarities in an IB programme and the SMU experience for yourself through the SMU Bachelor of Social Science today. Applications are closing soon!