By the SMU Postgraduate Research Programmes Team
It’s the start of a new academic year and we’ve just welcomed 40 new SMU PhD students from across seven countries—Singapore, Bulgaria, China, France, India, South Korea and Vietnam!
Talk about a diverse group! But our first-year PhD students didn’t need to worry about feeling lost or lonely on unfamiliar grounds. To get them well acquainted with the new journey ahead, a host of activities were lined up from briefing sessions, a kick-off party to a tour of our beautiful city. Let’s take a look at what went down!
The new batch of PhD students meet each other for the first time
Professor Pang speaking to the new batch of PhD students at the welcome orientation
The orientation kickstarted with a welcome briefing by the SMU Office of Postgraduate Research Programmes. Professor Pang Hwee Hwa, SMU’s Dean of Postgraduate Research and Dean of the School of Information Systems, welcomed the students with two quests:
- to begin thinking about where they wanted to be at the end of their individual PhD journey, and
- to consider what credentials would they need for their desired careers.
He reminded them that technical excellence was not enough to make a good impression on prospective employers, and encouraged them to take full advantage of the suite of writing, teaching, presentation and career preparation training programmes available at SMU.
Following his speech, the students learnt about the various services that the university had to offer. One such facility is the student wellness centre—a safe haven for students looking for counselling and support should they find themselves facing any difficulties, or simply a quiet spot to recharge playing some games or relaxing in the massage chairs. Other services available to students include alumni networking events, teaching-skills training and a career services centre.
Students enjoying the buffet lunch
Let the fun times begin
The fun really started after lunch. As part of SMU’s commitment to provide students with not just the hard skills, but also the ‘heart’ skills, the university created the SMU LifeLessons curriculum—which was included in the PhD orientation for the first time this year. Students were first tasked to reflect on the character traits they valued in themselves; thereafter, they had to go in search of students sharing similar values to form discussion groups. After much running around, four groups were finally formed: Honesty, Responsibility, Happiness and Optimism. Within their groups, the students introduced themselves and spoke about why they connected with their chosen values.
Using the SMU LifeLessons Pathfinder as a guide, the students thought hard about what values best defined them. They then broke into four groups to talk more deeply about their chosen values.
The activity was a big hit. For Dorothee Sidokpohou, a first-year PhD in Business (Marketing) student from France, the activity reiterated the point that “finding people with the same values could be challenging”. Rohan Ray, a student from India who is beginning his PhD in Economics, remarked, “It was a great way of breaking the ice!”
This was followed by another small-group activity on SMU’s CIRCLE Values, where students discussed how they could embody the values in their respective PhD journey.
First-year SMU PhD students and future thought leaders celebrate the start of their new journeys
The final activity for the day was a race around campus, a la The Amazing Race! The students teamed up to tackle various challenges, such as deciphering the many acronyms used on campus, hunting down key campus facilities, and trying out local Singaporean food.
Nicholas Yeo Teck Boon, a first-year PhD in Business (Operations Management) student, taking a wefie with his team during the campus race
That’s not all
Over the PhD orientation week, students attended welcome sessions by the respective departments in their schools and SMU Libraries. They got to know their professors better over pizza lunches and were introduced to library research services—services that may prove invaluable in their PhD studies moving forward.
The orientation culminated in a PhD Kick-off Party, which was held in tandem with SMU’s first-ever Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition event and the 2016 Presidential Fellowship Award presentation ceremony.
Finally, international students were taken on a half-day tour of Singapore’s key city sights. They visited Kampong Glam, the historic Malay district; Marina Barrage, a reservoir-cum-recreation spot; National Gallery Singapore, a newly-opened gallery of modern Southeast Asian art; Singapore’s historic Chinatown; and the Singapore River. The trip ended with a buffet lunch at Little India where a delighted Bian Xueying, a PhD in Economics student from China, admitted to having a hankering for Indian food. “I enjoyed the tour very much!” she exclaimed, while helping herself to some fish curry.
The first-year SMU PhD students try out the signature SMU Jump against the Singapore city skyline
Now that orientation’s over, our PhD students are all ready to get into the grind of school, confident that they have a strong network to support them throughout their journey as doctoral students.