Insights from an insider: Kelvin Fan, Business School Valedictorian 2019

By the SMU Social Media Team

Even before Kelvin Fan secured his spot at Singapore Management University (SMU), he was already a part of its Track and Field team. Despite being a novice at his chosen sport—the high jump—the team had welcomed him with open arms and treated him as one of their own.

It was this supportive environment that led him to apply to SMU, where he eventually graduated as DBS Bank School Valedictorian for the Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) in 2019.

Now, Kelvin is an associate consultant with Bain & Company. He says: “I like to think of life after university as a transatlantic flight. SMU taught me the skills I need to ensure a smooth taxiing and take-off for my career, and I am excited about the next flight out, wherever it may take me.”

These are some of his reflections:


What was your favourite module at SMU?

One of them was Managing People at Work (MPW) by Assistant Professor Michael Schaerer. His teaching materials were clear and structured, and his in-class activities were engaging and great for demonstrating concepts. I distinctly remember an activity that required us to ask the right question before we were given a piece of information that would lead our analysis to a totally different conclusion. It taught me to appreciate the importance of clear communication and asking thoughtful questions.

Another was Management Communications (MC) by an adjunct faculty Ho Jack Yong. He was great at pulling together class material that was current and interesting, and delivering it in an engaging manner. He also ensured that the classroom was a safe space for participation.


What were two key skills you picked up at SMU?

SMU taught me how to stretch my limits, and gave me a headstart on being a confident and client-ready communicator.

There are many things in life that I want to do and look forward to. In the short term, you might be able to sacrifice time spent on sleep or socialising. However, the only sustainable way in the long term is to be more efficient with the 24 hours you have. University life had many interesting opportunities to offer, and I was a little greedy with what I wanted to experience, so I was constantly challenging my limits there.

SMU also taught me to be a confident communicator. Presentations are inevitable in most careers, whether to your supervisors, senior management or your client. Being able to pick up a set of materials and instantly run with it increases the trust that co-workers have in you, and will expose you to more opportunities. We had plenty of practice with this throughout our SMU journey.


What co-curricular activities did you take part in and what did you learn from them?

I served as President of both the SMU Track & Field Club (I believe it is called SMU Athletics now) and the SMU Ambassadorial Corps (ASMU).

Track & Field was a huge reason why I chose to study in Singapore and eventually join SMU. Aside from training with the team before I even had a place at SMU, I met many great friends who taught me about camaraderie.

I took part in a local exchange programme at the National University of Singapore, and an overseas exchange at the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton). Wharton was a life-changing experience. I made many close friends, went on wild adventures, and was inspired by the professors and guest speakers there.

I also represented SMU and Singapore at the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Young Leaders’ Summit in Seoul, where I met delegates from 50 other Asian and European countries. This led to my subsequent involvement in the ASEF Rectors’ Conference in Singapore, where I delivered a workshop to 20 Rectors and was an academic observer to their discussions. It was a pretty intimidating experience teaching Presidents and Provosts of Universities, albeit a rewarding one.


How did studying at SMU challenge you both academically and personally?

I struggled a lot with trying to keep pace and score internships like all my peers, and didn’t get a single internship in my sophomore year. That was terrifying at the time, so while everybody was busy interning that summer, I focused on leading my two student clubs and training for the high jump. I also did side projects that allowed me to learn some of the skills my peers would have gotten during their internships, with the hope that this alternative pathway would help me stand out.

I experienced the most personal growth while leading Track & Field and ASMU—learning how to live up to expectations, think strategically and manage people. I also made plenty of mistakes, but I was blessed to have people around me providing emotional support and words of wisdom.


If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you’d give your undergraduate self?

Take time to pause and appreciate how far you’ve come, and celebrate the small achievements. We tend not to give ourselves enough credit for what we have achieved. It is also helpful to take a step back sometimes and reconnect with your inner self, so you can spot things you might have missed earlier or discover a different perspective on life.


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