Speech by SUTD Pro tem Student Council President, Ms Sharlene Wong

07 May 2012

Good afternoon, SUTD Chancellor, President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Chairman, SUTD Board of Trustees, Mr Philip Ng, Members of the SUTD Board of Trustees, President of SUTD, Professor Thomas Magnanti, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Introduction: my story

My name is Sharlene, and I am really glad to be here today. It is my honour to be able to declare now that we are students of SUTD! Here at SUTD, we learn engineering, architecture and infocomm systems. I am most interested in the Engineering and Systems Design pillar, and here is why.

Call me crazy, but I’ve been to Universal Studios Singapore five times, though most of the time for free. Guess I am lucky. One of my favorite things to do in the park is to stand somewhere, look around, watch people and think. Think about how the entire park is being run. Whenever I take a ride, I love asking myself the following questions: What the experience of the participant is, how the location of the ride affects crowd movement in the park, what sort of age group the ride caters to and as a result, how the composition of guests would change, so on and so forth. My love for theme parks inspired a passion for systems. I hope to be able to design systems to serve people, to serve societal needs one day.

This is my story of how I got into SUTD, and when I got here, I got to hear about other equally amazing stories from so many others.

Stories of students of SUTD

Just a few days ago, our pioneer batch went through orientation together. I’ve met people who attended polytechnic twice because he had to take over his father’s business when his father fell sick. I’ve met people who live in Johor Bahru and travel across the causeway to Singapore everyday since secondary school. Despite coming from different walks of life and having different challenges to deal with, we are here because we all have dreams.

During the Amazing Race segment of orientation, among other interesting and funny tasks, five people from my orientation group shared their dreams and aspirations loudly in a bus. It was so amazing that all of us had dreams that intertwined so closely with coming to SUTD. Some want to design skyscrapers, some want to create an Ironman suit and some even want to bioengineer glow-in-the-dark cats.

Building SUTD

However we came to SUTD, we are now here, eager to start school together. The staff and faculty have been working hard these three years to provide us with a great academic curriculum. As pioneer students, we should continue building on what has been done. So get active in Fifth Row! Students have already begun to form bands and dance groups. People are also talking about organizing things like Android programming lessons, and Russian martial art courses. We can also get involved in research with our professors. One of the key benefits is to be published in their papers. Students who have had a chance to work with professors find them very encouraging and nurturing.

So why not initiate something of your own? Who knows where it may lead?

As hostel living is mandatory for the Freshmore year, it is an integral part of our student life. Unlike other hostels, we get to shape how hostel life will be like. It’s a great opportunity to get to know everyone, so don’t be shy, knock on each other’s doors! Get to know new people! Have friends over for dinner! Plan parties! Applications to become a Guardian of your stairway are happening soon, and a competition to name your stairways is also coming up.

Regardless of hostel, cohort classroom or 5th row, we’re all in this together as pioneers.

Pioneering SUTD together

Pioneering is a bittersweet experience. It has its joys and excitement, for we get to have the freedom to break frontiers. It is also full of struggles and challenges for two reasons: one, there is no past; we’re new. Two, the future ahead is a blank page waiting to be written. With so much uncertainty, it won’t be easy to do all the things we want to do. So we need to be there to support each other through the tough times. We need to help each other not be afraid to set up that club, to start that project, or to stand in front of everyone and give a speech.

I believe that as time passes, we will become a close-knit community. Along the way, we will make mistakes. But when that happens, we know that we will always have the support of the staff, faculty, our friends and SUTD.No matter what life throws at us, we know we have each other.

Conclusion: pioneering SUTD, making it the right choice

Making the choice to come to SUTD was definitely not the easiest of decisions, but we have every power to turn it into the best decision of our lives. It is up to us to make SUTD the right choice. When that happens, we can proudly say that we were here first.

Thank you.