SUTD Class of 2018 Commencement Speech by Professor Chong Tow Chong, President, SUTD

08 Sep 2018

SUTD Chancellor, Dr Tony Tan,
Chairman of the URA Mr Peter Ho,
Board of Trustees, Graduates and Families
Faculty, Staff and Students,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

What a significant milestone in the lives of our fresh graduates -  your commencement! 

This achievement is the culmination of many years of hard work, sacrifice and let us not forget, unwavering support from your family and friends. 

My heartfelt congratulations to each of you and well done Class of 2018  - you and your loved ones deserve a big round of applause!  

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we had welcomed you for the first time in our new campus on matriculation day – you were the first batch of SUTD students to start your Freshmore year in our new East Coast campus. 
There you all were…. excited faces, and while some looked a little anxious, most of you appeared eager to embark on this new chapter in your life and make new friends. 

Do you still remember your Orientation Camp Finale? I do. A night filled with so much energy, friendship and togetherness. I was heartened to see so many of you stepping into SUTD with great ideas and big dreams.

We shared with you how SUTD was designed to help you achieve just that! I urge you to continue seeing a world of possibilities and to have the courage and determination to realise the dreams that stir in your hearts. 

And, I have every confidence that you will go far in your pursuits, because you have already demonstrated your pioneering spirit in choosing to join SUTD….. despite it being a newly established university. 

It speaks of your willingness to embrace a path less travelled and confidence in accepting the challenge of blazing a path of your own.

I hope your time in SUTD has not only equipped you with the multi-disciplinary knowledge and fundamentals of human-centric design thinking (Big-D), but also developed in you holistic competencies beyond book knowledge. 

Skills like critical thinking, problem-solving and communication, as well as a “can-do” attitude, through our unique pedagogies and “Fifth Row” activities, in which time and space is set aside for you to incubate your ideas and pursue your passion and dreams. 

Remember those sleepless nights when you worked on design projects, as well as the recently completed capstone projects? Of course you do! 

You often joke that SUTD stands for Study Up Til Dawn. The programme you have gone through is rigorous and challenging – I know -  it was designed for you to be future-ready for the ever-changing world we live in. In spite of the challenges you have faced, you demonstrated great aptitude and perseverance to complete the course. We are truly humbled by your achievements and so proud of each and every one of you.

Achievements of Class 2018

So far, we have graduated three batches of undergraduates, and you, the Class of 2018, are our fourth. This year will also yield our very first batch of graduates from the SUTD-SMU Dual-Degree Programme (DDP) and the Masters of Science in Security by Design, as well as our largest batch of PhD graduates. 

An informal employment survey done by our Career Development Centre has shown that over 74% of you have either already secured jobs spanning more than 78% of key industries, started working on your start-ups, or have made plans to pursue further study, even before today’s commencement ceremony.  

It always fills me with pride to hear from industry leaders that SUTD graduates are very well regarded and highly valued by companies that employ them. Our Minister of Education, Mr Ong Ye Kung has challenged SUTD to continue to push ourselves, and maintain our pole position as a local University with the most employable graduates. We accept this challenge and will continue to focus on ensuring our graduates are technically-grounded leaders and innovators, who are well equipped to seize opportunities of the future.

It’s time now to acknowledge some remarkable achievements of this graduating cohort.

[The portion in italics features students with degrees conferred in the first ceremony.  The students featured highlighted in the second ceremony are listed at the end.]

Yeo Pei Shan (DDP EPD) started the sustainable F&B social enterprise, called UglyFood, which making use of unsold or blemished fruits and vegetables to produce popsicles, juices and teas. Currently, Pei Shan and her team have expanded to selling their products beyond SUTD, to corporations such as Charles & Keith, NTU and GIC. 

Another student, Siti Nurhayati (DDP EPD) also had the enterprising flair to recognise a gap in SUTD’s F&B offerings. Together with her brother, they set up Gom Gom, a sandwich store, on the ground floor of Building 2 in 2015.  I believe Gom Gom has fed many a hungry student and staff over the past three years and I hope they will continue to do so, for a long time to come. But this is just one of Siti’s many accomplishments. Besides being an outstanding badminton player, who represented Singapore at the ASEAN University Games in 2014, she has also clinched several medals in Windsurfing while competing at tertiary and national levels. With her outstanding abilities, I’m sure she will be able to contribute greatly to her job with Restaurant Brands International, the company that owns Burger King.

I want to also acknowledge and express our thanks to Parekh Shalv Amit, or Shalv, as most of us know him, for his contributions to the University and the student body. He held many key roles, including President of SUTD’s student government and winning the Humanitarian and Student Leader Awards. He also led the team that organised the Ministerial Forum earlier this year, which saw PM Lee Hsien Loong coming to SUTD for a dialogue with our students. Shalv did all these while maintaining a top-notch academic record! We are thankful for his passion and selfless service in improving varsity life and for his efforts in shaping the SUTD culture. Singtel is indeed fortunate to have such an enthusiastic new addition such as Shalv.

Last but not least, we have Jordan Sim. With a strong passion for big data analytics, Jordan has come up with innovative ways for visualising data. One of the more interesting visuals he has created was a heat map showing the population density of Singapore, superimposed with the locations of Singapore hawker centres. uParcel, a Capstone project that Jordan and his team worked on, was very well-received by industry partners, who have decided to adopt their solutions, and are now working on adapting it for implementation to their businesses. Jordan will be joining a fintech company, Temenos, when he graduates, and his deep knowledge in big data analytics will surely be an asset to them.

And these students are just a small sample of the excellence at work by our graduates. 

You have done the school proud…embodied our university’s vision – to better the world by design.

Remember - carry that inquisitive spirit always. Never lose your appetite for innovation and lifelong learning, and have the conviction and wisdom to pursue your ideas and dreams.

New Chapter of Life – Lifelong Learning

Having graduated from SUTD, you will once again be starting a new chapter and forging your own path in life. 

Yes, you will encounter many different personalities and challenges along the way…ups and downs. And yes, you will probably feel some anxiety when embarking on any new journey or career. 

The uncertainties that your generation will face are bound to be more challenging than those experienced by my peers and I, when we graduated from university some 40 years ago. Due to this era of digital transformation, you simply cannot rely on the knowledge you already have. Continue adapting, learning and reinventing yourself – that way you’re guaranteed to make a difference in this rapidly changing world. 

It is important, always, to remain true to yourself - discover your own voice, know your worth, and above all, stay open-minded and humble in your lifelong quest to learn new things.

Stay connected with your friends whom you have walked this journey, not only to celebrate life’s joys, but also to support each other as you encounter more complex problems and challenges. 

Let your dreams be the lighthouse that will help you navigate without losing sight of your goal. 

Let every step be of great meaning and purpose to you so that you will find new possibilities at every turn. 

Let your energy be what powers your imagination and zest for life as you embark on an exciting journey ahead.  

Finally, as alumni of SUTD, you are and will always be part of the SUTD family. We are committed to being your partner in your inspired journey of lifelong learning, because we know, the true measure of success for a university is the progress of her alumni. 
And we can’t wait to hear your stories of outstanding success!
All the best! Class of 2018.

Students highlighted in second ceremony

We have many students from this batch whose creativity and passion have brought SUTD much recognition, such as the three light installations designed and built by our students showcased at the recent Singapore Night Festival.  One of the light installations was also this year’s Capstone project – Hyperbands. 

A member of this Capstone team is Jonathan Ng (ASD), and this is his second year participating in the Night Festival.  He has also led a group of 14 students to design the lantern display for the 2017 Chinese New Year (Year of the Rooster) Light Up. Jonathan received many awards, such as the IKEA Singapore Young Designer Award in 2016 and 2017, four Student Achievement Awards, including the MIT Club of Singapore Excellence Award. His ability to balance all the demanding commitments is highly commendable. Recently, he also received a scholarship from Design Singapore Council to pursue his Masters of Architecture in Harvard University. 

Another outstanding student is Koh Kai Wei, your valedictorian. Kai Wei was the one who initiated the first SUTD-organised nation-wide, called What The Hack @ SUTD hackathon last year. His strong passion in technology and design also led him to take part in several hackathons, where he received multiple awards and accolades. His passion towards helping fellow students was evidenced by his volunteering to assist faculty in conducting a computing boot camp during the Independent Activity Period (IAP). 

Kai Wei’s leadership abilities are also apparent by the various appointments he has taken up during his time here – he was the ISTD Student Board Chair, SUTD-Singapore Computer Society Student Chapter Student Representative, among others. He will be joining GovTech, where I’m sure he will be a great asset.

Last but not least, we have Natalie Agus. I’ve known her since 2011 when she joined us as a campus builder before her enrollment into SUTD, and I was her mentor. She was our pioneer batch student who obtained her Bachelor degree from ISTD in 2015. After graduating, she immediately continued with her PhD studies in SUTD, and today, she will be receiving a PhD degree in digital signal processing. Her passion in education stemmed from her JC days, where she started tutoring her classmates in Maths and Science subjects, and she continued this passion to be a teaching assistant in SUTD and received the ISTD Teaching Excellence Award. As Natalie graduates from the PhD programme, we look forward to welcoming her as our very first SUTD-groomed faculty. 

(This list replaces the section in italics above during the second ceremony)