Discover HASS (Issue 4 - Aug 2013)

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Dean's Message

In this issue of “Discover HASS,” there is much to share!  But first, I would like to thank all our colleagues who took part in Convocation, Freshman Welcome, and other student activities over the past few weeks.  They do take time, requiring some of us to return to campus perhaps earlier than planned, but they are important, especially for a young college such as ours.  They signal our commitment to education, and some of these events are significant rites of passage for our students.  Thankfully, they are also rather enjoyable!

Over the course of 2013, HASS has grown quite a bit.  During the past couple of months alone, some 30 new faculty and staff members have joined the HASS family.  A full list of new faculty and staff from January 2013 can be found below, or if you’re reading the e-version, via the link embedded here.  I look forward to meeting all new HASS members through my regular lunches with faculty and other College events.  Do say hello and help make them feel at home here!  One of the things I cherish most about HASS is its warm sense of collegiality, which to me is a necessary condition for the flourishing of learning and scholarship. 

We now have a lot more students too.  The August 2013 freshman intake far exceeded our expectation.  Graduate student numbers also grew.  The overall College enrolment has now crossed the 5,000 mark.  The quality of the students we attract is also on the rise, which is perhaps even more important.  In particular, the number of scholarship students nearly doubled from the year before.  To put things in better perspective, in 2009 we only had 9 scholarship holders, and this year 102 top students have accepted our scholarship offer!  Take a look at the table under “Undergraduate Education” below for the number of freshman admitted to each of our Programmes.

The tremendous effort of our faculty and staff at various events throughout the entire admission exercise should be applauded.  The many “trial” lectures our colleagues conduct at junior colleges and the open houses and tea receptions have been particularly effective.  I hope we can continue this effort and attract even better students to HASS.  We have already achieved a certain presence in the Singapore higher education scene, and I have no doubt that we will be able to meet our intake targets; the challenge now is to attract more top students, who will help raise the intellectual tenor of the College.

Many of you have heard me speak of the College as an integral constituent of the University.  I believe firmly that we can make a qualitative difference to NTU education as a whole.  The recent American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on “The Heart of the Matter: the Humanities and Social Sciences for a vibrant, competitive, and secure nation” underscores the foundational impact of the humanities, arts and social sciences in education, both in terms of personal development as well as preparing our students for a globalized and fast changing work environment.  I will not belabor the point and probably I will be preaching to the converted.  I do want to say, however, that there is genuine support and recognition for the critical role HASS plays in spearheading the new NTU Education initiative. 

Our new History and Public Policy and Global Affairs programmes have attracted significant student interest.  The new integrated Biological Sciences and Psychology programme is one of the most successful programmes at NTU in attracting top students.  A new Philosophy Major has just been approved by the University.  Our International Summer School and other educational projects are reported below for your reading pleasure.  Going forward, I would like to explore more collaborative programmes with the College of Science, especially in the area of environmental studies and cultural geography.

There may be larger social forces fuelling the increased interest in the humanities, arts, and social sciences in Singapore.  Nevertheless, it is our commitment to excellence in education that is really making the difference, and I have every confidence that HASS will soon become the college of choice for top students in Singapore and the region.  In this regard, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Drs. Patrick Williams and Jung Younbo for winning the inaugural Nanyang Education Award (College) 2013!  Over the next few months, we will embark on a college-wide discussion on the use of technology in education.  I look forward to your active participation.

There is also much to cheer on the research front.  32 applications from HASS were submitted in the first Tier-1 Grant Call this financial year, of which 14 were successful—a new record for the College.  There will be another Call next month.  We can certainly expect a higher number of grant applications compared to FY2012, which saw 30 applications and 17 awards.  Some months ago, NTU introduced a new series of thematic interdisciplinary Tier-1 Grant Calls.  For the “Complexity Research” Grant Call, 41 proposals from across the University were carefully reviewed by the Review Committee and the NTU Research Council, chaired by Professor Bengt Nordén.  I am delighted that Dr. Helena Gao’s project on “Modeling Levels of Consciousness for Language Development in Infants” has been selected for funding support.  At the national level, HASS submitted 5 Tier-2 project proposals to the Ministry of Education (MOE) in February this year.  Congratulations are in order to Associate Professor Francis Bond, Assistant Professor Frantisek Kratochvil and Assistant Professor Cao Fan for their success in this highly competitive exercise!  This, too, is a new record.  Please see below for a complete list of the competitive research grants awarded to HASS colleagues.  Last month, another 6 Tier-2 proposals from the College were shortlisted for submission to MOE.  Research in the humanities, arts, and social Sciences deserves every support.  We need to actively raise awareness of this through grant applications.  I am very confident that HASS will see its first Tier-3 grant soon!

Most of you will know that the College, especially ADM, is centrally involved in the establishment of a national-level Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA).  This marks another bold step in NTU’s development, venturing beyond the tranquil confines of Jurong West.  Located in the newly refurbished Gillman Barracks, the official opening of CCA, with a fantastic exhibition, will be held towards the end of October, timed in conjunction with the Singapore Biennale.  I will be inviting all of you to that gala event soon.

Last but certainly not least, Associate Professors Theng Yin Leng and Wee Wan Ling have been promoted to Full Professors in the recently completed promotion/tenure review. They will be “installed” as full professors before the Academic Council on 29 August 2013.  I will have the privilege to introduce them, together with our newly arrived professors, to the NTU academic community and I look forward to seeing all HASS colleagues on that occasion.  At the same promotion and tenure review, Drs. Cindy Wong, Uganda Kwan, Joey Long, Shirley Sun, Patrick Williams, and Arul Indrasen Chibhave been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure.  This is simply marvelous, and I congratulate them all for their fine achievement.

I am excited about the growth of the College.  The intellectual and creative energy that I see emanating from the Schools is invigorating.  The ongoing “Business Re-engineering Process” at the University will eventually result in changes to the way in which we deliver administrative services, but there will not be any reduction in support for the humanities, arts, and social sciences.  At the same time, we will continue to seek ways to enhance learning and research, break down disciplinary silos, and create a stronger sense of community at HASS.  As always, I welcome your suggestions on how we can make HASS an even better place for our faculty, staff, and students.

I wish everyone a great semester ahead.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Alan K.L. Chan
Dean
College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences