Discover HASS (Issue 5 - Aug 2014)


Dean's Message

The start of a new academic term is always exciting. Not all would agree, no doubt, but I actually rather enjoy seeing the long queues in Canteen B again! Over 1,100 new undergraduate students entered the College this academic year, which confirms our rising trajectory as a college of choice among Singapore students. It’s lovely meeting some of them during the Freshmen Inauguration. It’s also wonderful meeting the graduates from our Class of 2014 and their parents during the recent Convocation ceremonies.

AY2013 has been an extraordinary year of progress for us. In this issue of “Discover HASS,” thanks to Ms Seeto Wei Peng, our indefatigable Deputy Director (Academic Affairs), you will find updates on undergraduate and graduate education, research, faculty achievements, and other developments in the College. Happy reading!

During the last academic year, over 90 new faculty and staff have joined the HASS family (click here for the full list). This is truly remarkable and attests to the commitment to developing Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at NTU. I have already met most of our new colleagues, and I look forward to meeting all of you during my regular lunches with faculty and at College and University events. We take pride in the HASS culture of openness and collegiality. Please do say hello to our new colleagues and help them get settled in their new surroundings. Colleagues who have served on search committees and the Schools’ HR teams, working with the College’s Director of Administration, Ms Goh Hwee Oon, should be given a big round of applause. The amount of work they have shouldered is just staggering. I should not forget our Finance colleagues—without their diligence and dedication we would be in serious trouble!

I should add a special welcome to our colleagues in the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), located in Gillman Barracks, which is a new extension of the HASS mission. Though barely a year old, it has already mounted three wonderful exhibitions and welcomed its first artists-in-residence. Do drop by and say hello to Ute Bauer, CCA’s Founding Director, and her team. Last year, our Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme netted over 200 applications. Please also join me in welcoming our three new College Postdoctoral Fellows who have just arrived. By the way, it’s good seeing so many of you at the Academic Council meeting last week, where our new full professors were introduced to the NTU community. It’s great also seeing a good number of colleagues at the “Interact@NTU” get-together last Friday in the newly refurbished Campus Clubhouse.

While the South-spine Learning Hub is still under construction, the new Pioneer and Crescent Halls have been completed. I visited the two new Halls recently to get a sense of the place our students would call home over the next 4 years. I must say I was impressed; the facilities and the green technology behind them are wonderful. Education will continue to rank high on the University’s agenda; in particular, the effective use of technology in achieving learning outcomes will be given serious attention in the coming years. The College plays a central role in the formation of both the Teaching Excellence Academy and the Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE). Last year, we also took the lead in initiating a college-wide discussion on technology-enhanced education. Arising from faculty feedback and with the support of all three Schools, the College has instituted a teaching release scheme for colleagues who plan to develop new courses with a core online component or introduce new technology-enhanced pedagogical innovations to existing courses. It takes time and effort to design such courses, and I’m truly glad that School Chairs and the College Undergraduate Education Committee all agree that this should be a priority for the College.

The College did very well in the recent admission exercise. We were able to achieve our intake target with relative ease; more importantly, we were able to attract very good students to the College. The AY14 undergraduate intake saw a heartwarming 39% increase in the number of “T15” students joining the College, and a 57% jump in the number of scholarship holders. This is a splendid achievement and should spur us on in scaling even greater heights next year. I would like to thank all colleagues who have worked very, very hard—whether in outreach activities, programme development, or backroom and or IT operations—in making this a reality. Let’s build on this momentum and bring even more top students into the College. Better students help raise the quality of intellectual exchange, which will in turn improve the quality of the learning experience for all students. On the programme side, the successful introduction of Philosophy should be warmly applauded. In fact, the programme attracted far more students than expected, and Philosophy colleagues are now putting together a new university-wide core module on Ethics and Moral Reasoning. Associate Dean (Undergraduate Education) Neil Murphy has been leading an effort to develop a possible new BA programme that would further enhance our offerings. In this regard, I would encourage all colleagues to discuss and suggest new interdisciplinary programmes that would bring the three Schools together and really differentiate ourselves from our peers.

Graduate student enrolment has improved as well. Selectivity generally is around 25%. There is room for further improvement, and we should also redouble our effort in attracting top students beyond the region. PhD students contribute so much to research. Associate Dean (Graduate Education) May Lwin and her team have worked hard to promote our programmes and improve our processes. At the same time, the College is taking steps to attract more Singaporeans to pursue graduate studies in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. A new HASS International PhD Scholarship (HIPS) scheme was launched last year. Three awards were given. Under this scheme, designed for Singaporeans and permanent residents, the successful candidates would be employed as teaching assistants, provided a full PhD scholarship, and appointed assistant professors upon their successful completion of the PhD. In time, this will add considerable depth to our faculty, and I would like to ask all colleagues to help identify outstanding candidates for the scheme.

I have always maintained that research in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences deserve greater support. In the past, I was told that we were not active enough in seeking research grants. I can now say categorically that this is no longer true. In the first Tier-1 Grant Call this financial year, HASS submitted 47 applications, of which 32 were funded. This is a record for us. We should celebrate! While selectivity is integral to any grant scheme and not all applications would be successful in any given grant call, we should make every effort to further increase the rate of application. Beyond individual achievement, this is also because we want the larger university community to understand the kind of research we do and their importance, and to make sure that the voice of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences is heard. On the national level, 4 HASS colleagues were awarded Tier-2 grants in FY2013. This, too, is cause for celebration. Associate Dean (Research) K.K. Luke and his team will continue to organize forums to discuss the art of writing grant proposals and to bring colleagues together to develop new interdisciplinary projects. Our senior colleagues are more than happy to read any grant proposal in their field and offer suggestions for improvement. I am confident not only that HASS will win more Tier-2 grants but also that we will see our first Tier-3 award soon!

As you know, the University is now deliberating on a new strategic plan that would take us to the year 2020. Earlier consultations on education and research in the Schools have yielded many good ideas. Discussion will continue, on education, new strategic research foci, and also possible changes to the existing structures of some of our Schools. I will be visiting all the Schools this semester to further this discussion. As part of this process, the College has convened a Visiting Committee, which will not only appraise our development but more importantly also provide guidance in the next phase of the College’s development. The composition of the Committee is given below and the visit is scheduled to take place from 8 to 12 March 2015.  This is an important exercise. WKWSCI celebrated its 20th anniversary a couple of years ago. HSS is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. ADM will turn 10 next year. So it’s timely for a comprehensive review. Please do mark those dates on your calendar. It’d be good if colleagues could engage the Visiting Committee to explore ways to further strengthen HASS.

Last but certainly not least, I am delighted to share that at the recent promotion and tenure review, Francis Bond (LMS) has been awarded tenure, while Shirley Ho (WKWSCI), Daniel Jernigan (English), Joyce Pang (Psychology), and Teo You Yenn (Sociology) and have been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure. Achieving tenure is an important milestone in academic life.

HASS today is a strong and vibrant community. I don’t normally pay much heed to rankings, but it’s really nice to see that Communication & Media Studies at NTU is ranked 6th in the world in the most recent QS subject rankings. English Language & Literature, Linguistics, Politics, and Psychology are all within the top 50. Yes, we may need to thank some of our colleagues in the other schools such as NBS and RSIS for the strong showing; nonetheless, our achievements should not go unnoticed.

Allow me to end by seeking your indulgence in this long missive, inviting your input in ways to improve our work and environment, and wishing you a productive, safe and enjoyable semester ahead.


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