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Ong Hua Han was deciding between NUS Business School and another university which was nearer home and most importantly, on flatter ground.  Even his family doctor discouraged him from NUS because it would be hard for him to move around its hilly terrain. He was born with a condition called brittle bone disease (Osteogenesis Imperfecta), and moves around mostly on a wheelchair.

H GradThen the BBA office reached out to the family. Its staff invited Hua Han and his parents to the school. Over a cosy tea session, they talked about the challenges and possibilities of NUS – accessibility, safety, health; and how the office could assist him if he joined the school. Then – and his mother fondly remembers – the Assistant Dean, Dr Helen Chai, personally took them on a walk around the school, showing him the routes that were wheelchair-accessible – in her high heels!

He remembers that there was a drop step near the bus-stop he would not be able to negotiate with his wheelchair. BBA Office connected with the now Office of Campus Amenities (then called Office of Estate and Development), and a ramp for wheelchair access was built. The office also, when needed, helped schedule his lessons so they did not run back to back and thus he had time to get to each class on time.

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Thank you, Reedz!

After serving delicious food to the business school community as well as hosting many events for six years, Reedz Cafe@BizSchool is now closing. It did not win the tender to continue with its operations in the school and will make way for a new café come August. We take a walk down memory lane with BBA (2008) alumnus Lee Junxian who co-founded Reedz with Chang Jen Fi (Engineering):

That year in 2010, the MRB Building was in the final stages of completion when the opportunity to operate a café on site became available. Junxian then was still studying on the premises while Jen Fi was just down the road. They remember juggling studies, co-curricular activities and running their food business at the same time.

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Junxian (left) with partner Jen Fi

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As the road rises

When you first meet Grace Chow (BBA Class of 2015), she strikes you as an unassuming twenty-something girl next door. She has 57,000 Instagram followers and lists among her clients Chanel, Christian Dior and Saks Fifth Avenue.

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12479081_966552400090896_739851382_nHer client list, which reads like the who’s who in the fashion industry, are enamoured with her designs that incorporate real flower petals to create works of art. They engage her to illustrate for their products as well as to perform live drawing and art-making at events and exhibitions.

She has always liked drawing. Although she had never had professional lessons as her parents did not think drawing would bring a steady income, she doodled. She started posting her drawings and fashion illustrations on her Instagram account. The initial reach was not high. Then one night as she sat drawing, she noticed that a rose a boy had given her was withering.

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Recruitment for a VUCA World

Some 120 recruiters were hosted by NUS Business School’s Career Services team to thank them for their contribution, as well as share and discuss development of talent for a VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous – world.

Ms Joan Tay, Executive Director (External Relations) delivering the opening address

Ms Joan Tay, Executive Director (External Relations) delivering the opening address

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A gift of sunshine from Business School alumni

There is a group of Business School students who have come together to establish a foundation that builds schools in the poorest regions of China. The Inspiring Sunshine Foundation’s (ISSF) goal is to build 101 schools by its tenth year and to educate and equip these children – to help them break out of the poverty cycle. Since the initiative began seven years ago, 61 schools have been built.

Four of them, which were fully or partially funded by alumni donations, bear NUS’s name:

  • Hunan Province Shuangfeng County NUS Hanpo Hope Primary School
  • Jiangxi Province Suichuan County NUS Shatian Hope Primary School
  • Sichuan Province Puge County NUS Sunshine Hope Primary School
  • Chongqing Municipal Changning County NUS Qingshan Hope Primary School

ISSF started with a simple spark. While at Business School, Chen Jianguang (EMBA APEX-C 16) remembers a professor remarking that the budget for education in Singapore is second only to its budget for its national defence. This left a deep impression on him, that that was the difference between China and Singapore.

It made him think about the uneven distribution of resources in China, especially to the poorer areas, and towards education – that thus, the children from the poorer areas are unable to break out of the poverty cycle and change their fates.

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Rising to the desert challenge

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NUS Provost and Deputy President Academic Affairs Prof Tan Eng Chye (with the flag) crossing the finishing line with fellow NUS participants

Some 50 NUS Asia-Pacific EMBA (Chinese) (APEX-C) students, along with more than 10 faculty, staff and alumni, took part in the 11th edition of the Business School Gobi Desert Challenge from 22 to 24 May. NUS was one of 40 schools competing in the gruelling 112-km race, where the competitors battled with harsh elements and arid terrain in the Mo-Kia-Yen Gobi Desert.

“We encourage everyone to participate as part of our transformational learning initiative,” said Ms Brenda Cao, Head of APEX-C & Master in Public Administration and Management at NUS Business. NUS was presented with the Shackleton Award, which honours teams with 100 per cent completion rate. NUS had won the award in 2013 and 2014, and the hat-trick is a testament to the strong bonds of cooperation within the team.

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EMBA Alumni makes Fortune China List

Congratulations to our two EMBA alumni who were nominated to Fortune Magazine’s (China) list of Top 50 Most Influential Business Leaders in China.

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APEX-C alumna Chen Chunhua was ranked 19th on the list. She is Co-chairman & CEO of New Hope Liuhe Co. Ltd. Since she took on its leadership reins in 2013, the share price of New Hope Liuhe has more than doubled from its lowest point in 2013, and now has a market value of 55 billion yuan.

Today, New Hope Group is one of the most diversified agricultural enterprises in both China and the world. A top executive of the rival company commented that Ms Chen Chunhua was instrumental in bringing about the renewal of New Hope Group.

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The Empathetic Leader

As Chief Marketing Officer at StarHub, Alumni Howie Lau leads the branding and marketing strategy of one of Singapore’s largest telcos. It is a challenging task given the dynamic and fast-paced nature of the industry and the diverse needs of his customers. What are some of the tools he keeps in his kit to motivate his team? Howie shares his experiences and views with us:

Howie Lau mike2I heard someone say once: “The beating will only stop when morale improves”. That is not a constructive way to lead. Nobody wakes up wanting to do badly at work. To bring out the best in people, a leader needs to set the environment for the team to perform.

For me, this is where empathy comes in. Empathy involves placing oneself in the position of others. This does not mean giving up one’s viewpoint. It is about finding a common ground to move forward. Used correctly, an empathetic leader can gain the respect and trust of his staff.

Empathy works in at least three areas – goal setting, understanding the business and leadership collaboration.

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Alumnus Robert Yap on leadership

Robert_PhotoExecutive Chairman of YCH Group and alumnus Robert Yap says his years at Business School played a significant role in shaping his imagination, creativity and overall character.

When he graduated in 1976, his family’s business in passenger transportation had lost 90 per cent of its business. He had only just graduated but faced the daunting task of looking for ways to keep the firm alive.

He spent countless hours exploring opportunities.

And there it was: With the rise of Singapore as one of the world’s busiest container ports, cargo transportation presented itself as a synergistic alternative that his family business could venture into.

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PhD Alumni, now trader extraordinaire

Jane Street Capital came into prominence in August last year – this is how the New York Times (NYT) describes it: “These dangers were brought home last August, when markets were rattled by China’s decision to devalue its currency; some of the largest E.T.F.s sank by 50 percent or more… a bunch of Harvard Ph.D.s , swung into action with a wave of buy orders. By the end of the day, the E.T.F. shares had retraced their sharp falls.”

In the same article, NYT also describes being able to land a job at Jane Street as nothing short of remarkable: “Jane Street has acquired a reputation for being perhaps the toughest interview in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street. This is in part because the firm hires only a handful of new employees each year. To survive, candidates have to ace brain-twisting math riddles and game theory tests.”

wang tao flowersNUS Business School alumnus Wang Tao is one of the lucky few. We caught up with Wang Tao who after obtaining his double degree in Applied Maths and Economics at Peking University, did his PhD at the Business School, graduating in 2013. Of those years, he says:

I spent 5 years in Singapore/NUB B-school for my PhD in finance under the supervision of Professor Jin-Chuan Duan.  During that period, I was trained to be an academic researcher on finance through courses, workshops, conferences and a lot of research projects. I finished a number of academic papers either by myself or through cooperation with my supervisor as well as other scholars.

I felt especially proud that a co-authored paper of mine was published in the Journal of Econometrics, a top tier economic journal, before I graduated from the PhD program. I also enjoyed my teaching experience in NUS B-school as I served as teaching assistant or tutor for a number of different bachelor/master level courses.  Continue reading