It is not every day that one is recognised nationally for outstanding service to society. But when the School’s Deputy Dean and Associate Professor Hum Sin Hoon was among the select NUS members to be awarded the Public Administration Bronze Medal in this year’s 49th National Day Awards, he humbly reminds that there are many who are equally or more deserving.
Besides a striking humility and a passion for his work, Sin Hoon’s selfless service to NUS, as well as to Singapore’s overall education sector, makes him a worthy recipient.
Making a Difference in NUS
Sin Hoon first joined NUS as a senior tutor in 1982. Prior to becoming a member of academia, he was a systems engineer in the Ministry of Defence. Since then, he has served at almost all levels within the School, rising through the ranks as Assistant Dean, Vice Dean, Head of the Department and then as a Dean of the School in 1999. In 2004, he was called upon by the then NUS Provost Prof Tan Chorh Chuan to establish the NUS-Fudan University’s Joint Graduate School (JGS) in Suzhou, China. “I was shuttling back and forth between Singapore and China at the time for about four years,” he recalls.
By 2008, the JGS was evolving into the NUS Research Institute (NUSRI) and Sin Hoon was on the steering committee to bring this about. In 2009,the NUS (Suzhou) Research Institute was officially established, and Sin Hoon was called back to NUS Business School to serve again as the Vice-Dean of undergraduate studies. He initiated the ‘Enterprise 50’ field service project, a unique opportunity for undergraduates to get hands-on, business training, by working with small and medium enterprises of Singapore. He was also responsible in improving the quality of the undergraduate curriculum by putting in place a rigorous review process and implementing the new BBA curriculum in 2010. In 2011, Sin Hoon helped to move many of the freshmen modules onto the sectional mode of teaching – enabling better student-teacher discussions in smaller groups. And in 2012, Sin Hoon was called to serve as the Deputy Dean of the School.
Developing Future Generations
But his contributions are not just limited to NUS. For the last 14 years, Sin Hoon has served on the management board of Paya Lebar Methodist Girls School (PLMGS), which has a long and distinguished history of offering high quality primary and secondary education in Singapore. As the Chairman of the board, he has been instrumental in the many accolades received by PLMGS, including the School Excellence Award in 2012 by Singapore’s Ministry of Education.
He has also served on boards and committees of several prominent organisations, such as the East Asian Institute, and the Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS), where he was also the Chairman of its Audit Committee.
Currently, Sin Hoon also serves as a member of the National Productivity and Continuing Education Council (NPCEC) chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Set up in April 2010 by Ministry of Manpower to increase the national productivity of Singapore, the NPCEC comprises of members from the public and private sectors, as well as the unions. Sin Hoon is the only academic representative on the committee. “Due to my operations and systems background, I think my inputs on the NPCEC are often about ‘on the ground’ challenges and issues,” he explains.
With over two decades of service after his PhD in 1988 to NUS Business School, how does he see the community evolve? “I believe we’ve come a long way since I first started my career here. We have a clearer sense of the direction of where we’re headed and a better understanding of how we can lead from Asia. We should all be proud of the high quality and calibre of our research and teaching, which are hallmarks of any good academic institution. Looking ahead, we have to continue to be academically excellent, administratively efficient and industry and business relevant”
And with such an expansive and extensive career devoted to public administration and service, what’s next for Sin Hoon? “I believe in what I do and am happy to contribute and serve as long as I can. Let us all press on in building this School of ours!”
Selfless service is rewarding; but when service becomes passion, recognition is bound to follow.