With more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programmes available in full-, part-time and modular study modes, the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) – the latest addition to the country's list of autonomous universities – is well on its way to fulfilling its mission of providing lifelong education and equipping learners to serve society. Apart from providing a myriad of experiential and applied learning opportunities, SUSS also places a heavy focus on encouraging students to give back meaningfully to society.
One way SUSS does this is through its annual SUSS Spirit Award, which celebrates students who possess an outstanding strength of character, a heart for helping others, or leadership abilities that spark social change. It is testament to what SUSS values: students who are not just professionally competent, but socially conscious too, with a heartfelt desire to impact lives. We speak to one of last year's SUSS Spirit Award recipients, 25-year-old Leow Jia Hin, who shares his experiences as a third-year marketing student at SUSS.
Jia Hin's passion for giving back to his community began back in polytechnic when he joined a club that took care of the school's international students. "I liked the feeling of giving back to the school, and that was how I discovered that I love my community," he explains. "The environment in SUSS really helps to boost this passion, as you get to meet like-minded people who care about the community too."
Initiatives like SUSS's Service-Learning & Community Engagement requirement have given Jia Hin the space to continue giving back to the community even after he entered university in 2016. As part of this graduating requirement, all full-time students have to take part in a Community Engagement & Service-Learning project either locally or overseas.
As part of the programme, Jia Hin spent a significant part of his first two years in SUSS volunteering at a charity called Beyond Social Services, and conducted weekly tuition and enrichment programmes for underprivileged primary school children.
"I think it's a very good initiative because it encourages students to be committed to an organisation. I also see a lot of my peers becoming more passionate about caring for their community through it," he says.
SUSS's emphasis on giving back to society has also led to its students thinking differently, as Jia Hin adds. "My director at the company I'm interning at recently asked me what achievement I was most proud of thus far in SUSS. If not for service-learning, I would have been talking about grades, but instead I told him about the community service that I'm involved in. After that chat, he actually got me to prepare a proposal to pitch to the managing director about having my company do more as part of corporate social responsibility."
Taking His Passion Beyond
Outside of SUSS's Community Engagement initiative, Jia Hin is heavily involved in OurCaretalyst, an organisation focused on promoting volunteerism. Past projects include a humanitarian trip to orphanages to Myanmar in 2017, for example.
As the vice-president, he plays many roles – managing the finances for each project, recruiting manpower, and generally supporting the ideas of the organisation's president.
These experiences have taught Jia Hin what it means to look out for people, volunteers in particular. "I've learnt to hold back and not flare up when something doesn't go the way I wanted it to, and to respect them as fellow volunteers," he shares. "While we are there to serve the community and help the beneficiaries, it's important to also make sure that the volunteers are okay and not burnt out."
A Spirit Of Service
With this outstanding heart for serving and caring for others, Jia Hin was awarded the SUSS Spirit Award last year. Each award, worth $2,500, will be used to offset a portion of the recipient's tuition fees.
"It was all very surreal, and initially, I didn't believe that I received the award," he says. "The reason we do what we do isn't for recognition, but I hope this award will encourage SUSS students to do more than is required of them. I hope they will go beyond just the school's Community Engagement programme, and volunteer not just as part of school."
And for future students who want to take their passion for the community to the next level in SUSS, Jia Hin encourages all to be ambitious and dream big. "You may be concerned if there'll be enough funding, or if you'll be able to commit. But go for it and plan the project as well as possible. If your project is convincing enough, and people can see the benefits, they would naturally want be a part of it too."
This article was first published in BrightSparks 2019 Volume 2 Scholarship & Education eMagazine. Republished with permission from CareerBuilder Singapore.