Ganesh Kalyanam (Class of 1990), Director, Office of Student and Graduate Affairs, and The Republic Cultural Centre, Republic Polytechnic
Ganesh was the commencement speaker at the NUS Commencement Ceremony 2008
"I am grateful to have studied geography at NUS, firstly for instilling in me an appreciation for the world we live in, secondly the skills needed to connect the dots of this every changing and complex world and finally for the importance of valuing the people around me, as demonstrated by the lovely faculty at the Geography department (no idea was too small and no sacrifice on their part was too great!) I am forever grateful to them."
Ang Hin Kee (Class of 1991), is Member of Parliament for the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Assistant Director-General of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)
Tin Tin, the intrepid traveller, epitomises the spirit of Geography. He travelled the world, explored new lands, and made new discoveries. Like him, geographers travel, observe, and in doing so, we unravel the mysteries of the physical and human world.
During my undergraduate education in the NUS Department of Geography, I undertook writing an honours thesis (an extended research essay). I still retain notes of the comments given by my thesis supervisor on the various submissions I had made then. On hindsight, the training in Geography has honed my skills to be a focused thinker, a succinct writer and a sharp communicator. Apart from those skills, I gained other rewards from my time at NUS: a degree, friendships, and fond memories of my time there.
I give back to the Singapore community now by serving as a union leader, representing a range of employees and their workplace interests. Sometimes, there may be inherent weaknesses in the relationship between management and workers, and external triggers can result in a breakdown in workplace relations. I found that the best way to approach those inherent weaknesses and other workplace concerns is to carry out the necessary groundwork by studying the situation, interviewing people, observing the dynamics, then draw linkages and identify solutions. These skills are all part of the adventurous spirit and fieldwork training of a geographer.
May the NUS Geography Department continue to train more adventure seekers!
"NUS Geography and its excellent faculty gave me a solid foundation for my career in Urban Redevelopment Authority. My four years there taught me to think critically and deeply but at the same time, to be versatile in handling a wide variety of issues. This I found very useful as I have to deal with both localised specific issues as well as wide-reaching policies in my line of work.My four years there taught me to think critically and deeply but at the same time, to be versatile in handling a wide variety of issues."
- Mieko Otsuki (Class of 2001), Deputy Director, Strategic Planning Division, Ministry of National Development (on secondment from URA).
Mieko serves a mentor on the FASS Mentorship Programme
Vincent Kessler (Class of 2005), Regional Sales Manager, Imaging, Trimble Navigation
Vincent spoke at the Geography Career Talk 2013
"Geography first gave me the interest to analyze the world, and then empowered me with the tools and insights to excel in a career in Geospatial Technology."
Raem Tan Zhi Yan (Class of 2005), Parks Manager (Streetscape Manager and Arborist), National Parks Board
Raem spoke at the Geography Career Talk 2012; he is also a host on the “My FASS Family” Host Programme
"Geography has helped in my career by offering a broader perspective in terms of environmental management.
An architect involved with a project with me was surprised at the variety of ideas and solutions I can throw towards solving various design problems. Geography equips a person with knowledge of various social, political and environmental policies, making him/her more adaptable in the job environment."
Tan Yi Hui (Class of 2005), Subeditor at the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong
"At the height of a new age in geopolitics, a geographical understanding of how identity, space and boundaries work is now more relevant than ever.
As a copy editor and subeditor for the Hong Kong desk at the South China Morning Post, my job is to be on top of all news in Hong Kong, especially political affairs. I copyedit articles from local journalists who cover the ground in Cantonese and file their work in English. I’m also required to guide reporters and beef up their stories where needed, thus a good knowledge of current affairs, particularly in the local context, is required.
The nature of news—documenting how Hong Kong evolves, shapes and manifests into societal narratives—is what makes this job feel alive. In my current job, digesting news on a daily basis, and having to package them into bite-sized information for readers, requires an acute understanding of geopolitical trends, tensions and concepts. Geography has equipped me with critical thinking and analytical skills through the numerous essays and presentations I worked on in my coursework. Everything I've learned—from population studies to urban and cultural interpretations of territory and space—have been crucial in the work I do.
The skills and experiences I absorbed while studying Geography at NUS went beyond what I had expected, in terms of training one to think critically, and honing presentation skills in front of an audience. Most of all though, were the friends I made while at NUS. If I could advise prospective students now, I would say, “study hard, play hard and take pride in whatever you do. Your university days will be one of the fondest periods in your life and can never be replicated”."
Lorraine Lai (Class of 2008), is Regional and Marketing Manager at Grab
"After graduating from the Department of Geography, I started my career at the Singapore Tourism Board where it was exciting to be part of developing the first integrated resorts in Singapore.
Subsequently, I landed myself marketing roles at Standard Chartered, Google and now Grab. My work has taken on a regional function, which means I lead the brand direction of a product, whilst working closely with in-country marketing teams to execute localised marketing initiatives.
I love the regional nature of my marketing role because I get to work with colleagues from different geographies and cultures. While I guide local marketing teams on the brand vision of an overall product and ensure they are aligned across markets, I appreciate the efficacy of localised marketing initiatives, all thanks to an education rooted in Geography and the social sciences.
Being part of the Geography Honours class of 2008 remains one of my fondest memories of being part of FASS! Exam periods were the most memorable part of my NUS experience: from studying through the night, to late night prata suppers and “choping” (reserving) seats in the Central Library for study sessions.
My FASS education helped me to think analytically, to structure and crystallise thoughts and ideas, and present them in writing or in speech effectively. That is largely what a marketer’s job is about—presenting ideas persuasively. But for a marketer to do this successfully, one must know the targeted audience. Studying the social sciences and humanities enables one to consider the joys, gaps and problems that humanity experiences. Only when equipped with this knowledge can we then find solutions to address real human needs.
Finding your dream job may not be straightforward but I encourage you to stay curious, learn beyond your comfort zone, and stretch all possibilities!"
Wei Seng (Class of 2015), is Manager at the Airport Development and Planning Division, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)
"Geography is a subject that engages with the world and its (human and non-human) inhabitants In variety of ways, from the maps that we use, to the human and physical landscapes that we see, experience, shape, and are shaped by.
I studied Geography during my pre-university years but I grew to further understand and appreciate the diversity of Geography only when I entered NUS. You can study and relate to literally “everything under the sun, including the sun itself” (a quote by one of our professors). I enjoyed my time in NUS, especially in Geography where the modules, lecturers, research and friends all contributed to a great experience. I especially appreciated learning outside the classroom through engaging in fieldwork and the opportunity to go on student exchange to King’s College London in 2013.
In my first year at FASS, I joined Students Against Violation of the Earth (SAVE), an environmental student group in NUS. I managed the implementation of Singapore’s first plastic bag tax as Project Director, before taking on the role of Vice-President (Projects) to look after the multifaceted projects that SAVE ran. I later stayed on as a mentor to guide and support my peers and juniors in their endeavours. There is a strong relationship between SAVE and Geography; what I learnt in class was applicable to my work in SAVE and vice-versa.
I started my career at the Singapore Aviation Academy (SAA), a division of CAAS. I was involved in a wide portfolio, from strategic and corporate planning for SAA, to partnership and business development with partners and prospective customers. My training as a Geographer allowed a deeper appreciation of the complexities of the political and sociocultural contexts of the countries where my customers came from. The training also helped me to interact and build bridges with partners and customers. As a Geographer you are trained to think inclusively, write eloquently, embrace diversity, be open-minded, and hear the voices from the ground.
In my current division at Airport Development and Planning (ADP), I am involved in land-use planning both within and around the airport, and regarding the environmental sustainability of airport infrastructure. Though I did not have prior knowledge on the technical aspects of airport operations and infrastructure, the concepts and perspectives gleaned from a geographic education continue to remain relevant, particularly with respect to spatial awareness and understanding (environmental) sustainability.
Aviation is inherently geographical and international, especially in a Singaporean context. I have thoroughly enjoyed my work in CAAS and find it meaningful to safeguard Singapore’s aviation interests, and contribute to the development and growth of our aviation sector."
Dr Keo Piseth, PhD, 2018
Vice President and Director of Centre for Sustainable Development, Asian Vision Institute, Cambodia
"With regard to professional career, my PhD training in the department does help me a lot. I am now serving as Vice President and Director of Centre for Sustainable Development, Asian Vision Institute, a Cambodia-based Think Tank. Additional information can be found via https://asianvision.org/archives/personnel/dr-keo-piseth-2/. In this position, I continue to conduct research on environmental management and sustainable development, while managing staff and projects. I have been in contact with my former supervisor, Dr Grundy-War, and provided field investigation support in May and November 2019. For the latter date, I gave a speech to students at Pannasastra University of Cambodia, where I work as a part-time lecturer. I also facilitated a recce trip for Mr Shamraz, a former Masters student of Geography Department, who is an Instructor with Tembusu College, NUS."
Dr Keo Piseth at the Preah Vihear Temple situated atop a 525-metre cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, in the Preah Vihear province, Cambodia.
Rachel Koh (third from the left) with the guest-of-honour Mr Robert Swan, the world's first person to walk to both the North and South Poles.
Ms Rachel Koh, M.Soc.Sci, 2019
WWF-SG, Conservation Manager, Forests
"My job involves co-develop and co-deliver, conservation programmes that are intended to support forest conservation that WWF-Singapore funds in Southeast Asia. Building and maintaining partnerships with key conservation staff in the Network and with key conservation NGO partners, government agencies, academics and other groups to stay abreast of ongoing and emerging conservation priorities. I also coordinate the Asia Sustainable Palm Oil Links (ASPOL) programme as a portfolio under the deforestation-free conservation programme. The ASPOL programme aims to remove deforestation from palm oil supply chains in Asia by adopting a whole value chain approach with activities aimed at driving sustainable production, trade and consumption."
Dr Robert Cole, PhD, 2020
Advisor, Mekong Region Land Governance
"Rob Cole is based in Laos and works as an advisor on Responsible Agricultural Investment for the Mekong Region Land Governance project. MRLG works on research and policy analysis in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. The project is aimed at improving smallholder land tenure security, and better regulation of agricultural investments to support smallholder livelihoods and local land and resource rights."