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On the evening of 4 March, a group of past and present USP students gathered enthusiastically to discuss their ideas and plans for the future.

It was the launch of the USP Alumni Mentors Programme, a programme that matches alumni with existing students interested to explore a certain industry or career path. A highly diverse group of alumni — scientists, financial traders, public policy planners and many others — came back to USP that night to reconnect with their alma mater. There were even alumni from as far back as the Talent Development Programme (USP's predeccesor).

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This mentorship programme is not new, but it has been recently reviewed and redesigned by USP Career Services Manager, Alfred Lim. It aims to cater to the specific needs of USP students by building on what the current NUS Career Office has to offer. The new framework links mentors and mentees based on similar fields of interests, rather than major or faculty, and also incorporates USP Rector's suggestion that “life-purpose” and “passion” should play a bigger part in the mentoring process.

 

Kicking off the night was a welcome address by USP Director A/P Kang Hway Chuan. Traditionally, he said, USP has been very good with connecting with its alumni, seeing them as a valuable resource of skills and experiences. "We're trying to put together more formal structures to make these kinds of contact between alumni and various stakeholders in USP more frequent. Many interesting things come about because you connect with someone who is interested in something that probably you didn't foresee or think about, and that sparks something going."

Our USP Rector, Ms Euleen Goh, spoke next. Having been in a mentor role throughout her career and personal life, she offered some valuable advice about the nature of a mentor-mentee relationship. She said, "I just see myself as a sounding board and I can tell you that I seldom have any answers."

For her, the value of a mentor is not necessarily in the answers one provides, but rather in the questions one asks. She recalled that back when she was still debating whether or not to take up the role of USP Rector, it was the pertinent question of “why not?” from a mentor of hers that got her thinking about the merits she could bring to the job.

The programme looks set to spark some interesting and fruitful interactions, and I caught up with three mentor-mentee pairs to hear what they have to share with us.

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The programme looks set to spark some interesting and fruitful interactions, and I caught up with three mentor-mentee pairs to hear what they have to share with us.

Yulin has a keen interest in public policy, particularly in the area of macroeconomics. After going through a list of potential mentors and finding them not particularly suited to her specific goal, she found her mentor when USP Director A/P Kang contacted Marvin, asking if he could mentor a student interested in public policy graduate studies. For Yulin, a mentor is someone “who tells me how to be realistic in finding out what I want, and [who can alert me to] the areas I may not be able to see”.

Marvin graduated from the Kennedy School of Government with a Master in Public Policy. He is working at the Ministry of Education, but will be posted to the Land Transport Authority later this year. Speaking of his time in USP, he said, “I've benefitted a lot. A lot of the things I do today - I look back and I think they came from USP. So if [my mentoring] is useful, I would be more than happy to help."

 

 

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Cassandra is interested in Public Policy geared towards social issues in Singapore. For her, a mentor is someone who does not just share information, but is able to build a relationship with a student. "I would see my mentor partly as a teacher; not only guiding me in terms of work experiences, but also teaching me the ways of life." She plans to explore issues surrounding vulnerable groups in Singapore, particularly migrant workers and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The topic of migrant workers was also something Leng Wan had dealt with in his line of work. Thanks to him, we were treated to an unplanned yet informative talk on different types of worker dormitories in Singapore. Leng Wan is a senior policy planner who has worked in various areas of government. His work brings him into contact with myriad issues, from how to optimise Singapore's long-term growth, to the environmental impact of the Cross-Island Rail, to the regulation of worker dormitory conditions. Leng Wan has been a USP mentor for the past few years and sees it as a way of giving back to NUS. “NUS has benefitted me greatly”, he shared.

 

 

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Qijian is interested in learning more about the financial industry. For him, a mentor is someone who has walked a path of life that he would like to walk as well. He hopes to glean insight from the life experiences of his mentor, “especially the stories, because that's what makes [life] interesting”.

Fen Chao is a bond trader who works in the banking industry. He knows very well the importance of a mentor figure as he keenly felt the need for one during his transition from an electrical engineering student to a banker. He feels that the new USP Alumni Mentors Programme is very well organised as the structured training programmes have given him a better idea of “what mentorship is really about”.

To find out more about the USP Alumni Mentors Programme and how you can join as a mentor or mentee, please contact USP Career Services Manager, Alfred Lim (limalfred@nus.edu.sg).