Rachel Liu handles policies relating to land use in her role as Manager, Strategic Planning
Division. She is a recipient of the MND EDGE Scholarship and holds a Bachelor of Science
with Honors in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University.
Since childhood, Rachel Liu has always been passionate about architecture and social issues. The combination is eclectic, but unsurprising, as Rachel seldom takes the conventional path. For one, she went on a gap year after her post-secondary education to discover more about herself. She took the time to intern at various government agencies and private firms in the architecture, urban planning and real estate industries to better understand the field. That was when she found her calling at the Ministry of National Development (MND). With the decision made, Rachel set the wheels in motion by taking on the MND EDGE Scholarship and going on to pursue Urban and Regional Studies at Cornell University.
Facilitated by the scholarship, Rachel expanded her horizons with this opportunity to study abroad. The four-year liberal arts programme gave her the option to take classes from different colleges within the university and piece together her own academic experience. This enabled her to spend time in New York, Rome and Brazil where she was exposed to people of different cultures and demographics.
“I’ve learnt most from the different cultures that I was exposed to. Moving between big cities and small towns has left a deep impression on me of how each physical landscape is an expression of the local culture,” says Rachel.
“In comparison, I think we under-acknowledge the influence of our own culture on our built environment. Recognising this helps me put a more contextual lens to my work. So it’s not just about what other people have done well and whether we can do it here too, but it’s about being able to articulate the local context and finding a true and good expression of that on our physical landscape.”
Currently, Rachel is in the Strategic Planning Division, where she handles policy matters relating to land use.
“My colleagues and I in the Strategic Planning Division work closely with URA as well as other government agencies to ensure that the finite space that Singapore has is being used in the best way possible,” explains Rachel.
“This is a role that requires a fine balance of regulation and aspiration. There are many progressive ideas that I hope to see realised in our city – setting the direction for Singapore’s growth in the hard and soft aspects for the next 10, 20, 50 years. At the same time, policy work is a reality check as it requires me to ground these ideas with the diverse factors and perspectives that actually shape our landscape.”
Having served her current role for just over a year, Rachel’s passion and focus in her role at MND have not wavered. She is constantly getting exposure to the broad range of work that URA provides.
“It has been fulfilling to see the progress in portfolios I have been involved in and hopefully, I can follow them through to fruition in the coming years. I also try to stay plugged into what’s current in the industry, for example in the area of data and technology and by attending relevant events and taking courses.”
Rachel has evolved as a person and in her career since accepting the scholarship. She advises students to take it up, especially if it matches their personal aspirations.
“The scholarship is industry-specific by design. I would encourage students considering the scholarship to think about whether the issues that MND oversees, which relate to our built and natural environment, are topics that you are passionate about. If this is the case, one of the advantages of MND’s scholarship is the opportunity to rotate between MND headquarters and the agencies we oversee.
“We all play different roles in this system, but work closely together.”