Ward Ong, a Lee Kong Chian scholar, is a second-year undergraduate at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business.
If you take a walk in downtown Singapore, it is hard not to notice the Singapore Management University (SMU). Indeed, as the first and only local autonomous university located in the heart of the city, SMU has evolved to become an integral part of Singapore’s cityscape.
Beyond its prime location lies a premier university that is lauded for its world-class research and distinguished teaching. For one, it is ranked 14th among specialist universities globally and has produced notable alumni who went on to find success in their careers or businesses. SMU graduates also achieve the strongest graduate employment outcomes amongst all local autonomous universities every year (source: Graduate Employment Survey 2021, conducted by the local universities).
Most certainly, we can expect equally great things from Ward Ong, who is currently a second-year undergraduate at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business. The 22-year-old is on SMU’s Lee Kong Chian Scholarship Programme (LKCSP), one of SMU’s most prestigious scholarships offering high-calibre individuals the exciting opportunities to a holistic, intellectual and entrepreneurial development. Indeed, with 1 in 3 SMU freshmen being given a scholarship or financial award every single year, there is a diverse range of scholarship options at SMU for all potential students to consider.
We caught up with Ward in between his classes and got his take on his experience as a student and scholar at SMU, as well as his hopes and aspirations.
Firstly, how did you get interested in pursuing Business as an undergraduate degree programme?
Prior to matriculating into university, I was unsure of what career to pursue, as my interests were diverse. However, I have always been fascinated by the functions required to run a business. I decided on studying Business to keep my options open, while simultaneously being able to pursue my interests.
There are many places where you can study Business. Why SMU?
I was on a Grab ride sometime during my junior college (JC) days, and I remember chatting to the driver who was speaking highly of SMU students. He mentioned that SMU students were very driven and sociable, and this made me feel like SMU students were a cut above the rest. I ultimately decided on SMU as I felt that its seminar-style classes would be more appropriate for me. As an SMU student, you are guaranteed a second major of your choice, so I was drawn to the flexibility and freedom to curate my own learning journey. I’m pursuing a primary major in marketing, with a second major in accounting. I decided to pursue a second major as I felt that I had the capacity to learn more during my time in university and chose accounting as I saw much value in such skills especially if I were to ascend to managerial positions in the future. Pursuing a second major in accounting would also allow me to expand my knowledge in another field, and network with students outside of my school (Lee Kong Chian School of Business).
It has been two years since you attended your first seminar-style class. How has your academic experience been so far?
It has been nothing short of amazing! I look forward to attending lessons conducted by my professors and interacting with them through SMU’s seminar-style classes has made me step out of my comfort zone.
We read that you are part of the Lee Kong Chian Scholars Programme. How did you discover the scholarship?
It was at SMU’s Open House, where one of the scholars shared with me the opportunities I would have if I were to become a Lee Kong Chian scholar. He spoke about the tight-knit group of scholars whom I would be a part of, and the amazing opportunity to give back to the community during overseas community service projects, and this truly resonated with me. I applied for the scholarship in my first year of National Service, and I of course gratefully accepted when it was offered.
What are some of the opportunities you have benefited from as a Lee Kong Chian scholar?
For my overseas community service project, I embarked on Project Neora, which gave me the chance to mentor students from Batam. Throughout this project, I was able to make a meaningful impact on my mentees’ lives, and in the process gained many new friendships with fellow scholars. As a Lee Kong Chian scholar, there is a multitude of sponsored global opportunities for me to choose from (All SMU students will get the chance to embark on at least one global experience before graduating). I intend on going for an International Student Exchange next year and have started looking at potential universities to apply to. Out of all the partner universities of SMU, a few universities in the US have caught my eye, such as The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania due to its strong reputation and notable alumni. I have always dreamed of living in the US and immersing myself in the culture, and look forward to doing so during my International Student Exchange!
What is the student culture like at SMU?
Academics wise, SMU students are very driven, and are generally not afraid to speak up during class. Students are encouraged to take charge of their own learning and ensure that learning is more of a two-way conversation rather than just listening to what the professors have to say. Professionally, I think SMU students value internships and working experience more than students in other universities, as I see many SMU students taking up internships in their first year, something that I believe to be not as common elsewhere. As for student life, everyone at SMU has been very helpful and friendly, and open to making new friends!
In particular, I have been inspired to do more after seeing my schoolmates secure good internships and pursue their own dreams. I have interacted with fellow students who are schooling and simultaneously running their own businesses, and this has made me motivated to do better and make the most out of my university life.
How about the clubs and societies at SMU? We’re sure those form a significant part of the student experience, with more than 150 CCA options available.
For sure. Many clubs in SMU have a recreational team, which is great as many students feel daunted to join a competitive sporting club as they just want to have a good time. I have participated in a few of these sessions hosted by sporting clubs and have had a great time inviting my classmates down for a round of sports. The school also hosts events such as Patron’s Day, with activities and performances that students can engage in on campus.
How are you looking to apply what you have learnt to your work in the future?
My degree has given me a good understanding of how businesses function, and such knowledge will help me in the future when I wish to rise to management positions in whatever company that I work for. Project work in school has also imparted me with soft skills, which I intend on applying at the workplace when working with my colleagues in the future. I have also taken up certain courses which have taught me hard skills, and I hope to remain proficient in the use of such software for use in the workplace.
What would you say to convince someone to choose SMU?
If you are looking for a university with tremendous academic and professional support, SMU is the university for you. SMU provides the perfect environment to push yourself and see what you are capable of. I have developed so much as a person during my time at SMU, and I am sure that you will thrive at SMU as well. Every university has its merits, but fit really matters. Therefore, if what I have shared about SMU and its culture resonates with you, then SMU is the right place for you!