10 September 2013: Strong industry support for liberal arts

Banner_Open House Sep 2013_Tata

“What matters is less what you study, but more how your brain works,” said Mr Vinod Kumar, Managing Director of Tata Communications Limited and CEO of Tata Communications Limited Group, to a group of prospective students and their parents.  And he couldn’t have put it more succinctly.

At the Yale-NUS Open House on 1 September, Mr Kumar joined a group of industry leaders on a special career panel to discuss “Yale-NUS and Your Career”. The session, which attracted more than 200 students and parents, offered a good understanding of what employers of today look for in a graduate. Moderated by Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the panel also included Trina Liang-Lin, Managing Director of Templebridge Investments and Till Vestring, Managing Partner of Bain & Company SE Asia. Mostly from a liberal arts background, and with years of professional experience, the panel presented very strong arguments for the value of liberal arts today.

The complexity, multidimensionality, and fluidity of the 21st century workplace requires leaders who are trained with the ability to strategically think and plan in changing global conditions and are also effective communicators in the era of social media and mass information. Mr Vestring, who has worked extensively with Southeast Asian companies on portfolio strategy and growth affirmed that it is no longer enough for a graduate to be ‘book smart’: the most desirable workers must be able to identify problems and find solutions. The panel attested that discerning employers increasingly recognized the importance of soft skills such as critical analysis, communication, creativity, teamwork and adaptability, and saw the appeal of liberal arts graduates in possessing these skills.

Ms Liang-Lin, a trailblazing banker who has also been applying her expertise and enthusiasm to non-profit work on financial literacy and social enterprise programs, encouraged parents and students to consider the possibility of a multi-career setting. “Your degree might get you the first job, but you must demonstrate ability to succeed in different zones of discomfort,” she shared.

Apart from preparing one for a diverse career path, the Yale-NUS education provides the kind of learning that heightens students’ awareness of themselves and their surroundings. Students learn to self-reflect on their beliefs, choices and motivations, and become more creative in problem-solving, and more perceptive of society and the world around them. In concluding the discussion, panel moderator Professor Mahbubani said, “Life is not just about money, but about meaning. Liberal arts prepares you for a meaningful life – something money can’t buy.”

The one-day event also presented a rare opportunity for parents to attend a class titled ‘Images of the Mind: The promise and perils of MRI’. Yale-NUS Science faculty member Dr Christopher Asplund aptly illustrated the multidisciplinary nature of the Yale-NUS curriculum by demonstrating how a holistic understanding of modern issues—such as the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging technology in legal cases—requires a background in a number of subjects, including philosophy, physiology, design, data use, ethics, and the law. Overall, the successful event allowed prospective students and parents to experience Yale-NUS first-hand, especially from speaking with the College’s inaugural faculty and students, who shared real experiences and perspectives, and provided tours of the lived-in campus.