Working in the Lion City by Nina Sawhney


Imagine you arrive from a long flight overseas.  It is late at night and you manage to lug your over-sized luggage piece to the nearest taxi.   You show the driver the address of your intended destination and off you go.  The air conditioning blasts cool air, protecting you from the oppressing humid weather outside.  As you sit back in your seat, you gaze in awe at the dazzling lights of a city's skyline that appears reminiscent to the professional renditions of Sim City.   The driver peers through his rear-view mirror, sipping his drink from a plastic bag.  He hangs it next to his steering wheel and states in an Asian accent, "Welcome to Singapore.  Where are you from?"

I started my work at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in September of 2010 and the paragraph above was my arrival day to my new home-city.  I was hired to help in the development of a new learning pathway under the Faculty of Engineering which is called Design-Centric Curriculum or DCC for short.  When I joined NUS, the program was in its fetal stages in development as one of the emerging programs within Asia that wanted to address the growing changes in demand for engineering professionals.  It was exciting.  In some ways, I found it to be a chance to transplant some of the wonderful exportable qualities of Olin to a willing institution.  It was also a chance to revisit my racial roots as a first-generation Asian American.

While many of my peers chose to work for a company or attend graduate school, I would say my experience has been a bit of a fusion of both.  I am an employee of a University.  In addition to my job experience, the surrounding academic environment provides tremendous opportunities to continue to learn and grow in multiple facets such as technical skill development, language development, and the ability to apply aspects of the social sciences.  Additionally, I have found the academic achievements of my students incredibly rewarding.  Several of them love the program and show a distinctive dedication to the courses related to the DCC curriculum, an academic experience I helped to create and cultivate.

It saddens me to think that I leave the program in December, but I still have an exciting semester ahead.  We recently held the Faculty of Engineering's "Welcome Tea Event" for incoming first-years.  The energy in the halls was infectious as my fellow staff members and I publicized the DCC program-opportunities.  I am extremely stoked to meet the applicants.  But before the school year starts, I still need to visit China...

Stay tuned for the China post :)
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