Next Career Move: Your Alma Mater? |

Next Career Move: Your Alma Mater?

Graduation season is upon us. Many of our graduating students will be returning to their home countries, resuming their previous jobs with rejuvenated energy and new ideas, embarking on new initiatives, or simply contemplating on their next steps.

Regardless of what the future might be, every alumnus feels a special attachment to his or her alma mater. But for a select few, that sentiment translates into more than nostalgia. After graduating from the LKY School, some alumni have chosen to continue their relationship with the School not only as past students, but also as staff members and faculty. The Alumni Relations Office sat down with Professor Eduardo Araral (MPP 1998), Deputy Director of Strategic Planning, Cheryl Chung (MPA 2012), and Research Associate, Vignesh Naidu (MPP 2013) to hear their stories.


Prof Eduardo Araral

For Professor Eduardo Araral, known fondly as Ed in the LKY community, it was a fortuitous call to an old professor that led to him rejoin the LKY School – but as a faculty member rather than a student. In 2005, Ed was nearly done with his PhD in Public Policy at Indiana University-Bloomington in the United States and had embarked on a job hunt. Looking for people who could serve as references for potential employers, the former graduate from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Master in Public Policy (MPP) programme called up an old NUS professor, Prof Mukul Asher.

But Prof Asher, now a Professorial Fellow at the LKY School, had other plans. He told Ed that NUS had just started a new school, under which the MPP programme was now being administered, and invited him to join as a faculty member.

That was how Ed, who had graduated from the MPP programme in 1998, found his way back to teach the subjects he himself had studied nearly a decade earlier. Now an Associate Professor, he has taught eight core courses – including public management, public finance and institutional analysis – for the School’s MPP, MPA, MPM and PhD programmes.

Surrounded by many familiar faces, including professors who had previously taught him, Ed enjoyed a smooth transition into his new job. He also found a warm reception from his students: “As a former student, you immediately gain trust and credibility amongst students.”

Not everything is exactly the same as when he was a student, however. For one thing, the School is now much bigger, and its programmes centre more heavily on Southeast Asia. The current student body is also more diverse and competitive, with students more focused on course work, Ed observed.

Ed is not the only alumnus-turned-employee of the LKY School. Another is Cheryl Chung, who enrolled as a part-time student in the LKY School’s MPA programme while working in foresight and strategy for the Singapore Government. Little did she foresee that her involvement with the School would turn out to be more than academic – three years after graduating in 2012, Cheryl rejoined the LKY School as Deputy Director of Strategic Planning in May 2015.


Cheryl Chung

Although some of Cheryl’s friends were surprised by her decision to switch careers from the public sector to education, she sees her new role as a chance to reflect on her work in foresight and public policy and contribute back to the School as a strategic planner. Her adjustment from former student to current staff member was relatively easy, as her previous government postings allowed her plenty of chances to make contacts with many of the public policy experts at the LKY School who are now her new colleagues. Working at her alma mater also brings back memories of school life – when she first started her job at the School, she took a photo of the Manasseh Meyer Building from her office window and shared it with her former classmates from all over the world.

Cheryl’s return to the School was prompted by an invitation from LKY School Associate Dean and Senior Fellow Donald Low, who also happens to be her ex-colleague back in the days when they were both in the Singapore Government. Cheryl thought the offer was interesting as it would allow her to use her experience in the Singapore Government to contribute to public policy making beyond Singapore.

“Working for the government contributes to the country, whereas working in a school of public policy can contribute to many more countries,” she said, explaining that sharing knowledge and public policy insights with students from different nationalities would allow them to bring their newly-acquired knowledge back and contribute to their home countries.


Vignesh Naidu

The desire to make a bigger difference was also what brought Vignesh Naidu, who graduated from the LKY School’s MPP programme in 2013, back to work at the School as a Research Associate. As with Cheryl, Vignesh was invited back by Donald Low to conduct research mainly in the areas of transportation and social assistance.

Vignesh, who previously worked as a general manager at a town council for two years, hopes his research stint at the LKY School will help him build up enough academic knowledge so he can craft policy in future for a better Singapore.

While studying at the LKY School, Vignesh recalls being frustrated due to a lack of alumni relations for career advice. Now, he is glad to see that the School has a dedicated alumni relations team to engage graduates and alumni.



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