Got it from somewhere… felt it’s very meaningful… so to share…
A little story of SMU …
Five years ago, when SMU was established, it was known as dumping grounds of rejects from NUS/NTU by many. Among the 3000 applicants for 300 places, some had perfect results to show while some could not get into the other two universities. Some gave up their places in the medical faculty, some immediately quit their jobs after poly and some simply wanted to be part of this history-making team…
Parents screamed, army pals laughed, some applauded that move as something very bold, whilst some were very skeptical of its success. And so a team of dreamers were put into place to design a totally different university that is to be modelled after the top business school in the US. NUS and NTU profs were recruited, and so were a group of international faculty teams. And so came Janice Bellace, then Ron Frank… and now Woody as our President.
And amazingly, but slowly, the new professors recruited carved out a mission to develop the kind of graduates needed to succeed in this new world; and with that mission, they slowly delivered the results. People change, and why can’t ex-NUS/NTU profs change when they are in a new environment? The rest don’t see it.
When SMU first started in 2000… the 300-odd students all had different dreams but with one purpose; to be part of the pioneer batch of students to lead the way forward and to establish a new powerful subculture within the tertiary landscape. They dared to dream. They dared to be different. More important of all, they proved themselves to be a fighter and not a wimp; they invested their future in a university with no track records; unlike many others who simply wanted to ride on the reputations of the more established universities. In short.. they were a different and daring batch.
They knew they were guinea pigs, and they chose it that way. On the first day of school, they were each greeted with an apple on their seminar rooms desk, and were all excited about being the pioneers when the future was very much uncertain. 300 +, small and cosy, they called Evans their home. They played hard, worked hard. But some played too hard and were “killed” in that process… more than 30 students got kicked out. This was not NUS/NTU then. This was SMU. And as guinea pigs, they thought they could emulate their NUS/NTU counterparts. All play and no work in the first year is very lethal, so the Profs said. They did not realise this and so in 2001, the rest that remained moved with the Class of 2001 to the new Bukit Timah campus.
That year, as older guinea pigs, something happened. Four SMU Year Twos competed in the NUS Business case competition against their senior counterparts from NUS and NTU who were in their Year 3s and 4s. They were nervous about the knowledge gap. And yet… they came out truimphant to beat the other teams to emerge as champion. The only team from SMU against a team of seven. And so the press reported. But it was worth only a few lines.
Shortly, another amazing news arrived. Another Year Twos beat an international competition of senior students, this time round at the Copenhagen Business case competition. They came out tops… history was made but the only people who knew were very much their own SMU counterparts. There was not much publicity, unlike the NUS/NTU teams who emerged champions in other competitions and received rave reviews from the press. The Press thought they were the dark horse, and that it was likely a matter of luck than substance.
Then the publicity stint that angered many; SMU is different! And why not, when the students who came in were the dreamers, the doers and the creators of virtually nothing in the beginning! Other students could not tolerate the word different; some engine students hated us, some others laughed at us. We were known as the acrobats from THAT uni. We were always known as the rejects, when our admission process was so much tougher and vigorous. But the university thought differently, these students were indeed a different bunch! And they had the substance to sell!
And soon, applicants climbed to all high! From 5-1 ratio of applicants to available place to 8-1! Some schools even received 10-1 applicants! NUS and NTU laughed at us, amid some chatters! We were still considered the rejects! Though soon enough, our average SAT scores were higher than them. Many poked fun at us, the Press soon loved us! And not surprisingly, the whole admission process was changed to favor the other two unis. SAT was scrapped for them the following year, when the GCE A’ level had not changed its syllabus yet!
And then… besides winning other competitions… some NTU dean gave that billion dollar lecture that was to remained in the hearts of our students; SMU students do not have substance! NTU has! NTU has longer history, SMU doesn’t! We must invest in more publicity, so they cried. And yet… as premiere business schools, so they always said with their Top 100 and now Top 20 rankings, SMU students did not understand why the others do not know about the importance of advertising and marketing when they call themselves business schools, and needed a young kid on the block to wake them from their deep contented slumber!
And then… more shots at the poor little kid. NTU President Su Guaning said SMU was like a little child, while NUS was more diplomatic on their views of SMU’s advertising. The “elite” university sold itself as a comprehensive university, or more like a mass-market university. It always sell its program as one for the top bueracrats! The tops managers!
Some were impressed, and some were very skeptical about the real selling point of a comprehensive university. Are there really rooms to leverage? How much can students really learn from the other faculty to remain really knowledgeable in that field? Nutrition and Health cried some students! History! Alas, SMU had always offered the same thing but more practical courses! We also have hardcore Science courses and American History too cried one! And so the fight continues.. And now with NTU becoming like NUS, Arts and Design! BioScience! And so they actually evolved into a mass-market university… it became a self-fulfiling prophesy…
This year, SMU won other competitions again! 2nd in a world varsity debating championship! SIFE Singapore champion! And more recently, 2nd in Loreal Brandstorm losing out to champion NUS but beating the rest to clinch the Best Presenter Team award! Suddenly… the Press no longer love us! Loreal First: NUS /NTU! The winners from the other two universities stole the limelights. Copenhagen: NUS first! Big ads. Big mentions in the press. For some of us… we wonder if we are always the underdog? Is it always unbelievable for a 5-year old university to win even international competitions? For a 3000-odd population, we had the substance to show! But to many… the Press thought it was better to show the superficial side of SMU! Cos in fact, we forgot many of them were NUS/NTU alumnis!
And then! 100% employment! And then! The employers love us! The other two don’t get it! Small lah! Bullshit lah… they shouted! And yet… some employers hated us! SMU- you can’t get into NUS/NTU right!? One senior insurance agent from Great Eastern Life sneered at one of us! We are mostly from NUS/NTU! He sneered again! He laughed! He jeered! A poor SMU student applying for a job got shocked! We only have one SMU student here! Sarcasm abounds! The poor SMU student cried: luckily I was not from NUS/NTU…
And so the story goes… and so the competitions continues. Thankfully, when we think of porn, the NUS striptease act did not excite us a single bit. The rest laughed… the bus 151 to NUS passing SMU always wanted to see whether we are that different. They had a long history! So they claimed! But yet… SMU students are always different. The dreamers, the doers, the more fun and yet intelligent ones! The rest sneered, they booed… this is SMU! How different can they be? *but to tell you the truth SMU people, we never dared take your route… so they silently giggled!*
And we just won another global competition! The Trust-Danone competition in Paris! Will the press dismissed it again? But hey… we are five years old! Winning several global competitions is something for Singapore hey! We cried out – they laughed! If NUS/NTU wins- big time coverage in the ads!
And so this is the tertiary landscape. Is a story dominated by the NUSes and the NTUses.
Come July – when SMU moves to the new City Campus – a new Chapter begins! A new beginning, new barriers to be broken! New records to be made! More global and visible competitions won! We are the dreamers! And yes… we have fought the good race! And yes… this is the SMU history.. the SMU SPIRIT! We love our Profs here! We love our dynamic and multicultural small student population! We love our suave Dean of Student! We love our cute President Woody! We will soon close a wonderful and unforgettable chapter at the old Bukit Timah campus… leaving NUS and NTU to fight for that quaint beautiful campus we have called home for 5 years!
A new chapter will soon begin… at the heart of Bras Basah..
*WE LOVE SMU!*