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NUS Department of Political Science celebrates 50 years

02 April 2012

(From left) Assoc Prof Hussin Mutalib, Prof Chan and Prof Nardin during the cake-cutting ceremony

When Her Excellency Prof Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador of Singapore to the United States, became a diplomat, she appreciated the uses and limits of political science, having to marry political science with operational requirements. Prof Chan was sharing about her rich experience as a student, academic and diplomat at the 50th anniversary of her alma mater, the NUS Department of Political Science (DPS), on 30 March. Some 250 students, alumni and faculty members attended the special occasion.

As a diplomat, her training and experience as a political scientist was excellent preparation for her job. In particular, analytical ability was useful when writing political reports and explaining what is happening in the world.

However, "what political science does not teach you is the importance of personal relations in diplomacy and the importance of the individual in history and that people skills are crucial in our work," noted Prof Chan. She added that entrepreneurship is also important for making things happen, thinking up projects and implementing them.

Prof Chan also discussed about the power of new media and social media and their impact on politics.

At the anniversary dinner, Prof Terry Nardin, Head of DPS, said that he plans to continue strengthening the Department's research profile, international reputation and internal leadership.

In terms of programmes, there will be a joint PhD degree with several departments at King's College London. There will also be closer collaboration with local institutions such as the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. At the undergraduate level, a major in Global Studies will be launched. In addition, a Summer School on Research Methods in Social and Political Science in collaboration with the International Political Science Association will begin this summer.

Prof Chan was Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1989 - 1991) and was concurrently High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to Mexico. Since 1996, she has been serving as the Ambassador of Singapore to the US.

In 1961, Prof Chan entered the then University of Malaya in Singapore (the predecessor of NUS) and was among the first intake of political science students. Following her graduate studies at Cornell University, she returned to serve as a staff member and later headed the department from 1985 to 1987.

Her numerous accolades include the NUS Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2007 and Singapore Government's Distinguished Service Order in 2011.