Academic Journeys

The job of an academic is undoubtedly challenging. When confronted with demands from the teaching, research, and service aspects of our job, how can we maintain a healthy balance and still achieve excellence? Is it better to be outstanding in one of these three aspects, or to be just above average in all three? Should we aim to focus on different aspects at different stages of our careers, or to develop all three synergistically? Is gaining tenure the most important thing? What qualities, activities, and achievements are really valued and rewarded by the system and culture of NUS? How will the system and culture evolve in the coming years, as NUS becomes more widely recognized as a ‘leading global university centred in Asia’? How can we align our professional goals and practice with the confusingly multiple and evolving goals pursued by the university?

This series of case studies aims to provide concrete accounts of how different NUS academics have encountered and overcome challenges in the course of their careers, and how they have dealt with the mistakes that they have made. What decisions and actions did they take when confronted with difficult situations and dilemmas? What opportunities were they able to seize? How aware were they of their strengths and weaknesses? Would they have done things differently with the benefit of hindsight? These case studies do not, of course, aim to provide the only right answers to questions and dilemmas that typically confront the NUS academic. What they do is to give examples of how various academics at NUS have navigated their careers through often difficult situations. Their aim is to provoke new academics to reflect on their own values, where they would like to go, and how to get there; and more experienced academics to reflect on where they have been, where they should be going next, and how they can be of service to their less experienced colleagues.

These case studies aim to make available a wide range of experiences, views, and values that are not necessarily endorsed by the Teaching Academy or by NUS more generally. They aim to stimulate individual reflection and group discussion, and even to provoke a critical response to what is presented. Towards this end, each case study is accompanied by a set of broad-ranging reflection questions. In group discussions, for example, a facilitator might select reflection questions that are relevant to a theme or topic of interest and generate discussion through straightforward sharing or other activities such as role–play.

We sincerely welcome your feedback on these case studies and on the different ways that you have used or benefitted from them.

Case Studies Sub-Committee

  • Kenneth Paul Tan (Leader)
  • Lakshminarayanan Samavedham

Case Studies

Academic Journeys, no. 2, January 2011

Written by Kenneth Paul Tan

Interviewed by Chng Huang Hoon, Lakshminarayanan Samavedham, and Kenneth Paul Tan

Academic Journeys, no. 1, January 2011

Written by Kenneth Paul Tan

Interviewed by Chng Huang Hoon, Lakshminarayanan Samavedham, and Kenneth Paul Tan