The university and the city

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SINGAPORE – With a large student population of 12,000 students and another 37,000 participants in its professional and continuing education courses, Singapore Management University welcomes thousands of people every day to its 4.5 ha campus in the heart of Singapore’s civic district. Singapore.

A large number of members of the public also roam the campus daily. They can stop for a meal at one of the cafes in the basement lobby, see an art installation at Suantio’s gallery, use the running track on campus, or attend events such as the Singapore Night Festival. .

In an interview with the Straits Times, SMU President Lily Kong said the university community knows how privileged it is to have a prime location in the heart of the city.

“For a university that started out as a university of commerce, having the banking and business community on its doorstep is priceless. Over the years, we have taken advantage of our location and the different communities there. find, including commercial, legal and cultural institutions and groups.”

But having a prime location comes with a responsibility to give back to the city, and the SMU community has done this in many ways, she said. These include allowing the use of campus facilities for public events and involving students in community service projects to help disadvantaged groups, such as some homeless people who have taken refuge in the lobby of the university basement.

The integration of the entrance pillars of the former National Library in Stamford Road into the SMU campus was also a way of giving back.

Professor Kong said: “During the construction of SMU Connexion, the university chose to retain the brick pillars and cast iron fence of the old National Library building. They are part of Singapore’s history and the collective memory of generations of Singaporeans, for whom the National Library building was a treasured part of their lives. »

Along with the key role of preparing students for jobs in a rapidly changing world, universities also have an important civic role, she said.

“Our responsibility goes beyond preparing graduates for employment. We can nurture engaged citizens and cultivate meaningful community involvement, whether through community-based participatory research, volunteer work, or initiatives that support social development,” she said, before discussing the many other ways SMU tries to be a university for people, not just its students.

Q: SMU has a rather porous campus, with hundreds, if not thousands, of people passing through or using campus facilities every day. Is it intentional?

A: Yes, before Covid-19 there was a constant flow of people using our lobby and the green campus, which has a running track open to the public.

SMU also lends its venue for many public events, including art festivals and the Singapore Night Festival.

We also have seminars, conferences and workshops which are well attended. So in that sense we are a university within the city, but we also bring the city into the university in many ways.

Q: How have your students and faculty benefited from the campus location in the heart of the city?

A: Our faculty and students have taken advantage of our urban location for the mutual benefit of the university and the city.

As I said earlier, in the early years it was a boost for our business school professors and students, who could tap into nearby businesses for case studies, internships and student projects.

The business community, in turn, has the opportunity to tap into the university’s vast database of knowledge and intellect, in the form of its faculty, student body, research resources and of its training offers for executives and personalized courses.

SMU’s Yong Pung How Law School has also partnered with law firms in the city to offer internships to our students.

We bring in top lawyers and judges for interviews, and to mentor and interact with our students.

At the same time, the law school gives back – our law students, with the help of volunteer attorneys, run a pro bono legal clinic on campus. It helps about 300 people a year who need legal help.

Our four other schools also engage and collaborate with various public and private sectors in the surrounding area.

You see it in many cities around the world – the strategic interaction between universities, businesses, entrepreneurs, research labs and the city’s diverse communities – and we draw strength from each other in virtuous circles of ‘innovation.

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