Communities and Engagement

Seeing the world through the lenses of diversity

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7 October 2020

A reflective essay by recent NUS graduate Andrea Goh on diversity and inclusion.

“Happiness”, “brave”, “excellence”, “wise” – those were the meanings behind names of some of the participants at the Introduction to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Workshop ice breaker activity. The half-day workshop organised by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) introduced a broad overview of diversity and how inclusion can be a small act.

The session began when participants were asked to share the meaning of their first names and how our personal choices reflects preferences.

We tend to label and group things and people to help us make sense our world. The “Stereotype Activity” demonstrated how these labels may lead to stereotypes. It was an engaging activity whereby participants identified the kind of stereotypes and labels of various groups of people for instance students from different NUS faculties.

The discussions centered on some of these stereotypes and the participants verified these “labels”. The activity then led to exploring diversity in the workplace.

stereotypes in working worldStereotypes that students have about diversity in the workplace.

As a recent graduate of NUS, I found the session interesting as it provided a safe space for students to share their experiences based on their internship and industrial attachments.

It was interesting to note that students retold similar experiences, regardless their industries. Most students, including myself, cited gender and inter-generation differences as a recurring theme in all of the sessions. Many participants identified that working with older workers could be a challenge.

Another discussion centred on the diversity of aesthetic preferences. Some students raised instances whereby they faced difficulties in reconciling aesthetic preferences with their supervisors at work, who tend to be from Generation X. However, this does not mean that the perspectives of Gen X are invalid, rather, the younger Generation Y or Z can suggest how aesthetic preferences can be tailored according to the different target generations through convincing research.  

A speaker mentioned that while Halal-certified caterers at events are soon becoming the standard for most companies, some event organisers do not cater to guests with dietary restrictions such as vegetarian options. One student shared that during her internship, she attended a company event where the menu did not have any vegetarian options except potatoes.

student communities sharingGuest speakers from the Sikh and Muslim Communities.

Students of minority groups whom participants have little interaction with also spoke of their stories. One of the participants found a personal sharing by Sharaan Kaur, Year 4, Psychology on the Sikh religion insightful. She talked about a lot of nuances in trying to be diverse and inclusive in today’s world. She spoke about the meaning behind Sikh surnames: all women have the surname Kaur while all men have the surname Singh. As Sikh’s original surname was often a caste name, by replacing the original surname, it creates equality among all Sikhs.

In other sessions, migrant workers from the Migrant Workers Center joined in the discussion. Their personal stories reminded participants to be mindful of others who may be marginalised by the community. Many migrant workers shared their personal stories of how they came to Singapore to better support their families back home. Some of them had expressed that they were trying their best to brush up their English Language so that they could better communicate with the locals. I found the sharing session by the migrant workers thought-provoking.

At the session, audio feed from the migrant workers would be periodically cut off due to the weak internet connection. In contrast, I enjoyed a stable Wi-Fi throughout the session. It dawned on me that an uninterrupted virtual meeting session was a privilege that I may have taken for granted in the past.  

From the workshops, I have realised that having the awareness of others’ needs has to start by re-calibrating my mindset as inclusion has to be an intentional act.

This iteration is an introduction to D&I and I look forward to seeing future runs of the programme.

Here are some of the feedback from the participants:

“Great work by the team, appreciate the guest speakers from different backgrounds.”

- Jasmine Seah, Year 4, Business Analytics

“Interesting to have the speakers share! Maybe could share some actual to-do steps at the end.”

- Natalie Lee, Year 4, Leadership and Human Capital Management 

“I think the part where we discuss about stigmas on different faculties was interesting.” 

- Wu Shuo Ting, Moses, Year 4, Civil Engineering

Did you know the Diversity and Inclusion Grant is now open?

Deadline: 20 Oct 

If you have a budding idea to promote an inclusive culture in NUS, we want to hear from you and fund your project. Click here to learn more.


Andrea Goh