Professor Chan, the Dynamic Teacher and Researcher

Reintroducing our Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts (FOSSLA), Professor Dr Chan Nee Nee who has returned to UCSI University after 6 years  and who is on a mission to make FOSSLA the top social sciences faculty in Malaysia and beyond.

Where are you from?

I am from Malacca but I left for Singapore to pursue my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and History at the National University of Singapore through the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship. Since it was a scholarship, I was bonded with the Singaporean government and worked at several top elite institutions such as Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong Institution as well as the Singapore Polytechnic for over 30 years.

Professor Chan among the daffodils in England.

Professor Chan at the infamous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus.

What are your hobbies?

I love reading. People might think I am a baby boomer, but I really like to learn new things using technology-enhanced learning. Nowadays, I am always on my smartphone reading journals, articles, blogs and everything online. Also in my younger days, I used to love hiking.

Who is your role model?

I admire women leaders like Michelle Obama because she walks the talk. I especially love what she said during a speech on Donald Trump, "When they go low, we go high." As an academic leader, integrity and ethics are very important to me. People often forget and tend to take shortcuts to success which will not benefit their career and life development in the long run.

What made you choose teaching as a career?

Teaching is a vocation. You actually get to change lives. You are in contact with your students, you mould their mindsets, and they emulate you from the examples you show in your behaviour. Hence this is why I think teaching is very rewarding. Not only in teaching but also in research, we are also asking fundamental questions about what things we need to pursue and what knowledge is worth knowing: questions that lie at the heart of our existence.

If not teaching, what would you have become?

Apart from the PSC scholarship, I was offered to study law at a local university, but I don't regret not taking it as I realised, I liked teaching and the fact that I am able to make an impact and influence the lives of my students and lecturers who are under my care.

Professor Chan has a special bond with all of her students.

Professor Chan with her fellow students at Lake District, England.

What does education mean to you? 

There is a saying, "Pay it forward." If somebody is kind enough to teach or give you something but you are unable to repay their kindness, you repay that kindness to other people currently or in the future. It's the act of giving back without any ulterior motive. Some students come back to me many years later to show their appreciation and gratitude and for me, that is truly rewarding to know some of the things I've taught were precious to my students. I think that sums up what education is all about.

What is the best thing about teaching at a tertiary level?

The difference at a tertiary level especially between undergraduate, master and PhD is the criticality, to be critical and to know how to display critical thinking. When meeting my students for the first time, I would ask them, “Why do you come to a university?” and I always tell them it is to teach you how to critically think about issues, how to take a position and justify these issues without using emotions to colour your judgements.

What is your advice to students who choose to study at FOSSLA?

The world of the social sciences is a very exciting voyage to learn about the disciplines and to find out how we can improve society and life. Whatever we search and look for, it’s a mirror to society. In FOSSLA, we fight for social justice and we want to make the world a better place through great intellectual discovery and applications to society.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself doing more research and supervising more postgraduate students. Apart from that, I envision myself volunteering more at community events and organisations. When I was studying at Durham in the United Kingdom. I used to volunteer at a church’s soup kitchen to feed the elderly, at a bookshop in Newcastle and a couple of other community services. I like to do these kinds of things, but I can’t do it myself, I need a team so I hope to start some projects here at UCSI.

Professor Chan during a visit at the Durham Cathedral.

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