Creating positive change and making meaningful impact

8 Sep 2017
President’s State of the University Address 2017

There was a great sense of excited anticipation as the audience awaited the start of Professor Arnoud De Meyer’s 8th President’s State of the University Address on 8 September. It was held for the first time at SMU’s new School of Law building hall, which comfortably accommodated a larger audience than was possible in the previous years' venue. Over 500 university leaders, faculty and staff members, students and alumni attended the event and the larger number and larger space gave everyone a sense of being part of a great and growing SMU community.


I really liked the tone of the entire address. It was upbeat, encouraging and affirming. So it gave colleagues a happy feel and most would have left empowered to do their bit for the advancement of SMU. I was much impressed with the key milestones of the past 20 years. I always thought of SMU as a very young institution and therefore, was really much impressed with how much has been achieved in her young history. I was most impressed with SMU mission statement: creating positive change through making meaning impact. Very powerful vision for our relevance and it gave me much to think about.

Prof Paulin Straughan 
Dean of Students;
Professor of Sociology (Practice),
School of Social Sciences


The atmosphere was great. The School of Law hall seats more people and there was a lot more buzz – it reminded me a little of Apple product launches. I was amazed by the achievements of our students, academically as well as externally as project partners of non-profit organisations or corporate clients. I always enjoy listening to Prof De Meyer. He is a real innovation champion and visionary who knows how to communicate critical issues in a friendly, calm and very engaging manner.

Prof Thomas Menkhoff 
Professor of Organisational Behaviour
& Human Resources (Education)
Lee Kong Chian School of Business


The President said SMU is small and if we do not take advantage of this to be nimble we will lose our competitive edge. We should remain young at heart and retain the freshness and curiosity of youth.

Lau Kai Cheong
Chief Information Officer
and Vice President,
Integrated Information Technology Services


The President explained that we need to keep building our reputation as a University and provide meaningful impact to the service we provide for Singapore and society. This requires us to keep transforming our educational model to ensure students are ready for the future, promoting thought leadership nationally and internationally to better shape policies and quality of life. He spoke of the need to reshape the SMU brand from an undergraduate business school to university that now offers many postgraduate programmes linked to industry and society. Its positioning as a city campus offers a wonderful opportunity to engage with the community and integrate with the city with our festivals and events.

Elizabeth Naumczyk
Head, Law Library


I try to attend the PSOU Address each year to keep myself appraised of new developments. It’s important to know how these fit in with SMU’s vision as it provides context for what I do. Professor De Meyer always speaks with passion and energy. He’s appreciative of achievements, acknowledging those involved, and willing the audience to keep the momentum going or even increase efforts. He uses humour well and makes us feel that we are working at a great university – instilling enthusiasm and confidence.

Patricia Pereira 
Deputy Director, Office of Advancement


The room was filled with anticipation. Everyone was eager to hear of the President’s new direction. As usual, his address was lively and funny, but held a firm tone on the messages he wanted to put across.

Lee Kai Yang
Undergraduate, School of Accountancy;
SEA Games 2017, Men’s Water Polo, Gold medallist


The President recognised the hard work and dedication of the student athletes by highlighting our achievements during the recent SEA Games. The audience was very receptive and eager to hear the upcoming plans for the academic year as well as achievements in the past year, creating a very warm atmosphere. I could feel the passion and dedication Prof De Meyer has towards SMU which made for a compelling speech.

Sabella Kee
Undergraduate, School of Accountancy,
SEA Games 2017, Waterski & Wakeboard,
Women’s Tricks,
Silver medallist, National Record


I was very impressed with the amount of foresight that Prof De Meyer demonstrated in his address; I could tell that he had spent a significant amount of time thinking about the best way forward for SMU's future. I felt confident and glad that Prof De Meyer has such a grand vision for SMU. I will be energised in doing my part to build SMU as a global brand for excellence.

Chia Chen Wei
Undergraduate, School of Law,
Price Media Law Moot Court Competition 2017
Champion-team member

Over 500 SMU senior management, faculty and staff members, students and alumni attended the annual event, held for the first time in the new School of Law building.

The theme of this year’s Address was “Creating Positive Change and Making Meaningful Impact” which, the President pointed out should be seen as a continuation of last year’s call to “Accelerate” towards SMU Vision 2025:

“We need to continue to build our reputation in Singapore and beyond, by making meaningful impact through our teaching, research and service to country and society. We need to have meaningful impact on our students, transforming them through the SMU educational experience to prepare them to be ready for the future. We need to have meaningful impact through our research that can be applied and will generate higher value added jobs for Singapore. We need to make meaningful impact through promoting thought leadership and lending our expertise on editorial boards, and national and international committees to help influence and shape policies and improve the quality of lives,” said Prof De Meyer.

Prof De Meyer went on to review how far SMU had succeeded in achieving the goals set out in his address last year, before going on to give 14 goals for the year ahead. For a summary and the full speech with slides, click here.

The President ended with a call to action: “I invite you to join me in creating positive change and making meaningful impact as we work together towards our goals, and contribute to SMU becoming a Great University, for that would be our enduring legacy.”

Prof Straughan raising a question during the dialogue session, after the main Address.

Members of the audience enjoying one of the President's quips.

In the lively Question & Answer session that followed, Dean of Students and Professor of Sociology (Practice) Paulin Straughan; Executive Director, SMU Executive Development, Dr Katharina Lange; and Vice President, Human Resources & Faculty Administration Mr Terence Tan raised questions which ranged across issues of SMU maintaining its uniqueness as it grows; tackling silos; and prioritising the tasks ahead. The President answered with his characteristic combination of good humour, hard truths and positive motivation.

Prof De Meyer (centre) with (left to right) Mr Sundaravadivelan Selvam, Vice President, Campus Infrastructure and Services; Ms Gulcin Cribb, University Librarian; Prof Bryce Hool, Dean, School of Economics; Prof Annie Koh, Vice President, Business Development; Associate Prof Goh Yihan, Dean, School of Law; and Prof Paulin Straughan.

The event ended with the now-traditional raucous group photo taking, for which everyone had been given as a door gift an umbrella bearing the tagline “Creating Positive Change; Making Meaningful Impact”.

Mr Eric Song, Head, SMU Sports and Adventure, Office of Student Life (2nd left) with SMU undergraduate SEA Games 2017 medallists (left to right): Lee Kai Yang (water polo), Sabelle Kee (water ski & wake board) and Shanti Pereira (athletics, track).

As they left, members of the audience discussed the significance of the speech amongst themselves, congratulated one another on their achievements and planned how to address the challenges outlined by the President.

Main photo: SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer delivering the President’s State of the University Address 2017 on 8 September 2017 at the SMU School of Law auditorium.

Read the summary here, and full and full text here.

Download the PSOU Address booklet here.

Prof De Meyer and the audience posing for the now-traditional PSOU Address group photo.





Last updated on 14 Sep 2017.

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