Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Three most recent CARE PhDs: Courage, Care, and Commitment

On July 19, Thursday, three of my most recently defended advisees will walk in the Commencement Ceremony at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Each of these three PhDs embody the ethic of the culture-centered approach (CCA), living and negotiating through structures to create anchors for change.

Every doctoral advisor is proud of her students. My pride in my students goes beyond this sense of having worked closely together for over three years and witnessing the completion of a significant project to having an immense sense of gratitude in being able to work with graduate students that embody the values of the CCA: courage, care, and commitment.

Dr. Gui Kai Chong, a superbly gifted teacher, the anchor for many of the students in the Department of Communications and New Media (CNM), came to work with me while serving as a full-time instructor.

To be a full-time instructor is to teach a large load of courses. This is something Kai Chong excels in, delivering each course with care, passion, and joy. His students have often unanimously evaluated him as the best teacher, and he has won many accolades for being such a powerful teacher. I have often been amazed at the number of CNM students that refer to Kai Chong as a point of reference in their life journey. When Kai Chong came to work with me, he was negotiating and juggling a wide array of commitments, from the familial to the professional. His work on meanings of news among Singaporeans breaks new ground, contributing to how we come to think of news in the broader context of Singapore. The completion of this project, drawing on a series of in-depth interviews and auto-ethnographic field notes, was also a powerful testimony to his commitment. The hardships and challenges thrown by an authoritarian culture that often marginalizes by stigmatizing did not shake his commitment to completing the PhD, and doing so with rigor and elegance.

Dr. Ee Lyn Tan joined CNM as an Instructor to lead the journalism classes after a very successful journey with prestigious news agencies globally. Her many years of journalism experience was central to the focus on journalism she created and the industry interfaces she built. As a journalist, Ee Lyn had covered the exposure to toxins in workplaces in China, documenting the health effects of these toxic exposures. This research-advocacy on the health effects of toxin exposure and strategies for securing treatment among workers became the topic of her dissertation. Finding time between her intense teaching assignments, she spent working with workers exposed to toxins and labour groups collaborating with these workers. The work was not only rigorous but dangerous, amid structures that could quickly respond strongly to the work. The advocacy component of the research, gathering stories, situating them with the scientific evidence, and supporting legal articulations for claims made by workers embody the ethic of courage with which Ee Lyn lives her life, professionally and personally.

Dr. Pauline Luk joined CARE as a graduate student during its years of formation in NUS. The early years of CARE needed nurturing and care, with a lot of attention to be paid to the relationships and partnerships being built. Pauline worked tirelessly to build these connections, spending precious hours with visiting faculty, community partners, and community members. If a visitor needed support navigating Singapore, she would be the first one to volunteer. If a scholar needed support with translation during an interview conducted in Mandarin, she would be right there. This cultivation of relationships became the guiding principle for CARE as a space, with the ethic of care as embodied practice. One would walk into the CARE lab and experience solidarity, support, and encouragement. Pauline's dissertation on the convergences and divergences between traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and biomedicine in Singapore is an exploration of the negotiations of care amid structures of state organizing of health.

These values of commitment, courage, and care have come to form the foundations of what we do at the Center, cognizant of the ways in which we fall short while keeping these values in mind. Our students teach and cultivate often for us the values that become our guiding lights.

Thank you Kai Chong, Ee Lyn, and Pauline, and Congratulations!

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