From Ms CHANG Ching Chen _ on January 11th, 2019
And now, we did the ground-breaking a few weeks ago of what will be the SMU-X building which we will call the Tahir Foundation Connexion. Why that building? Well, as you know, a few years ago, I came up with this idea of stimulating experiential learning in the undergraduate program. I should be honest, this was not my idea. This is the idea of some faculty who were doing this on a small scale. What I did was basically saying this is a great idea for our undergraduate students. What can we do to scale it up? As opposed to be some small activity that we do in some of our postgraduate programs, in some courses in the undergraduate program. How can we make this a major component of the undergraduate experience at SMU? Mr Sim, who was very enthusiastic about the idea—he actually believed in it—he sort of came up with the idea that this building, that the former MPH building, Vanguard building that that building was available for rent. And whether it would be a good idea for us to try out, whether, with a different type of infrastructure, we could stimulate and support the SMU-X pedagogy. I have to say that, again, I was lucky to have a good team, that Tan Gan Hup as project manager rose to the challenge. We went around the world to see how other universities organizes that. And with a real shoestring budget, they revamped the MPH building and made it into SMU Labs, as we know it, where there is a lot more support for group work, interaction between students, etc.
This has been a good pilot project for us. We’ve learned a lot from how students use that building. I’m very grateful, I should say, that at some moment in time, Ascott saw what we were doing thought it was a very good idea to collaborate with us, to test out what Millennials really want to have in terms of environment to work in. So that we could actually after two years take some of the very tired furniture out of that building and replace it with some new ideas. Again, testing out some funky ideas. But we’ve learned a lot from that experiment or that pilot. So that by the time, we were ready to build a new building of about 8,000 square meters, we knew what we needed to do to support that different type of pedagogy that we call SMU-X—of experiential learning, active classrooms, active learning classrooms, different types of meeting rooms and project rooms. We will also house our Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship incubator there. So it will be the building where students can learn in a different mode from what we do elsewhere in the schools, and it will be a nice complement to what we are doing through our holistic education.In that building, we probably will be a world leader in what we provide as support for active learning. I’m not saying that nobody else in the world is doing this. There are other universities that are experimenting with different types of infrastructure. I believe that we are probably the only one who is doing this sort of active learning, experiential learning on such a large scale in an undergraduate program. There are lots of examples that I know in graduate programs on smaller scale, but not the large scale that we are embarking on. Having 3,000 students going every year through this type of projects, and experiential learning, 150 to 200 partners, 500 projects—that scale is quite a challenge, I have to say.