- First Shirin Fozdar Diversity & Inclusion Awards given to three Team Singapore Paralympians from SMU
- Celebration and appreciation of individual and group champions who inspired and demonstrated advancement of diversity and inclusion
- Evening marked SMU’s and Shirin Fozdar Programme’s appreciation of athletes’ exemplary excellence
In an evening of celebration and appreciation of diversity and inclusion, the Inaugural Shirin Fozdar Diversity & Inclusion Awards Presentation was held on the Shirin Fozdar Programme (SFP) Networking Evening at SMU. The event was held at the University Lounge a day after Thanksgiving aptly, on 25 November 2016.
Over the networking and cocktails session, SFP presented the very first Shirin Fozdar (SF) Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Awards to three Team Singapore Paralympians from the SMU family, marking their outstanding achievements and the unparalleled examples they had set for SMU and the SFP.
The inaugural group award was given out jointly by SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer and SFP Chairperson Ms Claire Chiang to Yip Pin Xiu, Nur Syahidah Alim and Nurulasyiqah Taha, who had set new benchmarks for Singapore in the international sports arena during the Rio Paralympic Games 2016.
After the award, the audience of more than 100 participants also had a chance to get up close and personal with the extraordinary young women. At the Fireside Chat moderated by SFP Chairperson Ms Claire Chiang, the trio shared more personal insights about their dreams and inspirations growing up, the changes along the journeys leading to the Games, and their experiences.
Among the audience were several notable guests, including Dr Jimmy Fozdar, son of the late Ms Shirin Fozdar, and SFP Advisory Board Members.
The event was driven towards calling for individuals to do their part for diversity and inclusion, and supporting diversity champions in SMU, SFP and within the society – whether it is those helping, or those needing help. This includes everyone because at any point, any individual may have different needs.
Support is important and often, we have hidden champions behind the champions. The celebratory evening also recognised the people behind champions.
SFP launched the SF D&I Award to recognise and reward individuals or groups of individuals from SMU who have made significant differences in promoting inclusion on campus and beyond, to encourage efforts in building inclusion on campus. Both SFP and SMU hope to give greater recognition to SMU students and alumnus who inspire and demonstrate a sustained commitment to the advancement of diversity and inclusion on campus or in the community.
The evening celebration marked SMU’s and SFP’s appreciation of the athletes’ strong showing of excellence – they had paved a new path and excelled in what they do, against many odds. The trio were applauded for being role models to the SMU community, as well as women embodying the SFP spirit – championing issues and making positive impact for the betterment of the society.
Pin Xiu, a final-year SMU social sciences student, made history by being the first athlete to haul multiple Paralympic gold medals home for Singapore. She clocked a new world record at the Rio Paralympic Games, besides achieving numerous feats in competitive swimming. Syahidah, a business school graduate from the Class of 2007 and a relatively new player in the competition scene, was the nation’s first para-archer representative in the Paralympic Games, where Singapore qualified for Archery for the first time in the 2016 Games. Nurul, who was from the School of Accountancy Class of 2003, finished fourth in the finals of the Boccia team competition in Rio. She was also the first national representative for her sport in the Paralympics, debuting in the 2012 London Games. Nurul has also been contributing towards making a difference in the lives of people with physical disabilities.
Reiterating that lessons in life are learnt beyond the classroom, or in another perspective, viewing the world as our classroom, Prof De Meyer remarked, “We want to remind the SMU community about the true spirit of excellence and learning. We hope that the award recognition today reiterates what we try to instill in SMU – transforming our students to not just have hard skills but heart skills, is what SMU aims to do in our education.” He added that SMU incorporates the LifeLessons framework in its curriculum because they are important for lifelong learning.
Prof De Meyer elaborated that creating impact for society is what the University sets out to achieve, and that the Paralympians had made impact and contributed much more than many others can. “You have advocated for diversity and inclusion through actions, and not just words. You have rallied so many of us together, to look up to you in admiration. You have shown us that you are more able and not less, and demonstrated how the understanding and appreciation of diversity and inclusion can be elevated,” he added.
D&I, an important cornerstone that guides learning and working at the University, is also integral to the SFP, which advocates for the advancement of women’s roles and empowering them to champion issues for the community. Ms Chiang reiterated that embracing diversity and equity is as fundamental to the SFP, whose work goes beyond feminine movements and embraces holistic growth for the community.
The SFP has impacted many people through the events and initiatives that are held annually. Since being housed under SMU’s Office of President in 2016, which was marked by the SFP Evening and Launch of the SMU Women Alumni Group on 11 May 2016, the SFP had a fruitful year of deepened outreach through multi-pronged engagements.
The inaugural Shirin Fozdar Annual Lecture was delivered on 2 September 2016 by Dr Noeleen Heyer, former United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General. A series of Conferences on the Move were also successfully held.
Apart from the SF D&I Award, SFP had set up and awarded the new SF Fellowship and SF Scholarship to its first recipients. The SF Fellows, who work towards generating research that makes a difference to areas such as businesses, policies, science, education and care-giving, will share research findings in 2017. Associate Professor of Sociology Bussarawan Puk Teerawichitchainan, who is also Associate Dean (Research & Programme Development) at SMU School of Social Sciences, is focused on family care for older persons in Asia, while Assistant Professor of Economics Christine Ho is focused on “Gender-based Parental Investments and Old Age Support”.
SFP’s mission is to continue to serve as a platform to connect students, advocates, policy-makers, businesses, institutions and the public to shape a resilient community and nurture integrated perspectives in women’s development.
SMU hopes that such initiatives constantly increase awareness and appreciation, to foster a more open, diverse and inclusive culture.
SMU is the first local education institution to have initiated a full D&I function. Its community of highly diverse students, staff and faculty represents a breadth of talents, identities and cultures, and forms a microcosm of nationalities drawn from some 50 countries across six continents. It will be impossible, if not highly impractical, to work if people or the environment cannot welcome differences.
While believing that no deserving student, staff or faculty should be denied access or opportunities at SMU on the basis of physical, social, economic, cultural attributes, orientation or backgrounds, inclusion seldom occurs naturally. It takes effort and cultivation, to remain constantly mindful and open-minded towards differences.
[Photo: SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer (right) and SFP Chairperson Ms Claire Chiang (left) presented the inaugural Shirin Fozdar Diversity & Inclusion Group Award jointly to Yip Pin Xiu (second from left), Nur Syahidah Alim (middle) and Nurulasyiqah Taha (second from right). The trio had set new benchmarks for Singapore and SMU through their sporting achievements.]