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Scholar Interviews

Ms June Tham

Ms June Tham-Toh, former Executive Director, Rainbow Centre

June Tham-Toh is the former Executive Director of the Rainbow Centre, which empowers and educates persons with developmental disabilities. Ms June attended the Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management Programme at Harvard Business School in 2008. She describes her experience completing the course as “profound and truly rewarding”.

“The programme provided me stimulating platforms to experience real time interaction and sharing of experiences, drawn from a wide spectrum of leaders from NPOs in other countries,” she said. June added that the insights from the course shaped her leadership skills to think strategically and analyse issues in her organization. June also found that the curriculum provided a wide and varied perspective of social governance issues of NPOs and successful social enterprises.

The insights she gained from the course put her in a better position to contribute to society, beyond Rainbow Centre. She said: “It has left me inspired to seek innovative opportunities to advocate and address the social issues that affect our community and the lives of those who need our help.”

 

Mr Ker

Mr Edwin Ker, Executive Director, Singapore Swimming Association

The Singapore Swimming Association, is the national governing body for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo and open water swimming in Singapore. Mr Edwin Ker, Executive Director for the Singapore Swimming Association attended the Strategic Perspectives in Non-profit Management (SPNM) programme at Havard University in 2018.

On reflecting on the experience, Edwin noted:

“The networks built with peers from all over the world working in non-profits allowed me to be even more inspired and passionate to contribute. In a community of non-profit senior executives, we have to care for something bigger than we are, tackling the toughest questions while working with limited resources.”

He added that the course was distinctive from other courses that he has previously attended:

 “Its not just the lessons from the course materials that I appreciate but to experience an entirely different learning culture in the United States, as well as one of the best educational institutions in the world at Harvard – it was an unforgettable experience!”

“I hope to share my experience with even more like minded senior professionals in sports and hope to make a bigger impact than what we have delivered - to deliver even more national pride as well as healthier and more resilient citizens”

 

Ms Soh Swee Ping, CEO, Council for Third Age

Soh Swee Ping, CEO of the Council for Third Age (C3A), an organisation that promotes active ageing in Singapore, attended the “Executive Programme for Non-profit Leaders” at Stanford University in 2014. Swee Ping found out about the Tote Board Scholarship when she attended the inaugural Non- Profit Management Programme for the 21st Century at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, which is also funded by Tote Board.

“I wanted to have the opportunity to interact with, hear and learn from other colleagues in the social sector, who were residing and operating in a different country, in a different economic and political climate. I was very curious and wanted to understand the issues they were facing, how they operate in their countries, their policies, and the community efforts to service or handle the needs in this sector,” she said.

Swee Ping found the discussions during the programme with her classmates and lecturers extremely useful. She explained, “Particularly because my views are from the Asian perspective, while my classmates were mainly from the US, we learnt a lot from one another and it opened my mind to other alternative views which I may not have thought of in the context of Singapore.”

"I’m satisfied with the experience of attending the scholarship programme. For those thinking of applying, I would say go for it! But, be prepared to do lots of reading, and to be able to read very fast!"

 

Mr Tan Wearn Haw, former CEO, Singapore Sailing Federation (currently head of National Youth Sports Institute)

Tan Wearn Haw, former CEO of the Singapore Sailing Federation, a national sports association that manages and organises the sport of sailing in Singapore, took up the “Executive Certificate in Non-profit Leadership” at Duke University in 2013. He learned about the scholarship through correspondences with Tote Board and SportSG, and felt that it was worth applying.

"I felt there was a need for someone from the sports sector to have a closer involvement with the larger social sector, and this scholarship provided the knowledge, experience and network for this important connection," said Wearn Haw.

Wearn Haw found out through the course that challenges in the social sector are universal, just in a different context and setting. “This places the importance on us to constantly look outside (of Singapore) to find solutions which can be adapted to Singapore’s context.”

He also added that being in an overseas setting amongst inspirational social activists and pioneers, discussing and sharing ideas was beneficial, and had this to say to future scholarship applicants, “Take up such opportunities, come back to share the learnings and contribute in whatever way possible!”

 

Mr Terence Ho, Executive Director, Singapore Chinese Orchestra

Terence Ho, Executive Director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, the only national and professional Chinese orchestra in Singapore and the Southeast Asia region, attended the “Strategic Perspectives in Non- Profit Management” course at Harvard University in 2010. He found out about the scholarship through Tote Board. With the support of the SCO Board that felt it would be of great value for him to attend, Terence decided to apply.

He said, “At the strategic level, if you can attend a course at Harvard Business School, it is a dream for the organisation and its Executive Director.” Terence shared that he gained insights on outcomes and how they can create a social impact. He also learned about what it means to be an inspiring leader – earning respect is everything. Terence explained, "A good leader needs to earn respect and through that, he gets respect from the team so everyone can work as a team and produce better outcomes."

With his new-found knowledge, he also got to understudy at the Boston Symphony Orchestra for a week. “The whole experience was fulfilling for me.”

And thanks to the scholarship programme and discussions with other Singapore VWOs, Terence has refined the Orchestra’s Caring Series programme that works with VWOs to perform and stage charity concerts to raise funds.