Alma mater, matters: The important role of alumni

01 October 2021

with Oscar Ng, Head (Alumni Relations Office)

According to psychologist and relationships expert Meredith Hansen, strong relationships have three things in common: trust, commitment, and vulnerability. At the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), we strive to build our alumni community based on these three principles. We want to instil trust through the way we operate, show commitment with our actions, and acknowledge that we will always have space for improvement.

The Alumni Relations Office (ARO) operates like a community clubhouse, where we organise and support events and programs to enhance the relationships between graduates and the academy. Heading the ARO team, our core responsibilities include staying in contact with alumni; planning, developing and executing projects and events; while promoting them through social media. We also handle event funding; reaching out to mentors, volunteers, and donors; and providing updates on academy’s development.

Currently, we have a supportive and ever-growing network of 15,000 alumni members. But what does this mean for the academy and future generations of NAFA students?

  “From being game changers in their industries, some also become changemakers to our students by imparting invaluable wisdoms and providing learning and job opportunities.”

Alumni Relations Office and alumni visited Sasaran Art Gallery in Selangor, Malaysia, 2019

The importance of alumni

Alumni are valuable brand-ambassadors, and we succeed when they do. With their accolades, our alumni bring pride to NAFA while also paying testament to the efficacy of an education at the academy. This luminates the path of success taken by them through the doors of NAFA and illustrates positive examples our students to follow. However, it is not enough to just celebrate their achievements, but to also to join in the conversations and generate synergies for our entire network.

Hence, ARO established eight Alumni Chapters (one per programme – Fine Art, Fashion, 3D Design, Design & Media, Music, Dance, Theatre, and Arts Management) to facilitate the initiatives and activities organised by the respective alumni groups. Members of the Chapters represent the group and provide valuable advice to NAFA on how best to engage them, and which activities provide value and appeal. The pandemic led us to set up a 9th Chapter, an International Chapter comprising international alumni representatives who are in Singapore. These Chapters serve to bolster our alumni and spawn more opportunities for them.

  “Beyond recognition and awards, alumni may also find intrinsic satisfaction and meaning in giving back and staying in touch with their roots (alma mater).”

Alumni Homecoming 2018 during NAFA 80th Anniversary Celebration

This has also given the alumni community an arena to stay connected to us and identify with NAFA for more than nostalgia. As we move into the digital era, we are heartened to see alumni #hashtag shout-outs linking back to us. Likewise, we are proud to share their achievements through our Spotlight series on social media and livestreams, featuring intimate interviews of alumni in their professional and personal capacities.

Game-changers to changemakers

NAFA Alumni profiles have evolved and expanded to meet the creative industrial needs such as graphic design, music, and fashion. By the 90s, NAFA’s eight prominent programmes became our “signature attractions” for applicants across the globe. Over the years, these programmes continue to exceed expectations, producing luminaries such as: leading entrepreneurs like Jeremy Josiah of Golden Moments (Singapore); education changemakers like Albert Tay, founding director of the Kodaly Academy of Music (Singapore); and hybrid-creative innovators like Pebbles Lin, Curator of NUNC Society (Sweden), just to name a few.

While these alumni have achieved high acclaim after graduating, they still return to the academy to share their journey with the students. From being game changers in their industries, some also become changemakers to our students by imparting invaluable wisdoms and providing learning and job opportunities.

To recognise these very special group of alumni, we established the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. This esteemed award is conferred to outstanding NAFA alumni who have contributed to excellence in the arts and design, as well as the development of the arts scene in Singapore. To date, we have 15 outstanding alumni who received the medals. Beyond recognition and awards, alumni may also find intrinsic satisfaction and meaning in giving back and staying in touch with their roots (alma mater).

Getting in touch with your roots

We welcome all past NAFA graduates to connect with us. Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Alumni Ambassadors

    Partnerships and collaborations between students and alumni can provide students with significant opportunities for growth and development. With the alumni’s experience, sharing and coaching, they help raise the standard of the students while improving their own profile via association with NAFA.

  2. Mentoring & Scholarships

    Alumni may donate monetary contribution and professional expertise to benefit the academy. Alumni play an important role in mentoring students and contributing scholarships to deserving students. As benefactors, most became donors themselves, thus raising the concept of reciprocity towards the noble value of giving.

  3. Internship Placements

    Alumni who have ventured ahead can provide placements for internship and offer valuable feedback about the industry standards and expectations.

To my alumni family, as we navigate the effects of the pandemic, one thing is clear – the human connection is always needed. You can reach us at 6512 6099 or [email protected]. Let’s keep in touch and catch up over coffee (while keeping safe). 😊

Click here for Annex 1.

Oscar Ng is the current Head of Alumni Relations Office, and Head of Projects for NAFA International. She is also a NAFA Fine Art Alumna, graduated in 1993. She has joined NAFA since 1997 and is affectionately known to many students as Auntie Oscar.