Fuelled by her passion in sustainable development, MND EDGE Scholar Teh Su Chen, 23, is pursuing a career that allows her to strategically plan the use of land to support economic, environmental and social factors. Through her job, she is also able to explore her interests in climate change and the environment. Ultimately, she aspires to make a positive impact to Singapore in her line of work.
I handle a range of portfolios related to land use in Singapore. A lot of the work involves understanding competing interests and finding ways to balance them. It is a thought-provoking blend of pragmatism and aspiration, as we have to consider real physical constraints while laying the groundwork for our vision for Singapore.
How Did You Decide on Your Scholarship?
Sustainable development has always appealed to me. In the local context, I felt that land is a cornerstone of this concept – we need to plan our land use to support the economic sectors, protect our natural environment, and ensure that Singapore is a good and liveable place for its people. As MND plays an important part in this, I was interested in the MND EDGE Scholarship.
What Was a Memorable Experience as an Overseas Scholar?
I was pursuing my studies in Houston when the city was hit by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane that pummelled the city with heavy rain and strong winds for several days. Much of the city flooded and many people lost their homes as a result. I spent time volunteering with the recovery efforts, and subsequently studied the hurricane as part of my coursework. The severe impact of the hurricane was in no small part due to the fact that the city’s developments and layout had not been built to cope with the threat of flooding. Regulations had also not accounted for the increasing risk of flooding caused by extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. The experience helped me appreciate the importance of the long-term planning and big-picture coordination in MND’s work. Infrastructure, once built, has to last for decades, hence it is crucial that we pre-empt upcoming issues and future-proof developments where necessary. In addition, while a single development may not make a huge difference, the cumulative impact of multiple developments could determine whether a city is able to survive and thrive in the future.
Explain One Challenge You Had To Overcome as a Student.
There is a lot more freedom and flexibility in university compared to pre-university institutions. There are plenty of activities and opportunities, but it is up to individual students to chart their own paths and create their “checklist” for happiness. When I first started university, this newfound freedom was an unfamiliar taste, and I initially found myself a bit lost and without direction. I eventually adjusted to this new environment and made a conscious effort to seek out learning opportunities for myself. This enhanced my experience abroad and enabled me to make the most of my time in university.
What Are Some of Your Career Goals?
One of my favourite professors in university was an environmental lawyer who had dedicated his career to protecting the natural environment in Texas and Louisiana. From him, I have learnt that I want my career to be aligned with my values. My career should not be an end in itself, but a means to an end – a way for me to make a positive impact on areas I truly care about. Although I have only been in MND for six months, I have found that the work here offers various avenues for one to embody this principle. I aspire to be like many of my senior colleagues who look at policy with a sharp eye and an eagerness to enact positive change.
What Do You Enjoy About MND’s Work?
MND’s work pertains to land. This may seem niche in scope, until one considers that practically everything requires land. As such, there are work streams in MND that allow me to explore my interests in climate change and the environment, and others that give me exposure to new areas. This creates a healthy balance of building on my existing knowledge while training my ability to pick up new concepts quickly.
Share Some Tips That Will Enable Applicants To Stand Out Among Their Peers When Applying for a Scholarship.
Finding out more about the agency awarding the scholarship by reading the papers and speaking to others will go a long way. It is important to understand the perennial issues and the agency’s approach to addressing them. Apart from helping with the scholarship application process, this can help you decide whether the scholarship is aligned with your interests and values, and whether you can envision yourself working in the agency after graduation.
TEH SU CHEN
MND EDGE Scholarship
Attained: Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Environmental Engineering, Rice University, U.S.
Now: Manager, Strategic Planning Division