ST May 17, 2007
NUS-New York uni law course draws 'rainbow' group
42 students from 23 countries enrolled; programme awards 2 master's degrees
By Jane Ng
MISS Marie Dalton could have done her master's in law in New York, but she chose to attend a 'more valuable' programme in Singapore instead.
She signed up for a course offered jointly by New York University (NYU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) and - in 10 months' time - will have two master's degrees.
Ms Dalton, a former associate attorney at a Los Angeles international law firm, chose to come here as it will give her a 'broader understanding of the economic and legal realities of doing business in Asia'.
This will help her advise clients better when she returns to her firm, said the 25-year-old NYU law graduate.She is one of five United States citizens enrolled in the NYU-NUS tie-up, which has a 'rainbow'' group totalling 42 students from 23 countries, including Chile, China, Rwanda and Uzbekistan.
All have basic law degrees and many have significant work experience.
The programme, which kicked off on May 7, is conducted in Singapore but taught primarily by NYU faculty members.
The course is taught in Singapore, but the tuition fees are based on NYU rates (that is to say, very expensive). However, to kickstart the programme, the universities are offering a very generous and large number of scholarships (including full scholarships). These scholarships won't be there forever - in fact, they will cease to be offered by 2010/2011.
Last year I seriously considered applying for this course. In the end, I decided not to.
Singaporeans tend to get a little fixated about paper qualifications. I admit I have this tendency too. But the truth is that one year of quality working experience will often be worth more than one year of further studies. And a master's degree, or two, does not necessarily add anything to a person's market value.
Market value, of course, is not the only reason for pursuing further studies. I had various reasons for considering this NYU-NUS course. One big reason was that I just felt like taking a one-year break from work and spending more time with the kids. And yet not live like a complete bum. Therefore the studying.
Incidentally, I remember Jimmy Mun describing me as a "financial ascetic", in the comment section of this post. He was referring to my simple lifestyle (relative to my income). I draw a 5-figure monthly salary, and my last bonus was double-digit, in terms of number of months. Mrs Wang, a lawyer, also commands quite respectable income. However, we live in a HDB flat and don't own a car.
Now the great thing about being a financial ascetic is that it makes many options available, if you need them. For example, if I really wanted to, I could just quit work and go study for a year. Or if I really hated my boss (I don't), I could just toss in my resignation letter without bothering to look for another job first.
Money can't buy happiness. It can buy freedom. And freedom is usually better than a condo or a BMW.'
I digress - but increasingly I begin to see that financial ascetism can possibly be a factor that leads you to enjoy your work a lot more. When you don't really need ALL that money you're earning, you start finding other reasons to work (or you find work that fulfills those reasons). Like, to challenge yourself, or to learn, or to contribute, or because you have a Vision or a Dream that you seek to fulfil through your work.
You know what I mean - it's self-actualisation. The work becomes meaningful for its own sake. The money ceases to be the point. Passion becomes the driver. And that is approximately the stage when individuals start achieving all the very best things they'll ever do in their lives.
Of course, our ministers are not there yet. Far from it. Because you see, their minds are still very much on money, money, money.