SMU Designs Curriculum to Emphasize Impact

Singapore Management University organizes its new undergrad program around three pillars: capabilities, communities, and civilizations.

At Singapore Management University (SMU), the desire for students to achieve meaningful careers has inspired a new undergraduate core curriculum. The new curriculum, which will launch in 2019–2020, is organized around three pillars of learning: capabilities, communities, and civilizations.

The capabilities category includes six credits for courses in critical thinking, innovation and creative thinking, and business modeling and analytics; under this pillar, students will complete internships related to their disciplines. The communities category includes four credits for courses on the interactions among economic, technological, and cultural forces and society. This pillar features courses in economics and society, artificial intelligence and society, digital cultures, urban cultures, and foreign language study, as well as a community service component.

Finally, the civilizations category includes two credits for courses that focus on ethics and social responsibility, as well as “big questions” about topics such as happiness and suffering, and wealth and poverty. This pillar will offer opportunities for global study.

The new curriculum will encourage students to take exploratory courses outside of their chosen majors—and even pursue double degrees. In addition, starting in 2019–2020, students can choose to exclude up to two courses from their cumulative grade point averages, as long as they do not fail the courses. This move is intended to encourage students to experiment without fear that a lower grade could affect their GPAs.

SMU also will pilot a work-study opportunity in which students can spend six months working at selected companies four days a week and studying on campus one day a week. For the pilot, students pursuing health economics and management majors can undertake work-study with Sing- Health healthcare institutions.

As part of these changes, the school will place even greater emphasis on sustainability. In 2019–2020, the Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) will roll out a second major in sustainability, open to all undergraduates. As part of this effort, SMU has partnered with DBS Bank to launch the DBS-SMU Sustainability Initiative, for which DBS Bank has committed more than S$1 million (nearly US$725,000) to support a sustainability curriculum. Students who pursue the second major will have the opportunity to work on projects for ten social enterprises supported by the DBS Foundation. Each year, two undergraduates who have declared sustainability as a second major will be chosen to receive DBS Sustainability Scholarships.

These changes are intended to prepare students for meaningful careers and “raise the general awareness of sustainability issues,” says Gerard George, dean of SMU LKCSB. The objective, he adds, is to produce graduates who are independent and ethical, who think “deeply and broadly,” and who are ready to create value for their communities and the world.