Engaging Students, Connecting People

To better prepare undergraduates for their first job, six final-year students formed WKW Engage, an initiative aimed at connecting students with industry practitioners.

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When Low Zhang Quan (CS’17) entered the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in 2014, he had no idea what he wanted to do as a career in the future, as did many of his batch mates. It was only during his professional internship in the third year that he got an inkling of what he was interested in.

Now in his final year, Low and his friends are determined to give their juniors an opportunity that they did not have. Through an initiative dubbed WKW Engage, the group organises conferences and networking events aimed at connecting students with practitioners in the fields of public relations and advertising.

Started in 2016 under the tutelage of WKWSCI lecturer Ms Wong Pei Wen, six final-year students – Low, Koh Zhi Hui, Paul Chew, Clara Chew, Marcus Lim and Amanda Chong –  took up the challenge of leading the student-run organisation.

To help students get in touch with the industry, WKW Engage has conducted numerous events: including a sharing session by past students about their internship experience, as well as agency tours that allowed undergraduates to visit top firms in the industry from the likes of TBWA, Ogilvy Public Relations and Edelman.

“The future that I see for WKW Engage is where alumni with a lot more experience come back and give back to the cohort. At the same time, they can also learn from the conference and talks.”

Wong Pei Wen, WKWSCI Lecturer.

A key event by WKW Engage last year was a conference held in the school that was attended by more than 100 students and faculty members. The conference featured numerous distinguished speakers from their respective fields, including food blogger Dr Leslie Tay.

Described by the team as “the heart and soul of WKW Engage,” Wong – affectionately known to her students as Ms Pei – has long had the desire to start an organisation to connect students to industry professionals. She approached Low, her student back then who eventually became the first President of WKW Engage, with her idea. He readily accepted her offer and subsequently recruited the rest of his team.

Low stressed the importance of students reaching out to industry practitioners. “It really helps you get a sense of the direction you want to head towards in WKW, so that you can equip yourself with the skills to make yourself employable,” he said.

Added Koh, a co-founder of the initiative: “When we entered WKW, we were not the lucky ones who knew what we wanted to do. We wanted to connect students to industries because it was something we didn’t have much of an opportunity to do until our internship in Year 3.”

Fighting a tight deadline of just nine weeks to plan the events and juggling a heavy workload for their Final Year Projects, the team faced an uphill task. Things took a few more unexpected turns when one prominent speaker almost could not make it for the conference and when another pulled out just the night before.

Despite the obstacles along the way, the team managed to execute successful events that received plenty of positive feedback from both speakers and attendees alike.

Wong attributes the success of WKW Engage to the team’s passion for the work.

“Unless you have the heart to want to learn and to give, you probably wouldn’t be in this, because there’s no incentive,” she said, adding that the students are not awarded academic credits for their work in WKW Engage.

For the students behind WKW Engage, their greatest reward came from knowing that their efforts have given their juniors a sense of direction in terms of career planning.

“When I was a year 1 or 2, I had no idea what public relations and advertising entailed. But having our juniors give us feedback that they learnt something, that’s quite satisfying,” said WKW Engage co-founder Lim.

With the success of the pioneer run of WKW Engage events, Wong managed to get the school to support the organization for a second year, this time with a larger committee and with more resources. She has also set her sights on expanding the scope of WKW Engage, to involve not only students but alumni in these events as well, fostering greater relationships between them.

This year’s edition of WKW Engage is also part of the school’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

“The future that I see for WKW Engage is where alumni with a lot more experience come back and give back to the cohort. At the same time, they can also learn from the conference and talks,” said Wong.

“It’s a learning and giving platform of professional skills,” she said. “That’s what our vision is.”