Even if everything else about the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information were to change in the next 25 years, Professor Charles Thomas Salmon, the school’s Chair, is confident that one thing would remain the same: the spirit of the student community.
WKWSCI has grown exponentially as a school and a community over the past 25 years. In 2014, the school was dubbed the top communication school in Asia by the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. Since 1992, the school’s yearly undergraduate student intake has doubled to 193 in 2017. This year, a batch of undergraduates also won a top student paper award from the International Communication Association, a rare feat, in the conference’s competitive Communications and Technology division.
Amid the school’s many achievements and accolades over the years, Professor Salmon reserves much praise for the true heart of the school: its students, past and present.
“With our 25th anniversary this year, there will be a lot of focus on our past students, so we’re going to have some events that honour the work that they have done,” said Professor Salmon. One such event includes the school’s 25th anniversary celebration, which will allow past students to come together to reconnect and celebrate one another’s achievements. It will be held on the 3rd of November.
“Some past students are pursuing social issues, and some are interested in innovations. These are beyond the job, beyond working – they want to do something else with their lives, and the impacts that they have are greater than just their jobs,” said Professor Salmon.
In fact, Professor Salmon was not only attracted to WKWSCI for the achievements of its students when he first joined the school in 2011, but was also drawn by the school’s tight-knitted student body and vibrant spirit. He was appointed Chair of the school in 2014.
“I think our school is different,” said Professor Salmon. “Students identify a lot with the WKW school. There seems to be a really intense connection between the school and students – to the friendships that people make, to some of the faculty, and just the groups that form.”
Specialising in health communication research, Professor Salmon was the Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University prior to joining WKWSCI.
Despite his hectic schedule and the constant demands of his position, Professor Salmon takes great pride in his work, and sees great value in his task of preparing students for their future careers as journalists, communications specialists and media innovators.
Beyond the rigorous work of overseeing the school’s administration, Professor Salmon likens the richness and value of his experience as the Chair to the colour purple which is commonly associated with royalty. “There’s something about the colour that is like the work that we do – the richness in it. It’s not just doing the job, it’s doing something deeper,” he said.
"The students here are fantastic.
They really push
the faculty to work
really hard in
the classroom – very high standards and high expectations."
Professor Charles Thomas Salmon
Often, Professor Salmon can be spotted alongside students in faculty events. One recent event was the Singapore Intergenerational National Games (SING) competition that the school organised.
Held in May 2016, Sing 2016 was competition organized by The Centre for Healthy and Sustainable Cities (CHESS) at WKWSCI to examine the psychological and social impact of playing Exergames, a combination of exercising and playing Kinect videogames, among the senior population.
Spearheaded by Professor Theng Yin Leng, this competition collaborates with senior centres in Singapore, whereby elderly participants and youth volunteers will be involved in a few training sessions of active games and exercises before forming teams to compete. Elderly participants got to try their hand at Kinect video games such as Kinect Bowling and Fruit Ninja.
The final competition was held in WKWSCI while the training sessions were conducted at the various senior centres.
Surrounded by the high spirits of his students and elderly during the final competition held at WKWSCI, Professor Salmon immersed himself in the festivities.
“They had so much spirit, they were so competitive, and they were so into the games – clapping and applauding for their teammates. They were just really excited to be participating in something like this,” said Professor Salmon. “This was the kind of event where we had students and faculty involved and it was just really thrilling to see the effect it had on other people.”
To experience the vaunted school spirit that Professor Salmon mentions, one needs only step into the school. Professor Salmon often enjoys listening to his students’ musical performances during CI Club events while he’s at work. Oftentimes he can hear the festivities on the first floor from the fourth.
Professor Salmon has even suggested that students should utilise the “underused” amphitheater for more music performances. “I think it could be a place for somebody with a guitar or someone who can get a microphone and start singing and entertain the people at the benches,” he added.
In the years to come, Professor Salmon remains optimistic that WKWSCI will continue to house both spirited and outstanding students.
“The students here are fantastic. They really push the faculty to work really hard in the classroom – very high standards and high expectations,” he said. “That’s something really rare and very terrific to see.”