December 2017 | Issue 33
LKCMedicine student clinches third prize in SMU essay competition

“Focus on the human condition and its relevance in the service industry, and less on the things that machines can do.”

This was the argument that won LKCMedicine Class of 2022 student Cheong Nian Kai third place in the inaugural Singapore Management University (SMU) Institute of Service Excellence (ISE) Essay Competition.

The ISE Essay Competition, themed “Excellence explored: what will the future of service in Singapore look like”, was organised by SMU to encourage undergraduate students to share their thoughts on the Singapore’s service landscape and how technology, talent and culture play a pivotal role in this sector.

On winning third place in the competition, Nian Kai said, “It was a pleasant surprise as I did not expect to win a prize in a competition which was presumably more popular among faculties like business, accountancy and the social sciences, given the economic-centric focus of the competition.”

Nian Kai (Custom).jpg
Class of 2022 Cheong Nian Kai receives his award from SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business Dean Prof Gerry George
(Photo courtesy of Institute of Service Excellence @ SMU)

The competition drew more than 40 entries from all six autonomous universities in Singapore, and the winners were announced on 3 November. They received their certificates and cash prizes at the ISE’s 10th anniversary gala dinner, held at Resorts World Sentosa’s S.E.A Aquarium on 9 November. Nian Kai shared third place with Kimberlee Lim from SMU, each receiving $1,000, while second and first place went to SMU students, who took home prize monies of $2,000 and $3,000 respectively.

Students could choose from one of three topics – impact and opportunities of disruptive technologies on the service sector, appeal of service sector jobs and how to attract local talent, and Singapore’s unique brand of service and how to build a culture of service centricity in Singapore.

In his essay “The Cyborg Service of the 21st Century”, Nian Kai responds to the first topic, envisaging the service industry of the 21st century to be that of a cyborg, incorporating technological advancement into service and keeping the human condition enshrined. Technology is the silver bullet to employment opportunities in the service sectors, such as job creation, higher efficiency and productivity.

“I chose this topic because I feel that it is an important change that is occurring in our world today. It impacts our daily lives in almost every way, from the food we eat, to the way we commute,” said Nian Kai.

The submissions were assessed by a panel of three judges from ISE and Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) at SMU. Entries were evaluated for creativity, grammar, organisation, style and personal voice, and clarity of content and ideas.


Watch this video to hear the recipients of the inaugural ISE Essay Competition award talk about their winning ideas
(Source: Institute of Service Excellence @ SMU YouTube)