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At a Valedictory Dinner in 2012, when students at the LKY School voted Kenneth Paul Tan as the Most Inspiring Professor and the Most Engaging Professor, an alumna recited the following poem that she had composed:

"He entered the class in the midst of a thought,

Paused a minute, to scratch his pate.

And breathlessly indulged in three hours of relentless probing

And pushing the horizons of his students, of our political consciousness.

He’s invigorated and empowered our critical abilities,


He himself has chosen the mode of political consciousness

Much less dramatic or romantic.

That of academics.

One that commands much more patience, persistence, and precision.

The daunting elegance with which he does justice to his mission is nothing less than inspiration."


"I feel incredibly fortunate to have taken your course this semester. Not only have I gained knowledge, but I've also rediscovered the joy of learning and felt the warmth of your care. I'm deeply grateful for your teaching style, encouragement, and support. First and foremost, I greatly appreciate your inspirational teaching approach. Each concept and theory you explain is introduced through engaging documentaries to stimulate critical thinking. Then, you actively engage with students and summarize the key points at the end. This method makes complex concepts easier to understand and brings dull topics to life. Your ability to explain concepts clearly, coherently, and logically has been immensely beneficial to us students. Secondly, I want to thank you for your encouragement and support. The atmosphere in your classroom is always positive, and you encourage us to express our thoughts boldly while gently guiding us to improve our viewpoints. Your affirmation and encouragement have given us great confidence. Furthermore, you've created a relaxed and enjoyable learning environment. In your class, we experience equal participation, detailed explanations, and diverse perspectives. Such a teaching environment turns learning into a pleasurable experience rather than a tedious task. Your approach stimulates our thinking and broadens our horizons." (Recent graduate, MA in Communication Studies, HKBU, Email in 2024)

"Looking back, my stay in the NUS would have been significantly less enriching if not for the academic stimulation I gained during Dr Tan’s modules. Dr Tan was the one professor who made academic inquiry and research an enjoyable challenge. I have no doubt that Dr Tan has left a lasting impression and contribution on all of his students. He has been an inspiring educator and a passionate academic … It is in part because of my gratitude to him and to the university at-large (for the education it has given me) that I continue to contribute as an alumnus." (Alumnus, a senior official in the Ministry of Communications and Information’s Media and Research Division, Research Department, Letter in 2008)


"Dr Tan’s seemingly effortless ability to engage his students and his flair for drawing out some of the most vigorous academic discussions and debates in his classes, are hallmarks of his teaching legacy at NUS." (Alumnus, currently senior official in the Ministry of Finance, Letter in 2008)


"The analytical thinking and political theories I have learnt from Professor Tan [have] influenced my varsity education path and still [continue] to put me in good stead in my career as an executive handling corporate governance matters, policy research/development and project management for the National Trades Union Congress … In my years of education, I have yet to meet a Professor who has managed to teach me so much without appearing to do so." (Alumna, senior official, Contact Singapore, Letter in 2008)


"Prof, I wanted to say that what you have taught me in class has benefited me greatly at work, both personally and professionally, and so all is well indeed." (Alumna, senior official in the Ministry of Education, Email in 2011)


"I just wanted to say thank you for being such an important part of our [Master in Public Policy] experience. I've already told you of the integral role of LKYSPP's The Singapore Experience in my own Singapore experience, but I would also like to pay tribute to PP5103, which the majority of our batch considers the best core class "all round". A few of us have speculated that you will be poached by the NUS-Yale liberal arts college (or in the mean time, Harvard) but for selfish reasons and LKYSPP solidarity I hope that isn't true." (Alumna, senior official in the Australian Trade Commission in Singapore, Email in 2011)


"... she told me that you're one of the Vice Deans at the school now. Although I have no doubt you will be great at your job, but deep down I feel like a wonderful teacher like you should be given more time to teach and inspire students through your classes and research, instead of being in the administration. / Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that in my office, one of my assignment was to work on a position paper regarding gender equality in Indonesia. I've sent the document to one of my deputies and she was pleased to see my work. I can't help to think that I should really thank you for that paper, because you have been a great influence to me and you have truly shaped my views of the world. Too bad I can't show you the paper since it's confidential...would've been nice if I can get some feedback :)" (Alumna, senior official in the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Email in 2012)


"[The USP module] Democratic Possibilities in Singapore was one of the best classes I've ever taken. One part of why and how I got an education and not just a degree at NUS." (Alumnus, ex-journalist at Reuters and Bloomberg China, Facebook post in 2017)


"These proved to be some of the most challenging and thought-provoking modules I had ever read in my entire undergraduate career … Dr Kenneth Tan’s gift is his ability to constantly push students to think critically while at the same time, guiding the process of intellectual inquiry … Students who simply approached him for answers to academic and theoretical conundrums often felt exasperated due to his policy of forcing the students to think critically and work out the theoretical framework of any research topic on their own. Yet at the same time, he constantly asked questions and prompted us to think critically about any issue by drawing various mind-maps on the board to guide us along the thought-process. The end result would often be beneficial to the student him/herself, as I have personally learnt." (Alumna, PhD student, Northwestern University, Letter in 2008)


"A friend once said that as a student of Dr Tan one must be prepared to exercise immense intellectual rigor, for Dr Tan is one of those rare professors who holds his students to very high-standards and tries his best to ensure that students are capable of achieving them." (Alumna, PhD student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Letter in 2008)


"Writing essays for Dr Tan was never just a pen-pushing exercise either – every page would be carefully marked and critiqued for its logical consistency. Indeed, it was Dr Tan’s severe comment on one of my sloppiest papers … that made me understand that I was short-changing myself by not writing to the best of my abilities. From then on, I began to enjoy writing well and rigorously for its own sake …. Dr Tan’s energy, kindness and intellectual abilities make him one of the best professors I have ever encountered. Indeed, he has helped [strengthen] my own desire to become an academic and university teacher. I hope future students will have similar opportunities to study under him and be similarly inspired, not necessarily restricted to the field of academia, but to pursue excellence in whatever they undertake." (Alumna, PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Letter in 2008)


"Among my many acquaintances with lecturers at NUS and beyond, particularly at LSE, I have the utmost and highest respect for Dr Tan because I consider him to be one of the most talented, dedicated, articulate, passionate and globally-minded individuals with an undoubted commitment to excellence in teaching, mentorship and research … Dr Tan is a role model for his past and present students. As I venture into the world of academia with my pursuit of a PhD, I will always remember the principles, values and life choices that Dr Tan had shared with me as my supervisor, lecturer, tutor, mentor and friend. I intend to follow in Dr Tan’s footsteps and similarly strive for excellence in teaching and research so that my own students will benefit from my dedication, commitment, knowledge-sharing, and mentorship." (Alumnus, PhD, London School of Economics and Politics, Letter in 2008)


"Your lessons are like a slow acting vitamin. It becomes apparent how relevant it is over time. It was theoretical at the time of delivery but the practical effects emerge when i embark on my professional career. thank you. I am a teacher now and keep your educational methods in mind always." (Alumnus, a teacher in Singapore, Facebook private message in 2017)

"I'm doing relief teaching at a neighbourhood secondary school now, and I teach Sec 1 Literature. Seeing that the students found the subject completely boring, I thought I’d liven things up by teaching them how to write simple song lyrics. There were some wonderful ones done, thank God. But imagine my disappointment when I discovered that there were many of them who plagiarised, blatantly copying existing songs verbatim. I just thought, what kind of attitude towards learning is this? / It then struck me how many of my teachers, including you, must have felt about my own attitude towards work. I remember those times spent in your office, and how my papers were always late by weeks. I also remember your patience and compassion, and also an email once when you said you were disappointed. Well, through this brief teaching stint, I have the opportunity to see the classroom through the teacher's eyes, and I understand and appreciate a lot better the heartbeat of a teacher. / Thank you, Dr Tan, for having been an excellent teacher. I believe you have touched many lives, including mine." (Alumnus, Email in 2005)


"I really appreciate the advice and guidance you have given me (definitely not over-rated!). You have quite an incredible ability to help others sort their heads out and make decisions that they end up being rather pleased with, with just a quick chat. I was amazed at how you helped me to narrow down the focus of my ISM topic many years ago in just a matter of minutes, and you've once again helped me with the Master’s too. I can assure you that this isn’t something everyone can do." (Alumna, Email in 2012)

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