Back to School

From industry to academia, three WKWSCI postgraduate alumni share their tales of transition to teaching and research.

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After spending several years in the communications industry as practitioners in various fields, Edson C. Tandoc Jr. (MMC’08), Yeo Su Lin (Ph.D’13) and Kate Delmo (MMC’03)  found themselves at similar crossroads. They all decided to pursue a life of academia, so that they can help mould professionals for the industry.

The three Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information postgraduate alumni are now full-time faculty members at universities in Singapore and Australia. Here are their stories.
 

Edson C. Tandoc Jr. - Shaping the Future

Teaching was always at the back of Edson C. Tandoc Jr.’s mind when he was working as a journalist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the early 2000s. After four years in the newsroom, Tandoc realised that there were some things he wished his journalism professors had prepared him for before entering the news profession.

Describing the news industry as one that is “constantly changing,” Tandoc decided to pursue his master’s degree in 2007 so that he could teach future journalists at his alma mater, University of the Philippines.

Upon obtaining the ASEAN Graduate Scholarship to pursue his master’s degree, Tandoc enrolled into the postgraduate programme at WKWSCI, where his love for research was ignited. Tandoc said that being in WKWSCI was a “turning point” for him as it was here that he realized he wanted to pursue a life in academia, researching a field he was passionate about — journalism.

“It allowed me to reflect on journalistic practices in the field which I did not have the time to think about when I was a practitioner,” said Tandoc, who also felt that research gave him an opportunity for him to link theory to practice.

“It occurred to me that out of all the days in the week, I looked forward to the day I was going to teach, even if it meant I had no time to rest.”

Edson C. Tandoc Jr.Assistant Professor, WKWSCI

After obtaining his master’s degree, Tandoc went back to being a journalist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He also took up a part-time teaching role at the University of the Philippines, where his interest in teaching deepened.

“It occurred to me that out of all the days in the week, I looked forward to the day I was going to teach, even if it meant I had no time to rest.”

Even though Tandoc enjoyed being a practitioner, he realised that he enjoyed sharing with his students about how he did his job even more. After a year, Tandoc pursued his PhD at University of Missouri, Columbia to delve deeper into the field of journalism research.

Tandoc is now an Assistant Professor in WKWSCI, researching and teaching about current trends in journalistic practices. Looking forward, Tandoc hopes to encourage more students to find joy in the process of learning, and be more creative in coming up with ways to expand their knowledge.

“In the end, you don’t only want to teach them what you know, but how to know more than what you know. When the people you train become smarter than you, that would be my measure of doing well as a professor.”
 

Yeo Su Lin - A Greater Fulfilment

At 18, Yeo Su Lin wanted to be a television newscaster. To achieve that goal, she left Singapore in 1988 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications at the University of Calgary in Canada. After graduation, however, Yeo was wary of the irregular working hours of the broadcast industry.

“I’d wake up when my husband sleeps, and sleep when he wakes up. We figured that this wouldn’t be healthy for our marriage,” said Yeo, who got married a year after she graduated.

She invested the next 12 years of her career in Singapore as a public relations practitioner in the banking and finance industry instead. It was a career that culminated in a role that saw her heading up an investor relations department.

“I enjoyed being in practice a lot. But I had to leave because I wanted to raise my young boys,” said Yeo, adding that she was at the height of her career when she made the decision to further her studies.

Yeo spent the next 11 years pursuing her master’s degree, PhD, and Post-Doctoral Programme in WKWSCI.

Going back to school came with challenges. After being away from student life for so long, Yeo said that it was tough re-adapting to a school setting. Having to cope financially wasn’t easy as well. “I have two children and a family to feed, so I had to learn to live within my means,” said Yeo. She added that she had to be “frugal” as she could no longer afford as many luxuries for herself.

However, it was in those 11 years at WKWSCI where Yeo discovered her passion for books and knowledge. “When I found out that the theories I learned had relevance to the practice I have always been in, I started to be passionate about teaching,” said Yeo.

Now an Assistant Professor at Lee Kong Chian School of Business in Singapore Management University, Yeo said that having extensive experience in the industry as well as in the area of research has helped her better prepare her students for the corporate world.

Yeo, who is also SMU’s Academic Advisor of Corporate Communications, added that she currently has no plans to go back into practice.

“In practice, I can only influence and help with my organization. But if I remain in academia, I can equip the next generation of young people to be effective communication professionals regardless of the field they eventually go into. I find greater fulfillment in that.”

 

Yeo Su Lin shares how she overcame the challenges she faced as a PR practitioner, and why she made the move to teaching. AUDIO PODCAST: BERTRAND TEE

 

Kate Delmo - A Noble Profession

Kate Delmo grew up in an environment where she was surrounded by academics. Her mother, who was the dean of a business school, used to bring her along to lectures and classes when she was young. Despite the early exposure, Delmo never thought that she would go into the same field as her mother.

Delmo said that she had always wanted to work in a corporate setting instead. Upon obtaining her degree in communication research at the University of the Philippines in 1999, Delmo became a speechwriter at the Congress of Philippines, where she delved into the world of public relations. She then went on to join the research team in ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines.

After two years of being in the industry, Kate felt “burnt out” and wanted to try her hand at law school. Her plans changed when she was offered the ASEAN Graduate Scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in WKWSCI.

“I feel like I can contribute to students’ lives even if it is just for one semester. If relationships last longer than that, it is even more inspiring for me.”

Kate DelmoLecturer, University of Technology Sydney

After graduation, Delmo returned to the Philippines, where she took up a teaching position at her alma mater, the University of the Philippines. Her first foray into teaching stirred her interest in academia.

Still unsure about her career path, she applied for both a PhD scholarship as well as a job in the foreign service.

Knowing that she had to choose between being a practitioner and an academic, Delmo told herself that she would go into either line based on which offer came first. “I got offered the PhD scholarship in the morning and news that I passed the first exam in the foreign service application process at night [of the same day],” she shared. “From there, I knew that being in practice would be put on hold for me forever,” she added.

Today, Delmo, is a lecturer in public communication at the University of Technology Sydney, a role she has held since 2011.

After teaching for several years, Delmo said she now understands clearly what her mother meant when she used to tell her that teaching was a noble profession.

Delmo said that she is always excited to engage with young minds, especially in her area of expertise. “I feel like I can contribute to students’ lives even if it is just for one semester. If relationships last longer than that, it is even more inspiring for me,” she added.

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