During the first week of September 2001, the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) launched a unique program that brought 13 senior officials studying in an Asian university to take courses with their counterparts at the School.
These policymakers and public managers from several Asian countries, candidates in the master in public management program at the National University of Singapore (NUS), were the first Lee Kuan Yew Fellows (LKY Fellows) at KSG.
“We arrived in Cambridge (with) our minds focused on the challenges of improving governance in Asia, and of restoring economic vitality to a region buffeted by the 1997 finance crisis (and soon) we were, like everyone else, shocked and dismayed by the events of September 11,” stated Kam Tse Tseun Aubeck, a participant.
However, hope resounded for him as he felt, in some small way, a part of the Kennedy School community-building process.
During the weeks that followed, the LKY Fellows witnessed leadership in action, both in the academic and the governmental arenas; and it became more evident that leaders had to be sensitive and responsive to the international community.
The events of Sept. 11, along with the presence of the LKY Fellows at KSG, powerfully emphasized the importance of developing strong ties and mutually beneficial programs between international schools of public policy in the training of future leaders. Harvard University and the National University of Singapore have had a long history of collaboration, and the LKY Fellows Program is an effort to provide the best training to those in public service.
KSG lecturer in public policy John Thomas created the course “Making Government Work in a Global Environment: Issues and Skills” especially for the LKY Fellows (but open to other students). With the assistance of research associate and KSG alum Nathalie Cely, Thomas, who is the faculty chair of the Kennedy School’s Singapore Program, designed the course with an Asian perspective.
The LKY Fellows were also required to attend KSG Professor Kenneth Winston’s course “Ethics in Government.” In July 2001, Winston had traveled to Singapore to spend a week with the group.
“It was an opportunity to introduce the fellows to the case method of teaching in a familiar setting, where they were the only participants. Since they already had spent considerable time together and felt comfortable with one another, they were more ready to speak up and express their views,” he said.
“Since most of the fellows,” added Winston, “had not spent time in the U.S. before, and especially at KSG, the presence of a familiar face helped to ease the transition.” Other familiar friends were Thomas, who met with the LKY Fellows during his visits to Singapore, and KSG Professor Frank Hartmann, who spent a semester at NUS teaching the course “Strategic Management in the Public Sector.” The three professors served as advisers to the group during their studies at KSG.
Kam Tse Tseun Aubeck recalls with relish “the many hard, knotty ethical philosophical problems,” he faced in Winston’s classes, and Thomas’ constant refrains not to be driven by external interests but to “find room to maneuver,” and to be smart in policy implementation.
Besides the required courses of Thomas and Winston, The LKY Fellows had the option of attending two electives from a list of KSG courses. “I was particularly pleased by the range of courses they took. It showed a willingness to explore new ideas and issues – from human rights to American politics,” Thomas said.
While the academic courses provided the foundation of the LKY Fellow’s agenda, other speakers – such as Lamar Alexander, former governor of Tennessee, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs – were invited to meet with them for an in-depth look at issues in government. In addition, commented Jennifer Stichweh, program director of the LKY Fellows Program, KSG Forum events and brown-bag seminars provided networking opportunities for the LKY Fellows to meet and exchange views with the rest of the student and faculty community.
After completing the seven weeks of study at KSG, the LKY Fellows spent a week in Washington, D.C., observing government and international agencies in action. Thomas and members of the KSG Singapore Program accompanied the group.
The first highlight of the trip to Washington was the reception and dinner at the Singaporean Embassy, hosted by Ambassador Chan Heng Chee. Ambassador Chan spoke on the Asian perspective in the world in light of current events, and then engaged in a question-and-answer session with the LKY Fellows and the KSG representatives.
During the rest of the week the group met with members of the government – Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, and the National Security Council; visited international organizations – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and attended a lecture on international trade in the United States.
At the end of their visit to Washington, the LKY Fellows retuned to Singapore to complete their studies. In December 2001 they became the first graduating class in the master in public management program at NUS.
“Most importantly,” Kam Tse Tseun Aubeck reflected, “The two months we spent in America helped to forge closer friendships and understanding across the Pacific, an outcome as valuable as the process of bringing together the thirteen of us from (several) countries in Asia. It is these friendships that made my time in Cambridge meaningful and well spent.”
2001 Lee Kuan Yew Fellows:
Assistant Director for Trade and Business,
Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation
Beijing Development Area
Ho Tong Yen
Special Assistant to the Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Head of Economics Section,
Planning Development Division,
Office of the Board of Investment Thailand
Kam Tse Tsuen Aubeck
Deputy Director of Operations Singapore Police Force
Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III
National Wages and Productivity Commission
Looi Tiek Soon
Manager of Road and Rail Design, LTA Malaysia (Singapore PR) Maria Paz A. Magsalin,
Assistant General Manager for Administration,
Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office
Secretary of State
Ministry of Interior
Apolonio Soriano Jr.
Senior Manager and Technical Adviser Health, Population, Nutrition and Literacy Program, CARE
Ha Huy Thong
The Americas Department
Deputy Director, Department of Regulations and Liaison,
State Administration of
Foreign Experts Affairs
Xu Lin Division Director
Division of Economic Structure, Development Planning Department China