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The School of Computing and Information Systems organised a dinner on its 20th anniversary at SMU Hall on 20 October 2023.
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Pushing the boundaries of learning for 20 years

Published on 3 January 2024

On 20 October 2023, more than 400 alumni, faculty members and current students of SMU’s School of Computing and Information Systems (SCIS) gathered for a dinner to celebrate the school’s 20th anniversary.

The past two decades have seen the school grow from strength to strength. From a repurposed building on the edge of the old Bukit Timah Campus, the school has grown into a highly sought-after school of computing and software engineering. It is now housed in a brand-new shared sustainable city-college block, with an alumni body of over 6,000, more than 2,300 undergraduate students and close to 700 postgraduate students, including about 130 doctoral students.

At present, SCIS is ranked fourth globally for Software Engineering based on output in 2022 on CSRankings, an influential metric on research publication in computing areas. On top of that, SCIS’ postgraduate programme, the Master of IT in Business (MITB), was recently ranked second in Asia, and 24th worldwide for the QS Business Master’s Rankings 2024: Business Analytics.

All the recognition that SCIS has gained reflects the strong track record it holds in meeting the industry’s demand for computing talent with a business orientation – a trend which is becoming even more prevalent in recent years.

SCIS Dean Professor Pang Hwee Hwa (in yellow short) celebrating with faculty, students, alumni and staff.
SCIS Dean Professor Pang Hwee Hwa (in yellow short) celebrating with faculty, students, alumni and staff.

New programmes, higher demand

In a speech marking the anniversary, SCIS Dean Professor Pang Hwee Hwa said, “Computing technology has made impressive advances in recent years, in analytics, followed by Artificial Intelligence.”

“These have triggered a wave of digitalisation as companies create new products and services using these technologies and that in turn has spurred a huge demand for computing talent,” he added, going on to share that SCIS has been responding to this demand through both research and education.

When Prof Pang was first appointed Dean in 2016, the SCIS cohort size was only 276, and it offered a single undergraduate programme – the Bachelor of Science in Information Systems. Today, SCIS claims more than 600 undergraduates annually, and has launched several new programmes – the Computer Science degree in 2019, the Computing and Law degree in 2020, and the Software Engineering Degree in 2022.

Enrolment in the MITB programme has also grown from 190 students in AY2016 to 280 students currently. “The School is seeing similar growth in our PhD degrees,” Prof Pang added. “In research, we have expanded beyond Information Systems too, and established core research areas in AI and Data Science, Human Machine collaborative systems, and Information Systems and Technology.”

SCIS: roots and growth

SCIS began in November 2022 on the fringe of SMU’s Bukit Timah Campus and was originally called the School of Information Systems (SIS). The very first batch of students enrolled in 2003 and graduated in 2006 – the same year that the PhD programme began with just four candidates. In 2007, the MITB programme was launched, along with the SMU-Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Fast-Track programme, which allowed SMU students to graduate within four to four-and-a-half years with both a bachelor’s degree from SMU and a master’s degree in IT from CMU.

Since then, the school has expanded its ties with the industry through collaborations in education and research, with some notable collaborations including the Living Analytics Research Centre (LARC), SMU-Tata Consultancy Services iCity Lab, Fujitsu-SMU Computing and Engineering Corporation and the DBS-SMU Life Analytics Lab.

MITB has also gone on to be recognised as one of the best of its kind offering specialised IT training in the world.

In 2021, the school was renamed the “School of Computing and Information Systems” to better reflect its growing aspirations to prepare students who could harness computing technology for the evolving needs of society. The school has also closely collaborated with KPMG, Google, Accenture and Amazon Web Services in a bid to deepen its students’ knowledge in cloud computing, as well as to help them build a network in their time at SMU.

A night for a memorable milestone

While SCIS has enjoyed tremendous growth, the community remains a tight knit one, where students enjoy close links with alumni.

Since May this year, SCIS has held four other alumni events that have led up to the anniversary dinner, including an evening with technopreneur and angel investor Mr John Wu, formerly the Chief Technology Officer of Alibaba Group and the chief architect of Yahoo!’s directory search engine and its software applications.

The 20th anniversary dinner was a walk down memory lane, especially for alumni and faculty members, while current students could look back on the roots that have led to the SCIS of today. The night saw exciting dance performances by students and faculty members, a birthday cake, and heartwarming videos reflecting on the past two decades.

In one, Professor Miller, Professor Emeritus of Information Systems, shared the evolution of the school as seen through the various designs of its polo tees. He looked visibly touched as he spoke about the latest black polo tee gifted by the school.

“So much has happened in terms of building the school’s depth, breadth, capability and quality,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “I am so thankful to what Prof Pang Hwee Hwa and all of the Dean’s Office, all the faculty serving the administrative roles, and the entire SCIS community have done to take the school further, to make it better, to keep it progressing and growing.

“While I can’t be with you here today because, after 23 amazing years in Singapore, I have finally returned to the United States for family reasons, I wish you the best. My heart and my spirit will always be with SCIS.”

Related Topics:  Alumni  SMU Leaders