Elena Ho Yan Yee
Assistant Manager at Singapore National Arts Council
Why did you choose the MA in Global Thought and how did it prepare you for your current position?
I am all about interdisciplinary learning and cultural exchange; as a young millennial clueless about my future and wanting to fulfill my wish of living in the ‘City of Dreams’, the M.A. in Global Thought programme appealed to me. The privilege of having access to different faculties and the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to your own specialisation is rare at Master’s level and a great highlight of the programme. I was able to take classes from the Teacher’s College, Business School, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, etc. This gave me more practice-based learning and exposure to industry professionals, which balanced well with the more theory-heavy core curriculum of Global Thought. Another plus point of the programme is the intimate size of the class, coupled by the international mix of students. The study of global issues cannot be complete without the daily interaction and discussion with people from different cultural backgrounds and experiences. It really takes you out of the little bubble that you live in and challenges you to think more critically. Currently working as an arts administrator, I am required to interact with and facilitate the needs of arts groups that have wide-ranging problems and priorities. I believe that Global Thought has trained me to connect the dots from micro to macro; to assess the day-to-day concerns of artists at policy-level.
Describe a favorite MA in Global Thought course or project and how it helped your academic, professional, and/or personal growth.
My favorite M.A. in Global Thought project would have to be my GO! overseas attachment experience in Brazil. The programme offers to its students an overseas work project in one of their Columbia Global Centers abroad and I took the opportunity after graduating to travel to the Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP) for two months. With the help of GO! Rio in connecting me with the museum, I was sent there to write a case study of the MASP’s organizational transformation after a management turnover in 2015. This experience led me to have deep conversations with Board of Directors knowledgeable about the Brazilian arts scene and immerse in the cultural economy of Brazil. Not only did living alone in São Paulo push me to be independent and develop my own professionalism, but it also gave me a valuable working experience to begin my career within the arts. As a young graduate with no prior experience in the arts industry, an interdisciplinary degree qualification, and living in the competitive city of New York, getting a internship with a reputable museum was tough. I feel thankful that Global Thought linked me up with MASP in Brazil to give me that unique head start. I now serve at the National Arts Council of Singapore under the performing arts sector development wing. It is great that my experiences from Columbia, from writing my dissertation on the cultural economy in East Asia to doing the GO! Rio internship, have contributed to the exact career path I was eyeing for. Would definitely recommend MA in Global Thought to prospective students!