SG Psych Stuff @ UniPsych Symposium: Session 3

The SG Psych Stuff team was invited to the UniPsych Symposium that happened on 13 August at NTU The Hive.  Overall it was a very well-organised symposium, with every participant gaining great insights at the end of every talk!  Congrats to the UniPsych Team!
Due to the lack of manpower, we only managed to cover 13 out of the 27 talks that was conducted over the three sessions.  All these talks will be presented on this blog based on their sessions: Session 1Session 2, and Session 3.  The talks are covered by the SG Psych Stuff Team (SGPsychStud, Jerry O., Jon) and two guest writers (N.L. and A.F.)
Thank you UniPsych Team and we hope to see you again next year!!!

Session 3 Room 5:  Everyday I’m Suffering: Cultivating Self Compassion and Emotional Resilience in a Chaotic World.
Speakers:  Dr Andy H. Y. Ho and Ms Geraldine Tan-Ho
Talk covered by:  Jerry O.

What was the talk about?
Dr Andy H. Y. Ho and Ms Geraldine Tan-Ho, both experts in the field of Social Sciences and Psychology, shared their knowledge and experience on how self-compassion impacts the development of emotional resilience, and how we can strive to cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others through the practice of Mindful-Compassion Art Therapy (MCAT).

Geraldine began the talk with the definition, effects and examples of suffering.  She shared a lot about self-compassion and its elements as well as why it is important for people in psychology to practice self-compassion.  Dr Andy took the second part of the session to share about the concept, strengths and benefits of Mindfulness – which is being aware of one’s own mental processes in the present, with the goal of practicing clarity and compassion without judgement to self or others.
The third part of this talk is an experiential practice of MCAT.  This is where Dr Andy guides us through a Mindful Body Scan for identifying stress, an artistic expression of stress where we actually visualise and create a visual representation of our stress, and a Response Art Creation for stress transformation.

Thoughts/feedback/comments on the talk
So this session was basically an introduction on Mindful-Compassion Art Therapy and how it can be used in the context of self-compassion and stress reduction (transformation).  Unlike the other talks that I’ve been to, this is the only one with an experiential activity that I found very meaningful and insightful that I could take home and practice.

Session 3 Room 6:  Sport Psychology: Practice, Research and Education
Speaker:  Ms Emily Ortega
Talk covered by:  N.L.

What was the talk about?
The talk essentially covered what the title suggests, with focus being given to practice (since this is the bulk of the speaker's working experience), while not neglecting the other two aspects of research and education.  The speaker talked about her intimate experiences in each of these three components.  For example, she mentioned that as a researcher she learnt to be open-minded and receptive to feedback.  Her first attempt at getting an article published was rejected and she strove to improve, leading to her second article being accepted at the first try with only minor amendments needed.  She also eschewed the can-do spirit by volunteering to teach statistics when she was a lecturer even though she admitted that it was not her forte.  Last but not least, she mentioned that she has learnt many things from her working experiences.  She emphasised the importance of self-care, especially in the healing profession, and the transferability of psychological skills such as her being recruited to do personality assessment after her stint at the Singapore Sports School, and the joy of seeing her athletes standing on the podium after their victories.

Conclusion of the talk
The speaker has demonstrated her enthusiasm for sports psychology (and sports in general) by linking all three aspects namely research, education and practice to this field.  She talked about how working with professional shooters inspired her to research on psychophysiology especially concerning heart rate biofeedback, that she also contributed to the growing awareness of sports psychology locally by helping to design the curriculum of the sports psychology module taught in NUS, and how after 10 years of working she has decided that she had to go for her PhD studies in sports psychology to stay relevant.  It is interesting to see how each aspect enriches her experience in the field and leads to her taking on the other aspects.  Furthermore, she mentioned about the pros and cons of being a sports psychologist (such as immense job satisfaction while also having a thankless job).

Thoughts/feedback/comment on the talk
Emily Ortega, the speaker, is a fantastic orator and lecturer.  This is a severe understatement.  Emily Ortega is also a fantastic person and role model.  This is again another overwhelming understatement.  The only reason this write-up about her talk is not as long and detailed as it should be was due to the writer not taking down any notes.  But then again, probably no one in the talk session was in the mood for some studious note-taking when almost everyone was thoroughly enthralled from the beginning to the end.

Every account of her experiences were recounted so vividly that it was as if you were walking in her shoes.  The author suspects that her infectious positivity and can-do spirit, along with many other valuable lessons learnt (and again, "many" is another horrible understatement) were somehow sown like seeds in the audience's hearts and would continue to grow as the level of rapport she built with them was just incredible.  Should she decide to change profession altogether one day, it is suggested that she can try becoming a life coach (her ability to connect the dots and apply her skills and knowledge to every conceivable practical situation would avail her to any job, but the author guessed that she might have an interest in helping others attain their true potential).

If there is a complaint about her talk, then it would be that she should perhaps consider sharing her presentation slides with the audience, since there was so much relevant and interesting information but everyone seemed to be even more enraptured with her delivery.  I (N.L.) highly recommend everyone to go for her talks sometime.  Even if you are not interested in sports psychology, there is plenty to learn from her as a person.  And she somehow effortlessly makes you learn and get all excited about it.

Session 3 Room 7:  Talk by Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS)
Talk covered by:  A.F.

What was the talk about?
The talk covered the work of an educational therapist and psychologist in DAS.  As an educational therapist, the work involves educating dyslexic students in ways that are multi-sensory, such as using play-dough and teaching students language in a structured and sequential manner by breaking down spelling, reading and writing lessons into simpler concepts.  As a psychologist, the work involves assessing students' capabilities, carry out interventions and researches to aid the students in their learning.  DAS also carries out outreach programmes to increase public’s awareness of dyslexia and how to help their children with dyslexia.

Session 3 Room 8:  NTUxNUS Alumni Forum
Talk covered by:  SGPsychStud

What was the talk about?
The Alumni Forum presented 3 alumni from NTU and NUS respectively.  Each shared about their plans and why they joined their companies or decided to do what they wanted.  They discussed the importance of having experience before going for postgraduate studies, the importance of being a psychologist to them, the differences in postgraduate studies in the respective countries, the importance of grades and doing a thesis for government jobs.
A common thought that was discussed was that
“Experience is valued more than Education”.
They also discussed on their experiences in interviews (i.e. what to do and things to look out for), the differentiation between an applied and research masters, and the processes to note for PhD application in USA.

Conclusion of the talk
For students considering postgraduate studies:
  • "Grades do not matter so much in graduate school.  It really depends on the skills you have as a researcher."
  • "When deciding where to go for graduate school, go for the professor not the university rankings.  Look out as well for similar research topic as your supervisor, stipend, school culture (competitive, nurturing, etc.).  You should try to talk to the current PhD students there."
  • "Referrals are very important if you are considering to do a Masters and postgraduate studies.  So continue to build relationships with your university professors."
For students pursuing their careers:
  • "My education moulds my personality, my character, and who I am.  So find out who you are as a person, and what you wish to pursue."
  • "Consider about your unique value as a psychology student, such as your abilities to evaluate, your sensitivity to numbers (data literacy), and understanding the value of individual differences.  These are something you have as psychology students."

Session 3 Room 9:  Advice on Postgraduate Application
Speaker:  A/Prof Joyce Pang
Talk covered by:  Jon

What was the talk about?
The final talk of the day was by NTU’s A/Prof Joyce Pang, a personality psychologist by training and now on the board of postgraduate applications (e.g., Masters or PhD) at NTU.  Being in this unique position, her talk provided us with a wealth of knowledge on the dos and don’ts when applying for a postgraduate position.  Although just slightly more than an hour, Prof Pang’s talk was packed with information and tips on preparing the best postgraduate application you can, and what to do if things doesn’t go according to plans.  Thus I will attempt to summarize her points:

1.  You should know that post graduate programs have a very low acceptance rate (10 to 20%), with popular disciplines having an even lower rate, making it of utmost importance to ask yourself why do you want/need to take enter this program (i.e., know your goal) before actually applying for any programs.

2.  Choose the school, this may seem like a given but there’s actually more to it.  Many factors go into deciding this, such as an appropriate supervisor/advisor in an appropriate faculty/department since they will be interacting with most throughout your grad school journey, or more practical aspects such as locality, cost and duration of the program.

3.  Having decided the school you wish to apply for, you now have to prepare the relevant materials (e.g., academic transcripts, referee letters, etc.).  This may differ from school to school so be sure to check up early on the related deadlines and materials required.  While preparing these materials, ensure that they are consistent (same throughout), unique (what makes you stand out), compelling (qualities you have that will ensure success in the program), and relevant (related to what you are applying for).  The main goal is to convince the school and your future advisor that you are the best candidate and was always meant to be in program.

Lastly, if you got in?  Congratulations!  But now you need to start discussing with the people around you (family, friends, and advisor) on what will be happening in the future and the topics will differ based on the people you talk to.  For example, start building rapport with your advisor, find out more on how to achieve success and to start building a good relationship because they will be the person who can either make or break you!  With your family, you might need to discuss financial matters or if you have children, you will to consider how doing a postgraduate degree would impact that.  However, if you did not make it, do not give up because it is by no means the end, re-evaluate your application and see how you can improve on it.  Perhaps you may want to garner more work experience, publish papers, or even present at conferences to further boost your chances the next time you try again.

Conclusion of the talk
To end off, Prof Pang presented the picture below and described how graduate school is like the light at the end of the tunnel:
You’re going to feel isolated at times, lost and afraid, but that light, it’s always there.  You can’t see how much longer you have to go, but as long as you keep going, it will get brighter and brighter.  Follow the tracks (supervisors, support from others) and eventually you will reach the end and enter a bright new world of possibilities.

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