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MIT-SUTD Summer Global Leadership Program makes a splash

Students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design will experience leadership training, engineering coursework, and outdoor adventure at MIT.
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Jesse DeLaughter
Phone: 617-324-8223
MIT-SUTD Collaboration Office
MIT-Singapore University of Technology and Design Global Leadership Program students will build their own electric water vehicles over the next several weeks.
MIT-Singapore University of Technology and Design Global Leadership Program students will build their own electric water vehicles over the next several weeks.
Photo: Kate Rhodes/MIT-SUTD Collaboration Office

This summer marks the third year of the Singapore University of Technology and Design Global Leadership Program (SUTD GLP) at MIT. Thirty students from SUTD arrived on campus in early June to embark, along with four students from MIT, on a 10-week experience involving leadership training, engineering coursework, and outdoor adventure.

The program is part of MIT’s multi-faceted partnership with SUTD, which includes research collaboration, curricular development, teaching fellowships for MIT graduate students at SUTD, MIT faculty residencies, and dual masters programs. The partnership was a deliberate effort to create a new university in Asia infused with the “mens-et-manus” (“mind-and-hand”) spirit of MIT. The hope with GLP is that by bringing SUTD students together with their MIT peers to experience summer on campus in Cambridge, they will take some of that spirit with them back to Singapore in fall. 

GLP kicked off with a weeklong "Leadershape" training program in which students developed personal visions for their role in shaping society and gained tools to help them become better leaders. The group is now on campus, immersed in classes including Technical Writing, Ceramics, Wilderness Engineering, Education Innovation, Architectural Drawing, and Electric Water Vehicle Design Challenge. The electric water vehicle class is a new offering this year: Using plywood, fiberglass, simple motors, controllers, and other materials, teams of students will construct vessels that will (hopefully) carry them along a course in the Charles River. The students will have other opportunities to get out on the water as well, when they venture in small groups to Maine for weekend kayaking and wilderness camping excursions. On these trips, they will test out the skills they’ve acquired in the Wilderness Engineering class, cooking food on homemade alcohol stoves, designing their shelters from tarps and twine, using pulleys to set up bear hangs, and using a map and compass to find their way in the woods.

For SUTD students, the program is an opportunity to try some things they may not have experienced in Singapore. Hazel Lau, a rising sophomore in the Information Systems and Technology Design pillar at SUTD, says she is most looking forward to the ceramics class, as SUTD does not yet have many visual arts offerings. She is also eager to tackle the challenges of building the boat. Perhaps the biggest challenge for her, however, is navigating the Cambridge traffic.  “When the light is red, the cars still cross! It’s very scary!” she says.

For MIT students, the program also provides some novel opportunities for hands-on learning. Maryam Archie, a rising sophomore at MIT, says, “I believe that this program is unique in the sense that it is a an agglomeration of all that is needed to be a creative, innovative, and analytical engineer.” She adds, “Apart from the obvious learning benefits, I love meeting new people and establishing new friendships and networks locally and internationally. It is interesting to learn about the similarities between our cultures and what we can learn from them.” Archie is most excited to work on the electric water vehicle. She will be in charge of electrical design, which she hopes will help her make up her mind about whether to follow Course 6-2 or 6-3 in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Daisy Tang, another MIT student in the program, sees it as a way to develop as a global leader. She says, “The essence of being a leader in multinational settings is cross-cultural awareness and competence, which starts with a genuine interest, understanding, and support for the rich perspectives of a culture’s people.” She also looks forward to accessing the tremendous resources at the International Design Center (IDC). “…Housing mills, routers, waterjets, laser-cutters, and 3-D printers, the IDC garage is a maker’s playground,” Tang says. “As our core class involves the challenge of building an electric boat, learning to operate these tools and working in an environment of collaboration and interdisciplinarity will definitely be one of the most rewarding aspects of GLP.”

The 34 participating students will be on campus until early August, and the program will culminate with the boat race at the MIT Sailing Pavillion on August 3rd at 10 a.m. Members of the MIT community are welcome to attend.

MIT undergraduates who are interested in being part of the GLP in summer 2016 may contact Kate Rhodes at

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