An interview with Anna Lord, Chair-elect of the UWCSEA Board of Governors
By Megha Parwani, Grade 12 and Dana Kurniawan, Grade 11, East Campus
Anna Lord moved to Singapore in January 2009, and joined the UWCSEA community as a parent, first at East and currently at Dover Campus. After working actively with Global Concerns and school social events, she joined the UWCSEA Board of Governors in April 2012 as a Parent-elected Governor for UWCSEA East. In recognition of her contributions, at the end of her elected term in April 2015, the Board appointed Anna as an Ad Personam Governor. She has chaired the Audit, Finance and Engagement Committees, and served as a member of the search committees for the Head of College and Director of Finance. In 2016, the Board elected Anna its new Chair beginning in January 2017 at the end of the current Chair, Charles Ormiston’s term. Students Megha and Dana interviewed Anna to learn more about her vision for UWCSEA.
As students of the College, we know that the Board of Governors works on a strategic level to ensure there is progress towards realistic mission and vision as a community. But what does that look like for the next three years, under the leadership of the new Chair of the Board? We met Anna Lord, Chair-elect, to find out.
When we pose the question, Anna is quick to focus on the quality of the education: “Our highest priority has to be that we continue to deliver a high quality, mission-aligned education at all levels of the school. With our strong values, our incredible teachers and students, our outstanding leadership and our unique scale, we have an opportunity to influence international education in a very positive way,” she said.
She believes the Board must also “remain alert to the market conditions.” It can be challenging to balance the reality of the rising costs of education with the changing circumstances of students and parents, but this is a key focus of the Board. Finally, Anna is seeking greater engagement within Singapore and internationally. “We need to look externally and build relationships that will benefit our current and future students. It would be wonderful to be more meaningfully engaged in the Singapore community, as well as with other schools and organisations at home and abroad … The work that is being done with Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education on the impact study is a case in point.”
There are no plans to expand UWCSEA in Singapore; “I am extremely fortunate to ‘inherit’ a College that is in incredible shape, following the remarkable work done by Kishore Mahbubani and Charles Ormiston, without whom we would not have the East Campus. Over the next few years, we will not be overseeing similar expansion plans. We aim to consolidate the foundations that they have built and consolidate our position as a real leader in international education.”
However, Anna does seek to increase connections with the UWC movement. She has recently returned from the UWC Congress in Italy, where she was inspired by the work being done, particularly in the form of scholarships. In this vein, she hopes her tenure can see an increase in the population of scholars across both campuses, with the help of the UWCSEA Foundation. She recounted for us, moved nearly to tears, the story of a UWC Adriatic student from Aleppo, Syria, who had fled to Italy due to the Syrian Civil War. As Anna recounted the horrors the boy witnessed, she was clearly affected by the staggering character he exhibits today. While still grappling with his past, he is studying the rigorous International Baccalaureate after a five-year break in his education, and participating in all facets of a UWC education.
“You can’t meet somebody like that and not try harder,” she concluded, struggling to put into words the rapport she witnessed between the boy and his classmates when they presented his story through a play. Anna is eager to see more National Committee scholars at UWCSEA for the unique worldviews and experiences they can add to our community.
Anna acknowledged other areas where UWCSEA could grow, especially after hearing about some of the work being done at other colleges. Learning about the close collaboration between the Nordic governments and UWC Red Cross Nordic, she believes we must integrate further with Singaporean society. This is one of her focuses as incoming Chair of the Board of Governors. She hopes to strengthen ties in the Singapore community with local schools, NGOs, the government and the broader community, so we can assimilate ourselves as a school and as a model of UWC education into wider society, highlighting the potential synergies from forging close partnerships.
Anna also pointed out, “Doing a lot with very little, that’s where we have something to learn.”
With the resources UWCSEA has access to, complacency is a real danger that may lead to inefficiency in how we operate and function. We mutually agreed on the fact that we still have so much to learn from others. We noted how deeper and more purposeful relationships with members and groups in society could broaden our horizons and enlarge our views on our roles as advocates and doers of our collective obligation to achieve social benefit. Our size and history also put UWCSEA in a unique position to work with organisations such as the International Baccalaureate to innovate and create a more flexible curriculum.
“The Chair is just one person on the Board.” Anna emphasised that it is the consolidated work of the entire Board, as well as the invaluable contributions by the rest of the community that will bring us closer to realising such aspirations. Throughout the conversation, collaboration emerged as the focal point, in the form of promoting greater interaction across the College, with the Singaporean community and across all facets of UWC leadership here and abroad.
Anna has four children at the school. Will this make a difference to her leadership? “I think having children in the Infant, Junior, Middle and High schools, gives me a reasonably good idea of what is happening day to day … and I make an effort to attend as many events as possible throughout the year.” Anna is keen to stay in touch with the student experience as she believes they have a lot to offer. “One of the most interesting sessions I attended at the Congress entitled ‘The UWC of our Dreams’ was run by students. One of the most thought-provoking contributions was from Jeethu, a Grade 10 student at UWCSEA East. I would love to see a similar cross-campus session run here.”
As we talked, we could not help but marvel at the plethora of inspiring anecdotes that she has amassed over seven years as part of the UWCSEA school community; in the variety of roles she has taken as well as the personal connection she has developed with the school and the larger movement. With her acute self-awareness and an empowered sense of obligation and responsibility through collaboration, we eagerly anticipate Anna’s forward-thinking and creative tenure with an equal desire to transform our atmosphere and approach into a bigger, better representation of the UWC mission.