Professor Michelle Cheong
The CAT woman
Professor Michelle Cheong’s students may refer to her affectionately as the ‘CAT woman’ due to the course that she teaches, Computer as Analysis Tool (CAT). But, perhaps unbeknownst to Professor Cheong, she possesses another talent synonymous with Batman’s similarly-monickered adversary—the uncanny ability to make challenging tasks look easy.
“The course [I teach] is very technical… so I usually try to break the problem down into something that [my students] can relate to,” shares Professor Cheong, who has won SMU’s Most Promising Teacher Award. “I’ll prompt them to answer questions from their own perspective, their own frame of mind, so that they can derive solutions for themselves.”
To drive the lessons home, Professor Cheong often employs scenarios couched in the real world; from using data to determine if villagers in East Timor should continue producing coffee or find another means of livelihood, to crawling Twitter feeds to analyse commuters’ sentiments on public transport in Singapore and then correlate them with newspaper reports.
Through her patient guidance, students quickly come to understand the merits of achieving technical mastery, and why Professor Cheong’s course is invaluable in the business world.
“Many of my students have said that the course [I teach] is very useful to their work… I recently met one of my students [who is] currently working in a bank. He was telling me that on his first day of work, he was showing some of the skills that he’d learnt in class on an Excel spreadsheet and his colleagues joked that he could actually be promoted tomorrow because he’s so good,” Professor Cheong recounts with pride. “This was very heart-warming to hear… this was the real reason why I became a teacher.”
Fully aware that the technical nature of her course places a fair bit of pressure on her students, Professor Cheong makes it a point to lessen the tension and ensure that all of them are coping well: “I always intermix the class with some jokes and I will also walk close to the students so that they can relate their problems to me.”
“I welcome them to come to my office any time that they need to.”
Come experience Professor Cheong’s teaching for yourself, and Discover a Different U.