Getting to know Karen,  
Senior Associate Dean, Office of Corporate Services
Industry experience: 25 years

The Insider (TI): Karen, it has been almost a year since you joined Duke-NUS. How has it been? 

Karen Chang (KC): Indeed, it has been the most exciting period for me. I have kept a quick pace since coming on board last April. 2012 has been a year of tremendous growth for the school. The Academic Medicine (AM) partnership, launch of the Academic Medicine Education and Research Institutes (AM.EI and AMRI), and the formation of Academic Clinical Programs (ACPs) lent some new complexities that necessitated changes to workflows and setting up of new systems within the Office of Corporate Services (OCS). 

TI: This being your first job in a school setting, how does this compare with your prior work experiences? 

KC: I have found the school setting to be very enjoyable. Prior to this, I have always been with commercial entities; 15 years of my CPA (Certified Public Accountant) career has been with government-linked Temasek Holdings Group. I had done the gamut of corporate finance, corporate services, business restructurings, local and regional mergers & acquisitions, all of which are ‘more political’ than a school’s corporate setting. I do miss chasing business deals a little, focusing on bottom lines, and working on business models. The adrenalin gets pumped up a little bit more.

The initial thought of joining Duke-NUS was very thrilling, in part as National University of Singapore (NUS) is my alma mater.  Furthermore, Duke is one of the world’s top institutions of higher education and NUS is also Singapore’s flagship leading global university centered in Asia. When two great things come together, you often get something spectacular. Duke-NUS is exactly that. The initial thoughts of working among the brightest and most intelligent minds in Duke-NUS was intimidating. However, my fears have subsided since coming on board. Dean and all my colleagues have been wonderful in guiding and supporting me. With assistance from the four capable heads of department in OCS, I settled in very quickly. Most of my days have been enjoyable and fulfilling. 

The OCS Family

TI: The role of Corporate Services in Duke-NUS is…

KC: The key role of OCS is to provide quality professional services and  leadership to enhance and enable the academic mission of the School. This role can be neatly summarized into 2 areas:

• To support and enhance the activity of the School, its staff and students;

• To protect the assets of the School, to protect the School from liability and to ensure that all its process and procedures comply with internal and external legislation. 

TI: A typical day for you would be …

KC: I strive on a personal objective of wanting a positive culture permeating through OCS, and the school. I facilitate greater integration between cognate activities within the office of OCS and across the school. I desire to build a more customer-focused service culture that works better for the school. It is with these objectives that I decided to embark on an OCS service delivery survey at the end of 2012. I have these constant thoughts as I go through my daily routine of emails, Governing Board and sub-committee approval papers, vetting of minutes, payments/claims, e-approvals, etc, and meetings.

TI: Things that put a smile on your face…

KC: When colleagues say to me: ‘you’ve been terrific to work with’; ‘you’ve been a blessing’; ‘you’ve made my day’.

When we all act professionally, trust and collaborate well with one another, are receptive to new ideas, work efficiently and bring value to the school’s mission.  

TI: One of our School’s values is ‘Passion for a Cause’. What does this value mean to you? 

KC: It means to work with an intense enthusiasm for a principle I believe in. Perhaps it is the accountant in me. I have always placed a huge emphasis on effective Corporate Governance. I take extreme pride in building up or being a part of a clear, fit-for-purpose and responsive governance and legislative structure. By this, I mean one which allows for effective and efficient decision making. I have always worked towards this cause with dedication and enthusiasm.    

TI: Would you like to take this opportunity to share your hopes and aspirations for the school for 2013? 

KC: I wish Duke-NUS every success as it builds up its research and educational strengths to further transform healthcare in Singapore and beyond. To everyone at Duke-NUS, may 2013 be a fulfilling year for you and your family. God Bless. 

Meet Karen's family!