Biz Alumni 14 June 2016

Rising to the desert challenge


NUS Provost and Deputy President Academic Affairs Prof Tan Eng Chye (with the flag) crossing the finishing line with fellow NUS participants

Some 50 NUS Asia-Pacific EMBA (Chinese) (APEX-C) students, along with more than 10 faculty, staff and alumni, took part in the 11th edition of the Business School Gobi Desert Challenge from 22 to 24 May. NUS was one of 40 schools competing in the gruelling 112-km race, where the competitors battled with harsh elements and arid terrain in the Mo-Kia-Yen Gobi Desert.

“We encourage everyone to participate as part of our transformational learning initiative,” said Ms Brenda Cao, Head of APEX-C & Master in Public Administration and Management at NUS Business. NUS was presented with the Shackleton Award, which honours teams with 100 per cent completion rate. NUS had won the award in 2013 and 2014, and the hat-trick is a testament to the strong bonds of cooperation within the team.

The NUS participants underwent training in Singapore as well as various locations in China, including Haikou, Inner Mongolia, Qingdao and Xi Shuang Ban Na. The training sessions were popular, attracting 20 to 30 participants each time. Overseas training sessions were combined with company visits or consultation sessions to enhance the value of each stint.

Team leader Mr He Shaobo led by example. In addition to participating in the group workouts, he ran 40 to 50 km per week, undertook weight training and encouraged fellow participants. A spot of injury derailed his plans briefly but he soldiered on gamely, tweaking his programme to include recovery training. “From organising to participating in the Gobi Challenge, I learned how to listen, how to communicate effectively and how to manage a class of top management participants,” Mr He said, adding that he would be keen to participate in future editions of the race.

Fellow participant Ms Liu Tao echoed Mr He’s views, saying, “I would like to go again so that I can inspire future participants through my personal experience.” Ms Liu said that the race was tough at times but encouragement from the NUS team as well as other teams propelled her towards the finishing line.

NUS has been participating in the Gobi Challenge since 2007, an integral element of the APEX-C programme. The annual race is open to EMBA students and alumni, as well as staff and faculty associated with EMBA programmes of top global business schools. It pays tribute to the fortitude and determination exhibited by Xuanzang, a Chinese Buddhist monk who undertook a similar journey 1,300 years ago in his quest to reach India.

This article was first published on 7 June 2016 in NUS News at