ASU distinguished alumnus gives lecture with mentor


Matt Oxford

For alumnus See Seng Tan, coming back to the Arizona State University campus was surreal.

“I am thrilled to be able to come back here and meet with former professors of mine,” said Tan. “It’s great to come back to such a friendly environment; really it’s like coming home.”

Tan, who graduated ASU with a PhD in political science in 1999, is this year’s Distinguished Alumni Speaker for the School of Politics and Global Studies. Each year the school honors an outstanding alumnus for their accomplishments by inviting them back to ASU to speak with faculty and students.

“I think the education I received at ASU was very rigorous and diverse intellectually,” he said. “I felt [there] was the sense of comradery, friendship and cooperation amongst the faculty despite their ideological differences.”

Tan is a professor of international relations at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore as well as the deputy director of the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies.

During his time visiting his alma mater, Tan had two speaking engagements. On Feb. 28, Tan spoke with the School of Politics and Global Studies faculty and graduate students about some of his research and findings. After Tan’s talk, director of the school and former classmate, Cameron Thies, presented him with a plaque to commemorate Tan as this year’s distinguished alumnus.

On March 1, Tan was joined by his former dissertation chair, Sheldon Simon, for a joint lecture co-hosted by the Center for Asian Research. The colloquium featured each colleague covering topics relating to the origins and possible solutions of the South China Sea conflicts.

Tan shared that Simon was a “quintessential mentor figure” to him during his time at ASU, applauding his sense of diplomacy and his generosity toward students.

“Those were the kind of takeaways that, to this very day, serve as guides for me in the way I engage with my students and with fellow faculty. It’s not just the academics, it’s also how you live your life.”

Tan is the author/editor of 15 books and monographs and has published more than 70 scholarly articles and book chapters. Some of his research centers around politics and security in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

He is working on a book about understanding the responsibly of sovereignty and how it is expressed within the Southeast Asia region.

“When I think of the PhD’s about whom I’m particularly proud, he’s at the top of the list,” said Simon.