SMU GROW Takes Root to Kickstart a Green Movement

By the SMU Corporate Communications team
  • Building a green and sustainable community begins with ‘A Different U’
  • Fresh urban farming initiative invites people from all walks of life, within and outside SMU, to not just garden but join the movement on sustainable living
  • Social good, all-rounded learning and community integration at the heart of transformative education

Launching a fresh initiative GROW in the brand-new year, SMU goes back to basics, advocating that transformative education begins with ‘U’ sowing the seeds and taking grounded steps to make a difference – in building a green and sustainable community for tomorrow.

Officiating the launch, SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer and Mayor for Central Singapore District Denise Phua joined hands in sharing the seeds of inspiration, planting the initiative firmly in the ground, and imparting the vision of SMU GROW. Also gracing the launch were partners from the Bras Basah Residents Committee, Edible Gardens, Potato Productions, and Nicole’s Café by Sterling.

[Photo: SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer and Mayor for Central Singapore District Denise Phua, together with founders and supporters of the SMU GROW movement, sharing the seeds of insipration at the launch on 6 January 2015.]

Two saplings of the nutmeg, which has long history and deep significance to the area surrounding SMU, Central Singapore District, as well as Singapore and Southeast Asia, were planted. Once an important commercial crop with versatile uses and plantations in Bras Basah and Orchard Road, the nutmeg reminds the University of its roots and mission to educate the next generation to be pillars of the society.

[Photo: SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer and Mayor for Central Singapore District Denise Phua joined hands in planting the symbolic nutmeg sapling and GROW initiative firmly in the ground, helped by urban farmers from Edible Gardens.]

The urban farm programme invites people from all walks of life from the community at large, and not just from within SMU, as ‘gardeners’ and partners in learning. It aims to not just grow a garden of food but build a greener future and better lives for the community eventually. 

As the only local university with a campus integrated into the heart of the city, SMU’s pulse connects to multiple stakeholders, who share the vibrant urban centre downtown. Hence, connecting education to sustainability in people’s lives, businesses and the environment is vital.

The initiative signals another positive step for the University as it strives to become a leader in transformative education – one of the building blocks of SMU Vision 2025 – by making a difference in the lives of not just students, faculty and staff, but also the community around SMU, through holistic learning and experiences. This cannot take place just inside the classroom, but must also be outside, in the real world classroom.

For a start, the initiative sees down-to-earth activities taking root. The rollout includes conducting workshops for staff and faculty that introduce sustainable living through growing foods in environmentally-friendly ways, having planter boxes up for adoption, serving healthy meals to staff, and running a logo design contest. SMU GROW will be dovetailed with the 80-hour community service required of SMU students, and built into the annual community service project SMU Challenge that delivers food and household needs to residents. It will also be woven into co-curricular activities (CCAs) and classroom modules. Food from each harvest will be brought to the community organised by The Centre for Social Responsibility (C4SR), and GROW welcomes individuals and groups to garden and grow food for a good cause at SMU.


[Photo: SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer and Mayor for Central Singapore District Denise Phua both signed off on planter boxes to pledge the adoption of the green movement at the launch. Such planter boxes are also up for adoption by faculty, students and staff on campus.]

The University hopes that more of such initiatives will mushroom through other mainstream curriculum, CCAs and partnerships. This also ties in with SMU’s other efforts in encouraging students to build meaningful, creative and wholesome experiences, along with such initiatives as developing a values-based reflection journal SMU LifeLessons Pathfinder, and SMU-X, an innovative brand of project-based learning that bridges theory to practice.

The overall notion includes these aspects: sharing knowledge on eating and living right, sustainable farming and living, urban eco practices that protect the environment, growing food and feeding people, nurturing and build a caring community, contributing back to society, and making meaningful connections in society with no boundaries.

SMU GROW believes that the simple act of planting can inform and shape views on life, society, sustainability, trade and development. Aiming to cultivate change through experiential and reflexive learning, the programme joins a global urban farming movement that seeks to create global awareness on environmentalism, food production, consumption and security. It is also intended to promote sustainable urban living, provide for underprivileged members in the community, and enrich SMU’s holistic, broad-based education.

SMU undergraduate Mervin Soon, who is also President of SMU Verts, the University’s environmental club championing green awareness, is highly supportive. “An SMU educated student realises that there is much more to pursue beyond academic excellence – we are given constant opportunities to broaden our exposure and vision, and also transform our thinking. The University inculcates that we should be the best for the world – and that means continuous learning and significant contribution in society for the long run, and not just solely striving to be the best in academic qualification during our school years,” he said.

SMU President, Professor Arnoud De Meyer, highlighting the importance of GROW, shared SMU’s rationale and vision for the initiative. “Embarking on GROW advocates the start of a new dimension of growth for SMU, especially as we start SMU’s 15th year. We believe that in a transformative education, social good and all-rounded learning is at the heart of academic pursuit; and ‘U’ includes not just the University campus and students, but many individuals and organisations that matter and transform ‘U’.

“Knowledge and growth have no boundaries and everyone is a student in society. Growing a garden physically and in your heart brings the community back to fundamental basics that are important to life. We need to produce food for our body and soul, and are responsible for a better and greener future, through our own hands. A real education must make the lives of others better. And we want to start with the community right where we are, within the Central CDC.”

Guest-of-Honour, Mayor Denise Phua, remarked, “Today, as a combined community, we pledge to grow and build a caring society through the launch of SMU GROW. The garden is by no means large relative to the needs of many. What is important is the spirit of bringing together people from all walks of life to start becoming ‘gardeners’, and inspiring more to grow with this initiative.

“May the seeds sown in this garden also grow in the gardens within each of us, as we grow towards being a more caring and giving society.”

[Photo: Guests delightfully experiencing refreshments infused with herbs and spices after the launch, befitting SMU GROW’s aim of enjoying and sharing a garden of food ultimately.]

For more information, visit or email grow [at]

[Featured Photo: SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer and Mayor for Central Singapore District Denise Phua jointly officiating the launch of GROW on 6 January 2015 with the planting of the symbolic nutmeg in SMU.]

GROW was featured in several news, please see the following links.