Nisar Keshvani is the Associate Director of Strategic Outreach and Communications at the National University of Singapore. He is a recognised consummate leader with over 25 years of experience in public relations, corporate affairs, public policy issues and more. Keshvani is a global citizen who has lived and worked across five continents before returning home to Singapore. As someone who is passionate about teaching and education, Nisar has served as Senior Lecturer and Founding Faculty with Republic Polytechnic, and taught at numerous Singapore and global institutions, in addition to curriculum planning in the United Kingdom and Central Asia. Most recently he was the Founding Director of Communications and Marketing with the University of Central Asia (Aga Khan Development Network). He is the recent past Vice-President and current Accreditation Board Committee Chair with the Institute of Public Relations, Singapore. He holds a Master’s degree in Research in Online Journalism and a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
What was the highlight of your experience living in Queensland?
I spent four of the best years of my life with QUT’s Creative Industries. Three as a BA and research Masters student and one as academic staff. These qualifications and experience, in the new media field, became a passport for me to work anywhere in the world. Since then, I have worked in four out of five continents as an educator, consultant, journalist and communications expert.
QUT provided me with an all-round education—learning basic industry skills, practices and theoretical perspectives are one thing. But what was more valuable was the ability to trial and test out new ideas, and watch them progress or fail, and learn from mistakes. I picked up very useful thinking strategies which I was able to apply with every job I encountered.
I would say my greatest learning experience was the cross-cultural exposure to friends from different parts of the world and gaining an appreciation of Australian academia, lifestyle and culture. From a very young age, it was my aspiration to live and work overseas and to become a well-travelled global citizen. Though I had lived abroad prior, this was my first extended overseas experience – it gave me the confidence to manage and aspire to seek more such opportunities.
Did you work or undertake projects with employers or industry groups during your studies? If yes, how did this experience benefit your career?
I was fortunate to enjoy work in multiple settings and industries from a very young age. I became Editor of one of the Internet’s first arts news service (fineArt forum), was a sports journalist for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, helped produce a documentary on the Woodford Folk Festival, tutored in news production classes, and eventually became an Associate Lecturer to establish QUT’s first formal online journalism academic programme.
How has your experience in Queensland helped you with your career?
They say hindsight is 20-20 vision. Little did I know, studying, living and working in Queensland became my first formal foray towards exploring unchartered territory and experiences away from home. These experiences allowed me to eventually become the Editor-in-Chief of two prominent arts, science and technology publications (one was a peer-reviewed journal published by MIT Press), teach and eventually become involved with conceptualising and founding new academic programmes for Ngee Ann and Republic Polytechnics and eventually the University of Central Asia. I dabbled in digital publishing, academic research, academia and eventually founding corporate communications functions in higher education settings.
Can you share your student journey (why did you decide to study what you studied and why did you decide to study in Queensland)?
As a teenager I knew my passion was in writing and communications. At that time, Singapore had limited university programmes in this field. From my time at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Mass Communications programme, I knew I would have to venture overseas. QUT was a natural choice – it was near home, my seniors had studied there, and it was highly reputed. Most importantly, it served my desire for a practical education. We were taught by prominent Australian journalists, editors and practitioners – the learning could not have been better or more industry-relevant.
What career-advice would you give future students thinking about studying in Queensland?
My three tips for future students would be:
- Be open to new experiences. Explore, explore, explore. It could be as simple as a meal with classmates, an internship or a visit to a local museum. You will gain from every exposure. Be a fly on the wall and learn by osmosis.
- As tempting as it may be, try to avoid staying with the known – it’s always comfortable to stick to familiar territory (countrymen, food, experiences) but you can only grow when you explore.
- Pursue an inter-disciplinary approach to education – if you are a Computer Science student, pick up a new language at University. If you are a Media student, pursue a course in Economics. Expand your horizons and your mind.
What's the easiest way to develop a social-life in Queensland?
There are plenty of obvious ways – but my advice is simple. Have a smile on your face, keep an open mind, explore your horizon and you will definitely meet new people. The setting does not matter – I have met so many people over the years in the most unpredictable places. Whilst missing a plane connection, getting lost on a hike, discovering new knowledge at a seminar are just some examples – opportunities are aplenty. Many of these encounters turned into long-term friendships.
What are you doing now in your career?
After eight years living and working in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia founding the corporate communications function for a brand new institution - the University of Central Asia. I have since returned to Singapore. Currently, I am leading corporate communications for the National University of Singapore Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, where I am proud to have been involved with establishing communications for its newest College of Humanities and Sciences. I recently completed my tenure as Vice-President of the Institute of Public Relations, Singapore and am currently chair of its Accreditation Board.
Why did you decide to follow your chosen career path?
Instinctively I knew from a tender age, I wanted to bring value to any role I took on by pursuing assignments few others would – this mantra has allowed me to live and work across five continents before returning home to Singapore. I strive to make a difference and spark change for the next generation - a substantive part of my 25-year career has been in the developing world and in the education sector.
Can you share any ongoing ties to Queensland?
Up to recent times, I have visited Queensland every alternate year or so. Though many have gone on to explore the world, I am still in close contact with my former classmates, colleagues and friends. I consider Brisbane my second home, and plan to return some day to teach and pursue postgraduate studies there again.