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September 2021



It is my great pleasure to provide an open testimonial for Steve Hickey, who I first met in 2017 when I was the incoming Head of Campus at United World College of South East Asia (East) in Singapore. I retired from that position in 2021 and write now in my capacity as an educational consultant who has maintained strong and active ties with UWCSEA both in a professional and personal capacity.

The quality of Faculty members at UWCSEA is extremely high, there are literally hundreds of applications for many of the teaching vacancies and so it was immediately clear, when I met Steve, that the school had recruited both an outstanding artist and teacher to be the founding leader of the K-12 Art department. The team that he has built is dynamic, creative and lives comfortably in that iterative space of creativity and challenge that all good arts teams occupy. As a leader, Steve is a commanding and anchoring presence but his leadership is never brash or autocratic. He is a wise and gentle guide for both staff and students under his care, always collaborative, always open to new ideas, never judgemental or unpredictable in his responses. His emotional intelligence is his great strength and his team building success has been achieved through his ability to read nuance and culture and to allow individuals to find their way within the broad guiding framework that he has established.

Despite his gentle and extremely courteous demeanour, I have never known Steve to shirk from a difficult conversation and his very clear personal values make him someone who is trusted by all who know him. It isn’t often that I have come across a person whose integrity is as clearly visible, even in the most difficult moments, and Steve is a person who always puts the interests of the students and staff in his care ahead of his own.

Steve ‘lives the life’ of UWCSEA, which means in addition to the demands of facilitating high academic achievement (which he does every year), he is fully engaged with the activities and service programmes that proliferate across the campus. All staff are required to engage at a level perhaps higher than most other schools but some simply assimilate the requirement into their professional lifestyle and Steve is one such teacher. He is a role model for others in this respect and his selfless approach comes clearly to the fore. Put simply, Steve cares about everything he does and strives for excellence always.

It’s clear, from the moment that you meet Steve, that he has never forsaken art to teach art. He is a practising and talented artist who is constantly in the middle of a personal project. Very recently, he showed me a wonderful painting that he was copying for a friend who he knew liked the original - that is Steve. The impact of this on student learning is that UWCSEA students learn from an artist in residence, indeed he is not the only one in the Faculty team, this enriches students’ understanding and inspires them to take risks and to grow. The artwork produced by students at the College is truly outstanding and Steve deserves (although would never claim) credit for creating an ethos of ‘safe to fail’ for learners which allows them to excel.

In Steve’s background is a history of entrepreneurial activity which is still very apparent in his professional demeanour today. He is a real ‘can do’ person who really enjoys engaging with problems and coming up with solutions. As a deep thinker, he often spends considerable time on devising suitable outcomes - one such example was the challenge he faced in bringing art to the brand new UWCSEA East campus which, ten years ago, was a beautifully designed but very concrete-heavy and art-free environment. This cannot be said in 2021 and Steve has been the instigator of a number of projects to bring inspiration to the environment. No one, young or old, who goes to Steve with a problem will ever be turned away.

Steve has engaged with great appetite with the many professional learning opportunities that are available at UWCSEA. For a leader with many years of highly successful experience behind him, he has never lost his eagerness for professional learning and even this year he has been involved in a leadership training programme for Singapore school leaders with Chris and Greg Jansen. He is regarded as an International Baccalaureate subject expert and has trained in all three parts of the IB programme as well as leading training for others.

Steve is an extremely popular member of the East campus staff. He has a word for everyone, is entirely devoid of airs and graces and exudes an aura of composed humility. It is, in short, very hard not to warm to him at first meeting but it is only over time that one becomes aware of the great impact that he has had on outstanding student learning, rich professional relationships and contributing to the beating heart of the East community. He is a leader, a team player and a person who lives by his values.

I recommend Steve to you most highly, and without any reservations. I have led 4 large schools over the course of my career and I can say with great confidence that no school offering Steve employment will ever be disappointed. He adds huge value to the community and asks for very little in return other than a matching commitment from those with whom he works - and perhaps a breeze and some nearby open water on which to launch his wind-foil.
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Yours truly
Graham Silverthorne Managing Partner Takumi X
Takumi Associates LLP (UEN: T18LL0306K)
22-01 Domain 21, 21 Delta Road, Singapore