Dr. Alicia Altorfer-Ong | Inspiring PhD

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I am Alicia Altorfer-Ong. I’m a mother, wife, historian, writer, corporate trainer, budding theater practitioner and playwright. Most recently, I’ve started an additional role as business development manager with a health and wellness company. It’s a juggling act that sometimes goes a little crazy, but for the most part I’ve managed to keep all the balls, bells and books in the air!

One of my proudest days was being at the graduation ceremony with my husband Stefan and our kids Anne and Leo in tow. At many points during the dark years of PhD writing, I might’ve said that if I succeeded, it’d be in spite of the kids. I know now that it was because of family, including my parents Cecilia and Marcus, that I could do it all. My family keeps me grounded and blankets me with love.


The most inspiring person you have known or the person you look up to the most?

I don’t have a single role model. There have been many wise and caring people I’ve met along the way: some dispensed timely advice, others gave a listening ear, and yet others inspired me through their thoughtful actions. There is a lot of good sense and warmth around if we only take the time to look. These are themes that I try to focus on in my scripts: the small, everyday conversations and gestures that mean so much, the things that leave holes in our hearts when they’re gone.

My mother asked me years ago if it was more important (to me) to be right, or to be happy. The truth of the matter is, that I used to think being right was the be-all-and-end-all, hands-down, no-questions-asked. Yet I find myself gravitating towards happiness and kindness. The older I get — I hit the forty milestone this year — the more I treasure the little things that people do. Taking time to catch up on the telephone, over a coffee, or by writing a postcard.


Best advice ever received? 

Two adages have stuck onto me the past year, both shared by sagely cousins of mine. The first is to say “yes!” to opportunities that come along. Don’t turn them away because of a fear of failure or, as I realized was my case, a perverse fear of success. The second adage is that we can never out-give God. That reminds me to continually be open and generous, in action and in spirit.

What does the Modern Nyonya look like in your eyes?  

The Modern Nyonya is all around! She is versatile and resilient.


Dr. Alicia Altorfer-Ong received her PhD in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science while raising her two small children – inspiring in itself. She just premiered her first play “Happy at Home” performed by NUSS DramaWorks in Singapore and is now working on Elixir Botanica bringing holistic remedies to Singapore.