1 September 2017: FunOpenCulture events build bonds between staff and faculty

By Poon Yee Suan | Image by Wayne Xu

At Yale-NUS, the spotlight is often on the diverse and vibrant student population and their myriad accomplishments. Nevertheless, the faculty and staff of Yale-NUS are not forgotten. These key members of the Yale-NUS community create and deliver the unique liberal arts curriculum within the residential college model, and keep the College ticking behind the scenes. One of the ways that the College shows its appreciation for their vital work is through social and welfare events, organised by the FunOpenCulture (FOC) committee.

The FOC events bring faculty and staff together once a month to celebrate birthdays, welcome new staff to the Yale-NUS family, and commemorate major cultural festivals in Singapore. Special events like bowling contests, movie nights and the Dinner & Dance are annual highlights which are greatly anticipated by the faculty and staff.

An initiative driven by the Human Resources department, the FOC committee’s efforts are crucial to nurturing the welcoming and convivial community in the College, forging bonds across staff and faculty from different departments.

Director of Human Resources, Mr Christopher Anthony shared, “As a residential college, supporting this committee is in keeping with our vision of creating a collegial and socially vibrant environment.”

The spirit of the FOC committee traces its roots to the early days of Yale-NUS College. When Yale-NUS was launched in 2011 as the first liberal arts college in Singapore, the inaugural staff were located in a single office at University Hall at the National University of Singapore, where they celebrated one another’s birthdays. As the College grew, the FOC committee was created, and the birthday celebrations were established as a College tradition.

Mr Anthony explained the driving force behind the committee. “When the College expanded and moved to its interim residential campus (RC4) at University Town in 2012, faculty and staff were spread out across the 22 floors of the building. Hence, we needed a focal set of activities to bring faculty and staff together to engage socially, in order to foster bonds across the community. This is especially important after we moved to our permanent home in 2015, as we are now spread out across the different buildings in the campus.”

Tasked with this mandate, the first FOC committee was formed in 2013, with representatives from the different departments in the College. The name of the initiative, FunOpenCulture, was the brainchild of Ms Karen Teo, Senior Manager of the Governing Board Secretariat, who was co-chair of the inaugural committee. Also a playful reference to the acronym for “free-of-charge”, the name FunOpenCulture succinctly encapsulates the goals of the committee – to foster a lively and warm community, while providing for staff welfare, appreciation and recognition.

Ms Teo shared, “My experience was both fun and challenging. It’s important to understand the culture at Yale-NUS in order to create events which can bring together this community that embraces its diversity. Our work involved brainstorming for engaging events that would draw staff and faculty together.”

Mr Wayne Xu, the chair of the current FOC committee and Media Producer with the Educational Resources & Technology department at the College, said, “We think about how to organise events that can boost morale, keep the College interesting, enrich everyone’s working lives, and encourage staff and faculty from the different departments to interact and get to know each other better.”

The committee serves for a year before new members are elected, and each committee builds its own distinctive approach to their task. Every year, staff and faculty receive a birthday card and a small gift from the College. This year’s committee tapped on student talents to create the birthday card, which featured the College mascot, Halcyon the kingfisher. The committee also sought to give back to the wider community, with this year’s birthday gifts purchased from a social enterprise, Bizlink, supporting its mission of serving persons with disabilities and disadvantaged individuals.

With events that include staff and faculty’s partners and family members such as the movie night and the annual Dinner & Dance, the FunOpenCulture initiative is a key part of life and work at Yale-NUS, building a community of living and learning while educating citizens of the world.