By Poon Yee Suan | Images provided by Weave for Yale-NUS College
The Class of 2021 received an official welcome to Yale-NUS at the annual First Year Assembly on 11 August 2017. The new cohort comprised 248 students, representing 45 nationalities from all over the globe. Singaporeans continued to make up the largest pool of students in this year’s intake, hailing from 28 schools across Singapore.
About 600 guests graced the occasion, with Yale-NUS Governing Board members, faculty and staff, incoming students, as well as their family and friends joining in the festivities. We were honoured to have Yale-NUS Governing Board member and President of the National University of Singapore, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan preside over the event.
In her welcome address, Ms Laura Severin, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, recognised both the outstanding achievements of the students and the incredible diversity in the Class of 2021. She also emphasised how the students’ exceptional potential to contribute, grow and flourish in Yale-NUS had shone through in their applications.
“You bring rich experiences in the arts, community service, athletics and more. You have excelled in the classroom and have displayed excellence in leadership and initiative within your communities,” she said.
Professor Tan Tai Yong, President, Yale-NUS College highlighted the skills and perspectives that the Class of 2021 will gain from this unique model of liberal arts and science education that integrates the best of the East and West.
President Tan shared, “You will be encouraged to question, to think for yourself, to see issues from different perspectives and to arrive at your own conclusions. Your views will take shape and they will be tested, as they should be, in the cut and thrust of seminar debates, over the course of reading and studying, during conversations with your lecturers, your peers and friends. ”
Capping off his speech, President Tan illustrated the transformative experience of a Yale-NUS education by sharing how the first graduating cohort of Yale-NUS, the Class of 2017, contemplated different paths ahead of their graduation. From careers in management consultancy, the arts or the public sector to postgraduate studies, President Tan noted that each Yale-NUS graduate will bring new perspectives to their chosen vocation.
Following President Tan’s speech, guests were treated to a rousing performance by the Yale-NUS Barbershop Chorus. The student a cappella group serenaded the crowd, drawing resounding applause from the audience for their talents and perfect harmony.
Ms Saza Faradilla (Class of 2018), President of the Student Government, greeted the incoming students with words of support and encouragement, friendly advice and insights as an upperclassman. She emphasised the importance of maintaining one’s well-being while being immersed in life at Yale-NUS.
“One of the things that makes Yale-NUS amazing is the support structure that we have,” said Ms Faradilla. She further encouraged the students to seek support and strength in the community, from the residential college’s Rectors and Vice Rectors, to the Wellness Centre and student group P.S. We Care, as well as Dean’s Fellows and the first batch of Residential College Advisors (RCAs).
Associate Professor Andrew M Bailey, who was the nominated faculty speaker, shared the joys and experiences that students can look forward to as part of living in a close community. He also encouraged them to make the most of their experience and expressed the faculty’s support for students.
“We, your professors, are here for you. It is our duty, our delight, to coach you through the rough spots, to cheer as you find your ‘aha!’ moments, and when things start getting too easy again, to challenge you to climb higher still,” he said.
Rounding off the event, Dean of Students, Dr Christopher Bridges spoke about the beginning of the Class of 2021 students’ journey at Yale-NUS, noting, “Remember that although it is your journey, all of us in this room are with you and I look forward to sharing your good company on the way.”
The celebratory balloon drop marked the end of the ceremony. Adeline Loh (Class of 2021) commented, “The First Year Assembly was both an ending and a beginning, marking the end of orientation, and the start of the school year. It felt great to be together as a community.”
The theme for this year’s orientation was “Take flight”, which represented how the College is ready to soar to greater heights, having marked a key foundational milestone with the successful graduation of its first class. Organised by the Dean of Students Office, in collaboration with the Orientation Committee, and supported by the residential colleges, Dean’s Fellows and RCAs, the students explored Singapore and learnt more about the College and the community during a two-week orientation programme.
Mr Khwa Zhong Xuan (Class of 2020), an orientation group leader, shared his motivations for participating in the Orientation Committee. “Orientation was one of the most defining moments of my freshman year, and I am very glad that I was able to facilitate that experience for the first-year students”, he said.
This year marks the first time that upperclassmen will assume residential advising responsibilities as RCAs. The newly formed RCA role supports first-year students and promotes community building alongside the residential college staff. Another new feature in the orientation programme is the addition of RCA group meetings where RCAs and first year students can bond and get to know each other.
An Amazing Race-style programme, a mainstay orientation activity, was reconceptualised as “Flight 21”. Travelling across western and central Singapore, students made pit stops at iconic locations, such as Haw Par Villa and Botanic Gardens, and bonded with each other through fun-filled activities and friendly competition.
The immensely popular orientation programme balanced both exciting activities and opportunities to bond.
“What I appreciated most was that though the schedule was packed with activities, it still gave much space for us freshmen to interact with one another and created spaces where we could have important conversations and dialogue.”, said Ms Marielle Lee Siu Wen (Class of 2021).