11 May 2018: Making a difference from college and beyond: Yale-NUS seniors pursue social impact careers

By Daryl Yang | Images by Bozy Lu

Part of the Yale-NUS mission is to cultivate an ethic of service among Yale-NUS students, encouraging them to apply their liberal arts education to improve their communities and societies. Some graduating Yale-NUS students will be realising this through their post-graduation plans.

Saza Faradilla (Class of 2018, below) will be joining AWARE Singapore as a Community Engagement Executive. AWARE is Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group and seeks to eliminate gender-based barriers through research, advocacy, education, training and support services.

“My main responsibilities will be to sustain meaningful relationships with community stakeholders, including single mothers, low-income women and elderly caregivers, to engage them in ways that are relevant to AWARE’s advocacy efforts,” Saza explained.

An Anthropology major, Saza has been a passionate feminist in both her academic and extra-curricular pursuits and joining AWARE was a clear decision. Saza is also no stranger to AWARE, with whom she had worked with for her capstone project on female genital cutting in the Malay community in Singapore.

“I knew I wanted to be part of an organisation which promotes women’s rights, and AWARE, being one of the leading gender equality advocacy groups in Singapore, seemed like a natural fit,” she reflected.

It was at Yale-NUS that Saza said she learnt to be a “better, more nuanced, more informed feminist”.

“The classes that I took exposed me to the writings of eminent feminist thinkers like Saba Mahmood, Simone Beauvoir and Bettina Shell-Duncan, each of whom have been invaluable in shaping my understanding of intersectional feminism and social justice issues.”

“I have also benefitted and learnt more about this field of work from internships in Jordan and Kuala Lumpur where I worked with refugees who have undergone sexual and gender based violence,” Saza added.

In the summer of her penultimate year, Saza interned with the Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) Unit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She also spent the summer in her sophomore year in Amman, Jordan as a Gender Strategy Intern at the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development.

Social impact work, however, is not limited to careers with non-governmental organisations.

For Lai Ying Tong (Class of 2018, below), it was her future employer’s emphasis on social and economic justice that made her decide to join the company. Ying Tong will be joining ThoughtWorks, a global software consultancy firm, as a Graduate Consultant Software Developer.

“I like ThoughtWorks’ emphasis on social and economic justice. Not only is this one of their three pillars of business, they also walk the talk through pro-bono and reduced-rate work in their Social Impact Program,” she shared.

“I appreciate how much attention ThoughtWorks pays to diversity in the hiring process, pushing for inclusivity for women and minorities. For instance, they were named one of the Top Companies for Women Technologists by the Anita Borg Institute in 2017.”

On her role at ThoughtWorks, Ying Tong explained that she will be designing and building software solutions for clients across industries ranging from large-scale enterprises to small-scale NGOs.

“My day-to-day job will involve hands-on coding as well as consulting with business stakeholders,” she added.

A Physical Sciences major, Ying Tong noted that “Yale-NUS taught me to think about not just what I’m doing, but why I’m doing it.”

“While I gained quantitative reasoning skills through my major courses in Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science, I was able to situate these skills relative to the larger societal context through the Common Curriculum and through my interactions with the interdisciplinary community of peers and faculty,” she explained.

“General frameworks introduced in the Common Curriculum – such as inductive and deductive reasoning, systems thinking and social institutions, the scientific method, and contextual analysis – allowed me to make sense of the moving parts of new concepts and to relate them within a larger whole. As a software developer, I will continue to sharpen my technical skills with the goal of improving the communities around me.”

Sebastian Cortes-Sanchez (Class of 2018, below) will also be pursuing social impact work, alongside his professional career in the investigative research and advocacy sector. He has been selected as one of several young leaders to pursue the WISE Learners’ Voice Program offered by the Qatar Foundation.

Established in 2010 to engage the views and creative energies of young people in addressing pressing global education issues and challenges, the WISE Learners’ Voice Program brings the perspectives of young people to the challenge of rethinking education, and equips them to take on leading roles in their fields and in the world of education.

“I decided to apply to be part of the Learner’s Voice program because it seemed like a logical continuation to other education-related projects that I had already led and supported,” Sebastian shared.

“My experiences teaching English to non-native English speakers in the US and middle school children in Thailand, and leading a Social Impact Fellowship project with forcibly displaced populations in two Latin American cities, made the Learners Voice Program an ideal fit. The opportunity to meet, work and learn from people who have experiences running various educational initiatives and working with refugee population is almost unparalleled.”

During his time at Yale-NUS, Sebastian took on a Social Impact Fellowship offered by the Centre for International & Professional Experience, during which he developed a participatory photography programme that used a story telling approach to increase the social literacy and strengthen the identity processes of forcibly displaced Afro-Descendant populations in two Latin American cities.

“The highlight of my Yale-NUS experience was being able to think through and develop my own social initiative through the Social Impact Fellowship. The part of the initiative that I ran with forcibly displaced Afro-Colombian women in my home city Bogota, was especially transformative,” he reflected.

“The fellowship was the most challenging, frustrating and rewarding experience I have had. It taught me to be mindful of the power dynamics and ethical implications of running a social initiative that I designed and challenged me to think about ways to empower and include communities within the ideation, development and implementation of projects.”

As part of the WISE Program, Sebastian will participate in the WISE global biennial summit and in two intensive residential sessions delivered by expert faculty in Athens and various online and on-site activities where participants will engage with the Global Forced Migration and Displacement Crisis.

“As part of the programme, I am also developing a team project in which five other participants and I need to conceive, design and pilot an initiative that addresses a critical education challenge within the aforementioned crisis. My project team is working on developing a tool kit and running a camp that helps address the gap between literacy/language learning and psycho-social support,” Sebastian added.

“After piloting our project in Athens at the end of June, we will have an opportunity to pitch our proposal to an audience of potential investors, donors, and partners at a global event.”

As graduation looms over the minds of the students, Sebastian shared that what he will miss most about Yale-NUS College is the “opportunity to fail”.

“I am incredibly grateful to the professors, friends and advisors that have pushed me to think beyond the scope of a class or a grade and try things that while challenging, were instrumental to my development as a thinker and as a human,” he said.

“As I move into an environment that values results and the accumulation of capital over processes of thinking, learning, failing and growing, I will definitely miss this place.”

For Ying Tong, “Yale-NUS was also a place that taught me how to engage the people around me with the intent to learn and understand”.

“I thoroughly enjoyed living and learning alongside this open, generous and caring community. I have gained so much from the generosity and wisdom of the Yale-NUS community, and I will continue to approach interactions at work in the same spirit of empathy and curiosity,” she added.