Making social impact with the liberal arts, Yale-NUS students embark on meaningful careers

12 May 2017

By Daryl Yang | Images as credited

As the first class of Yale-NUS College prepares to graduate in a few weeks’ time, some students have committed themselves to applying their liberal arts education to meaningful careers in the social services or healthcare sectors.

One such student is Daryl Tan (Class of 2017). A major in Psychology, he is also a scholarship holder of the Singapore Industry Scholarship (SgIS) administered by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS).

As a social service scholar, Daryl will embark on a career in the social services, playing various roles in different voluntary welfare organisations.

“When I was thinking about what role I could play in the social services with a degree in Psychology from a liberal arts college, my main interest was to do research in the behavioural sciences to understand how to develop and improve policies that encourage volunteerism and philanthropy in a meaningful way,” Daryl shared, reflecting on how his interest in the social services developed.

“Our studies in the various disciplines helped me to situate the role of psychology within a larger structural framework, motivating me to not just understand behaviour from a study of the mind, but understanding how cultural, religious and socio-economic factors also play a part.”

Social service scholar Daryl Tan will play various roles in different voluntary welfare organisations when he graduates. Image provided by Daryl Tan.

These interests culminated in Daryl’s capstone project, where he focused on the question of how to increase volunteerism using technology.

“I was blessed with a grant from NCSS to do a research project on how to increase volunteerism, and my supervisor’s research also had a slant towards the role of technology in relationships. Marrying these two factors, my capstone set out to look at how social media could be used to recruit volunteers by tapping on current volunteers,” he explained.

Daryl’s capstone supervisor is Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology) Jean Liu, whose secondary research focuses on how psychology can make sense of societal phenomenon, supporting the optimisation of public policy.

Over the course of his research, Daryl conducted experiments with university students to find an effective way to promote volunteerism. What he found was that traditional publicity and advertising by charity organisations were less effective than recommendations by existing volunteers.

Daryl will be using the findings from his capstone project to improve the social media engagement strategies in the social services sector.

“I’m planning to follow up and look into how social media posts by volunteers affect those who view them, and to later present these findings to the social service sector to encourage using social media as a tool for recruitment more effectively,” he shared.

Another student who will be embarking on a career that will be socially impactful is Sylvia Gan (Class of 2017). Sylvia will be joining the NHG-TTSH Management Associate Programme (MAP), a 2-year long programme aimed at grooming individuals for a career in the National Healthcare Group (NHG).

Sylvia first became interested in working at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) after doing a research internship with the organisation in the summer of her penultimate year. The internship was coordinated by the Yale-NUS Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE).

“I was struck by how much the people there really believed in their work. I also wanted to do something purposeful in my career after graduation,” she shared.

“Being around people who care about creating change here at Yale-NUS has piqued my desire to work in organisations like TTSH in Singapore.”

Another student who will be joining the healthcare sector is Ho Yan Lin (Class of 2017). Yan Lin will be joining the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) as a Management Associate.

“Joining IMH makes the most sense for me since I am a psychology major and my prior experiences have a lot to do with mental health. The more I learned about this job, the more I realised how in line it is with what I’m interested in. I am keen to learn how institutions for vulnerable populations are managed,” she shared.

Her academic experiences as a psychology major have helped Yan Lin develop useful skills as she begins her job with IMH.

“Yale-NUS College has exposed me to people who do not only offer criticisms, but try to suggest changes and build the solutions. This has really changed my perspective on how I should approach problems,” she noted. One such example is a module titled ‘Psychology and Public Policy’ offered by Dr Jean Liu.

“We worked on projects with town councils and governmental ministries to improve systems using behavioural insights. This experience has taught me how to connect academic theories with real-life problems, such as how to communicate with policymakers and a non-academic audience.”

Yan Lin will be joining the Institute of Mental Health upon graduation. Image by Aleithia Low.

Outside of the classroom, Yan Lin was a member of P.S. We Care, a peer counselling student organisation, which has helped her prepare for a career with IMH. She was also an active member of theatre productions and served as a co-leader for the urban farming team in i’dECO, the Yale-NUS sustainability movement.

“My experiences with P.S. We Care taught me how to listen, and the challenges and joys of providing mental health resources. I’m grateful for how receptive the school administration has been to students in setting up our own student organisations,” Yan Lin reflected. “Urban farming and theatre also showed me how much I like to work with people, be it leading food challenges and working with community farms, or directing a short play.”

Daryl has also been actively involved in promoting a culture of community service on campus during his time at Yale-NUS College. For instance, he co-founded two service clubs – CAMPOS (a group celebrating the workers who helped build the new campus) and Yale-NUS Habitat for Humanity.

“Such experiences helped me to reflect what it means to do something with the beneficiaries in mind, and how to balance needs of the beneficiaries and the volunteers, who are all members of a larger community. These are lessons that I’ll also bring into the sector as my work brings me into contact with people in need, to see them not as clients but as members of a community working together to build lives,” Daryl shared.