“I studied Kongzi when I was in secondary school, and I really would have wished it to be more like this. I’m very happy my son is learning these things.”
Overheard at a special session of the College’s inaugural Philosophy and Political Thought lecture by professors of philosophy Jay Garfield and Cathay Liu, parents and family members learnt about the ethical dimensions of Kongzi and Mozi, and in a larger sense, discovered the truly multidisciplinary nature of the Yale-NUS Common Curriculum.
Held from 6 to 8 September 2013, the Yale-NUS Family Weekend was designed to help families recognise the significance of a residential college model and fully understand the educational journey students are embarking on. Participants were able to share in students’ classes, challenges, and experiences. President Pericles Lewis, deans, faculty, and other members of the Dean of Students’ office participated actively, providing numerous opportunities to family members for personal conversations in a variety of contexts.
Some special sessions targeted specific issues, such as ‘Adjusting to the College World’, which focused on different ways that parents can help students build the foundation for college success, while other sessions were largely family-driven, providing the college with an active feedback mechanism and family members with an opportunity to develop relationships with one another. “I am so appreciative of how [Yale-NUS College] listens to us, and keeps us informed. I do feel like I am being heard,” a parent shared.
A particularly insightful student-produced exhibition, “The GAP Year Project”, presented student experiences spanning five continents. Composed of hundreds of student-contributed artefacts highlighting the diverse achievements, discoveries, and creations of the Yale-NUS College inaugural class in the months before starting school, the collection reflected a community willing to take risks, try new things, embrace passions, and find meaning in the world and the people living in it.
The weekend culminated in ‘Snapshots!’, an onstage extravaganza of student performances ranging from a ‘K-Pop’ dance to an a cappella medley and an improvisational comedy routine. The showcase displayed students’ individual talents, and also their ability to work together in order to enable each other’s successes. While family members were delighted with the quality of the acts, they were especially taken with this communal aspect. As one father said, “It was such a joy to see [his son] dancing. I don’t know how they got him to dance, because he says he always has too many readings to talk to us, but I’m happy they did.”
The Yale-NUS community clearly extends far beyond its student body. As President Lewis said during the Family Weekend dinner, “…families have a vital role to play in the students’ educations, as well as the development of our institution”. While Family Weekend was ultimately an expression of student experiences and passions, family members actively participated in making the weekend special. Parents from as far away as Russia, India, Japan, and the Philippines flew in for the weekend, but most of the events were also live-cast online, so that family members unable to attend the weekend in person were able to follow the weekend’s events.
In this way, and in many others, families play an integral role in college life. In the best traditions of the liberal arts, Yale-NUS embraced transparency, openness, and dialogue over the successful event. Student Anshuman Mohan (Class of 2017) said, “All in all, I think Family Weekend did much more than just show Yale-NUS to the families. It also showed us our place in the Yale-NUS Family.”