19 April 2013: The Community Grows


An extremely diverse and talented group of 12 recent college graduates have been hand-picked to join the Office of the Dean of Students at Yale-NUS, as inaugural Dean’s Fellows. Shortlisted from more than 160 applications from all around the world, these Dean’s Fellows are an integral part of the Yale-NUS community of learning and will be the primary support for the inaugural freshmen, as they transition into the residential college experience.

Hear what they have to say about joining the Yale-NUS community:

Sara Amjad, Pakistan, Mount Holyoke College

“A liberal arts education, primarily, has trained me to respect myself. It is often very hard for people to take themselves seriously. This laughter creates a gap between what can be and what is. I laughed at myself when I wished I would write a play one day; I laughed at myself when I signed up for a playwriting class; I laughed at myself when I had a vision of the characters (three clowns) I would write a play about. But now, one year later, I am no longer laughing as I direct the play that I wrote in my playwriting class. A liberal arts education, has given me the space to do things and make mistakes, as long as I can respect what I am doing enough to show up for myself in that space every day. I think that ‘showing up’ fills the gap between what can be and what is.”

Jeb Benkowski, USA, Yale University

“I think the Dean’s Fellows really need to focus on student health, happiness, and community. Because it is the College’s first year, there are many unknowns; we Dean’s Fellows, while not Yale-NUS graduates, have valuable insights into how to handle the demands of a vigorous academic institution while navigating the complexities of social and extracurricular life. So I think we need to keep our ‘ears to the ground’, be accessible to students, and really be parts of the community proactively helping out and kickstarting student projects while providing support and access to College resources and our own personal skills.”

Ryan Huynh, USA, Princeton University

“The best part about residential college living and learning is the continual stimulation one gets—all in one place, a person learns, socialises, eats, plays sports, makes music—this type of integration builds experiences upon experiences. Hopefully this compels one to learn time-management skills so that ultimately one’s hobbies, academic endeavors, and social life can all be complementary (as opposed to competing) with one another.”

Vanessa Kim, Korea, Carleton College

“I would tell students – learn to lean into your discomfort because almost all learning includes uncomfortable moments. Just know that the very discomfort is an indication that you are moving closer to your goal. You will be surprised to find that in the end, that very uncomfortable-ness is very satisfying. Don’t worry about failure because what matters more is that you tried and that you keep trying. The biggest failure is never trying at all.”

Molly Ma, China, Yale University

“Due to my liberal arts education, I’ve been able to explore a wide range of interests – some might call the mix a bit eclectic! Currently, I’m fascinated by the field of urban design and environmental psychology, behavioural economics, and nutritional science, as well as some topics a bit closer to my global affairs major: East Asian affairs and international development. Aside from academics, I enjoy reading, blogging, cooking, and exploring new places.”

Alan Montecillo, USA, Reed College

“To me, a liberal arts education is not just a superior set of tools that will help me achieve my dreams. Rather, it challenges me to rethink and refine the assumptions that give rise to those dreams. That might not sound very marketable at first, but without those basic reflexes that my education has helped me cultivate, pursuing any grander ambitions would certainly leave me feeling rather hollow.”

Ben Mullet, USA, Yale University

A liberal arts education means exercising every part of your brain. It means recognising the connections between seemingly unrelated fields, like finding poetry in math or seeing the truths of physics in philosophy. I am a physics major who loves science and learning about absolutely everything. I’ve also had a lot of experience mentoring, and I am a Freshman Counselor at Yale, a role that is very similar to that of a Dean’s Fellow.”

Ng Yin Ling , Singapore, National University of Singapore

“I have been a performer and creator since before I can remember. I wanted to be an artist, an international pop-star, and even made a magazine from cut-outs called ‘Ice-Cool Sambal Chilli’ all before I was 12. I was from the Drama Elective Program in Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC), where we pranced around all day in the studio (Okay, we did much more than that) and landed myself in Theatre Studies. I have also always been curious about the world, and was not satisfied with just learning within my discipline and thus also enrolled in the multidisciplinary University Scholars’ Program (USP) in NUS. As a young person it is still hard to tell where life may lead, but I have a vision of owning or spending my time in a studio space dancing, teaching and holding rehearsals. I also hope performing, creating and travelling will be a large part of my life.”

Adriana Ortiz, USA, Yale University

“I am a people‐person, and I’m attracted to opportunities that foster community. Every single person I have met during my time getting to know Yale‐NUS is fascinating, complex, fun, and most of all, excited to hit the ground running. The energy around this institution is already infectious, and I can’t wait to see what we can all do together.”

Fiona Pay, Singapore, National University of Singapore

Before deciding to major in Political Science, I was in a crisis because I could not decide between psychology, literature and philosophy. If only there was a liberal arts programme back then! I am generally interested and curious about many things. I take every opportunity that comes my way, and have traveled to India, China, Iran, Turkey, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Japan and USA. This has made me so much more culturally sensitive and aware of what is happening in the world.”

Kenneth Poon, Singapore, National University of Singapore

“Living without learning is not much of a life. Learning, but without the transformative experience of witnessing how it applies to one’s own life, is not really living either. The two must come together, and being part of a residential college is a wonderful way for living and learning to meet. Don’t get me wrong here, I really don’t believe that learning only comes in the classroom, or with tertiary education. It is quite the contrary. The capacity to learn is a common grace to humanity. It is given to individuals in all sectors of society, and should be recognised as such. College education must be respected as a privilege, and not an entitlement.”

David Sze, Singapore, Amherst College

Four years ago, I left Singapore for America for a liberal arts education. Now, it almost feels like the liberal arts is coming home with me. I’m very excited to be part of the founding of such a learning community in Singapore. At Amherst College, I have played an active role inspiring and facilitating social entrepreneurship by, for example, organizing pitch competitions, and developing summer internships, in Uganda, Ecuador and China, for students. I hope to bring this experience to Yale-NUS, to help bring social engagement and social entrepreneurship to the students.”

Click here for their bios.