19 December 2017: New first-year programmes to ease the transition to College

Text and images by Courtney Carter

This academic year, Yale-NUS’ Dean of Students office and its three Residential Colleges (RCs) introduced two new programmes for first-year students to help them acclimate to the Yale-NUS living and learning environment – a course module titled Transitions and a foundational programme called Becoming Kingfishers.

Elm College Vice Rector Suyin Chew who came up with idea of the Transitions module explained that the purpose of the module was to provide students with skills to succeed at college. It originated from the Dean’s Fellows who had been delivering an informal course entitled College 101 to a small group of first-year students for the past two years. She added, “The idea to formalise it into a credited module helmed by the Vice Rectors arose because upper-class students in need of college transition support expressed that they would have been able to avoid pitfalls later on in their college career had they been offered a foundation in their first year. In addition, the module provides Vice Rectors and Dean’s Fellows the opportunity to connect and reach out to every first-year student”.

The Transitions module is taught by the Vice Rectors and Dean’s Fellows of the three RCs and comprises six classes over the course of the first two semesters of college. Each class focuses on one of the following six topics fundamental to becoming a responsible and self-directed first-year student: setting personal and academic goals; time management at college; self-care through sleep and stress management; learning styles; effective communication with professors and college administrators; and understanding cultural sensitivity. This is the first time this instruction has been offered as credited module. Over 200 first-year students signed up for the module. According to Vice Rector Chew, there are also plans in the future to support upper-class student development through modules such as Intergroup Dialogue.

Alysha Chandra (Class of 2021) shared, “Transitions has taught me strategies to better manage my time. Through our class discussions and visiting lectures, I have been able to reflect on my college transition and think critically about my adjustment.”

Becoming Kingfishers is a new initiative by the Dean of Students office, and it is facilitated by Andrew McGeehan, Senior Manager of Residential Life, with assistance from Dean’s Fellows.

Mr McGeehan shared that the purpose of the Becoming Kingfishers programme is threefold. “Through Becoming Kingfishers, first-year students will continue building relationships with each other and form a cohesive and collaborative cohort identity across RCs. The goals are also for first-year students to successfully utilise campus resources and develop essential life skills for navigating life both at Yale-NUS and beyond; lastly, we hope the programme will help first-years engage with local and global issues that are important and relevant to their development as critical thinkers and global citizens”.

The first Becoming Kingfishers programme, which kicked off on 31 August 2017, brought the entire cohort together for the first time since Orientation. Students had the chance to participate in small group discussions on topics ranging from first-year academic, extracurricular, social, and cultural transition to college. There was also a second session which featured an individual and anonymous polling platform for first-year students to answer questions about their adjustments to Yale-NUS, how often their peers talk about Singapore issues and international issues, and how their identities are respected in the international community on campus. Upper-class student leaders and Dean’s Fellows facilitated small group discussions about the results of this poll and about the legacy that the Class of 2021 wants to leave at the College.

Lukas Fesser (Class of 2021) commented, “Through Becoming Kingfishers, I had the chance to meet and talk to first-years students in other Residential Colleges whom I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to meet otherwise. I found our reflective discussions interesting because I got to learn from other first-years who have different perspectives on the college experience from mine.”