2 June 2020: Yale-NUS recognises the contributions of its community in the 3rd Kingfisher Awards Ceremony

By Lim Wei Da

Inaugurated in 2018, the annual Kingfisher Awards recognise the outstanding contributions of student leaders, organisations, and staff to the College community. Nominations are made by members of the community and evaluated by the Kingfisher Awards Evaluation Committee, comprising faculty and staff members.

Screenshot of the Kingfisher Awards Ceremony webpage where this year’s prize ceremony was hosted.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prize ceremony was moved online to celebrate the outstanding contributions of Yale-NUS community leaders safely.

Senior Manager of Student Organisations & Leadership Ms Petrina Loh explained that the Kingfisher Awards Ceremony webpage was designed to keep the essence of the actual ceremony. For example, the webpage allows users to click through each award category to first reveal the nominees, and then the winners. This was done as the committee wanted to follow the programme flow of previous ceremonies to celebrate both nominees and winners.

Rachel Juay (first row, second from right) with members of the Student Government at their retreat earlier this year. Image provided by Rachel Juay.

Rachel Juay (Class of 2020) was awarded “Distinguished Student Leader” for her dedication to improving student life as President of Student Government. Rachel previously served in various positions in the student organisation, and was also instrumental in coordinating efforts to assist students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As President of the Student Government, Rachel sought to increase transparency and engagement with students through enhancing feedback and town hall sessions. Rachel was also involved in the Senior Class Gift campaign where she helped publicise the campaign to encourage graduating seniors to give back to the College.

“My drive stemmed from a desire to grow and better this community. In my time with the Student Government, I have seen how other great student leaders have worked hard in bringing joy and starting traditions at the school. Moreover, I have seen how dedicated mentorship and good leadership have inspired future Halcyons to step up and do good for the community as well. I was a recipient of this kind of leadership and I hope that I have been able to do the same for my juniors,” said Rachel.

Ms Olivia Albin Dure (middle), Dean’s Fellow at Elm Residential College and Intercultural Engagement, with students Farheen Asim (left) and Dianne Araral (right). Image provided by Olivia Dure.

Dean’s Fellow at Elm Residential College and Intercultural Engagement Ms Olivia Albin Dure, was awarded the Unsung Hero Award for supporting students in their professional and personal growth. Throughout her time at Yale-NUS, she tirelessly worked on initiatives to improve the community through cultivating empathy, and worked on projects such as Diversity Week, an initiative aimed at increasing openness and inclusion among students, staff and faculty. Ms Dure also worked as a co-facilitator for accountability reading groups on campus.

“Along with three students, Farheen Asim, Dianne Araral, and Yogesh Tulsi (all Class of 2020), I co-facilitated two semester-long reading series on topics of accountability, actualising community accountability, and navigating interpersonal conflicts in relation to serious instances of harm,” Ms Dure said. “It has been an incredible joy to work alongside the students, and I am really proud of the work we have been able to do and the difficult conversations we have facilitated,” said Ms Dure.

Ms Dure shared that she is grateful to have worked with people who are committed to sharing knowledge and kindness. “I am motivated to do this work and hope to create spaces of learning for students to learn what it means to be accountable to others, and gain the tools necessary to address harm. It strengthens my belief that it is possible to live and embody accountability to the point that we are all prepared and ready to support one another in times of difficulty.”

Isabella Nuñez, winner of the Commitment to Community and Social Change award. Image provided by Isabella Nuñez.

In recognition of her dedication in supporting feminist and queer students at Yale-NUS, Isabella Nuñez (Class of 2022) was chosen as the “Commitment to Community and Social Change” winner. As a Student Associate for the Intercultural Engagement office, Isabella helped organise the “Walk the WOC (Women of Colour)” Identity Collective for women of minority race.

Isabella shared, “This programme was inspired by the fact that it can often be difficult to enter into and exist within an institution as a person who holds multiple marginalised identities. Whether you are a Singaporean of a minority race or an international student entering a country whose racial politics you do not fully understand, coming into university can feel very lonely. This identity collective is a place where we can talk to other women who understand our experiences. We can advise one another on how to get through college and life, find a place where we are welcomed and safe, and support each other.”

Apart from her work at the Intercultural Engagement team, Isabella also serves as the Co-President of the G Spot, a Yale-NUS student organisation focused on raising awareness on issues of gender, sexuality and feminism through community dialogues, where she helped organise free sexual health testing and successfully advocated for free menstrual products on campus.

Heng Jia Min (fourth from the left, back row) with her Residential College Advisor (RCA) Group. Image provided by Heng Jia Min.

For her mentorship and care for first-year students, Heng Jia Min (Class of 2020) was awarded the Residential Life Service Award. As a Residential College Advisor (RCA) at Cendana Residential College, Jia Min was tasked with mentoring and supporting first-year students as they transition to college life, an important task given Yale-NUS’s unique curriculum and residential programme where students live and learn together in an immersive residential environment.

Jia Min explained that the support she received in her first year motivated her to create a similar atmosphere for her juniors to experiment, reflect and grow. For example, Jia Min organised individual meetings throughout the year with first-year students to talk about their personal and academic goals. She also organised group discussions, excursions, and art activities where students could forge bonds across differences and support one another empathetically. After campus life was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jia Min organised a Zoom meeting for her RCA group to reflect on their year and give anonymous affirmations to each other.

Jia Mn said, “Though I feel that any of the nominees and RCAs would have been deserving of the award, I’m grateful to have been very generously nominated by the first-years in my group, and eventually selected. I remember being asked about how I see myself contributing to campus life during my admissions interview and I am proud of myself for fulfilling at least part of my vision then!”

To check out the award categories and list of nominees and winners, visit https://studentlife.yale-nus.edu.sg/kingfisher-awards/kingfisher-awards-ceremony-2020/.