Yale-NUS alumni share career and graduate studies advice with students through virtual panel discussions

2 October 2020

By Lim Wei Da

Yale-NUS alumni Ms Ilya Katrinnada Binte Zubaidi (Class of 2018), Ms Ritika Biswas (Class of 2018) and Mr Matthew Bolden (Class of 2017) shared career and graduate studies tips with students through a series of panel discussions. Images provided by Ms Ilya, Ms Biswas and Mr Bolden.

Since the start of the academic year, Yale-NUS College alumni have been sharing their career insights with current students over virtual panel discussions. Organised by the Yale-NUS Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE), these included topics such as pursuing a career in finance, journalism, or sustainability.

Ms Ilya Katrinnada Binte Zubaidi (Class of 2018), who was part of the alumni panel on creating social impact through work held on 27 August 2020, shared how her college experience had inspired her to give back to the Yale-NUS community and to those in need.

Currently working as a Curatorial Assistant at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Ms Ilya said, “When I was still at Yale-NUS, I enjoyed and benefited from the panel discussions with working professionals organised by the College. It provided some much-needed perspective for a student who had yet to enter the workforce, and through the Social Impact panel, I had hoped that I could pay it forward and offer similar insights to current Yale-NUS students.”

During the session, Ms Ilya also elaborated about the projects that she has worked on, one of which was providing safe spaces for welfare beneficiaries to learn more about the world around them through art and express their thoughts about the works. She hoped to inspire students to find different opportunities to create social impact in their future careers, even if they are working at for-profit organisations.

To provide insights into life at graduate school, CIPE also organised a panel on 12 September 2020 with alumni who pursued graduate studies. During the session, alumni shared advice on the application process such as articulating one’s research interest or considerations when choosing a graduate programme.

Ms Ritika Biswas (Class of 2018), who pursued a Master of Philosophy in Film and Screen Studies at Cambridge University, explained how graduate school empowered her with the credentials to pursue work as a Curator at New Art Exchange, United Kingdom. During her time at Yale-NUS, Ms Biswas realised her passion for deep research and dismantling systemic privileges. This motivated her to pursue graduate studies and her career at an inclusive art gallery, where she is able to engage in the arts, academic research, and grassroots activism through her work.

She said, “Along with sharing practical or academic advice on applying to graduate school, I think it is imperative to share what the reality of such an experience might be: imposter syndrome, being tokenised as a person of colour in western institutions, finding queer spaces, or forging interpersonal relationships with professors to carry beyond your time doing a degree. I wanted to bring these issues up as they are not often talked about in graduate advisory spaces and workshops, though they are crucial to one’s academic research and mental health.”

Mr Shawn Hoo (Class of 2020) found that the panel helped him to understand the practicalities of graduate school. He said, “As I am shortlisting graduate school programmes in the humanities to apply to, this talk has helped me understand the various considerations I need to keep in mind as I prepare my application. There is a wide range of information out there on the internet, but it is always helpful to hear directly from alumni who have been through the process and who are reflective about their experience.”

To encourage students to think about environmental impact in their future careers, CIPE also invited alumni to share on their careers in sustainability at a panel discussion on 29 September 2020. During the session, Mr Matthew Bolden (Class of 2017) shared about how policy work can help create a greener world.

Mr Bolden, who works at the Climate Leadership Council, a Washington-based policy institute, encouraged more students to pursue careers at policy-related organisations such as think-tanks or governmental offices.

He said, “Effective communication is essential to my work. A big part of what we do is creating and maintaining consensus for an ambitious federal climate policy among a broad array of stakeholders. If we couldn’t explain the policy in ways that speak to each stakeholder’s goals, we would get nowhere. In general, great ideas – policy or otherwise – are only as impactful as they are comprehensible. I hope students come away from this panel inspired to pursue careers that they might not have considered before.”

Amidst the global pandemic, CIPE hopes to organise more virtual alumni career sharing panels in the coming semester to enable alumni to continue sharing their experiences across various fields and for existing students to benefit from tips needed to navigate their professional interests.