20 April 2018: Expert faculty from Yale University teach short, intense seminars at Yale-NUS

By Wen Kin Lim | Images by Yasunari Watanabe

In March, five professors from Yale University taught short, intensive seminar classes at Yale-NUS College, bolstering the repertoire of classes that the College offers. Over one week, their seminars covered topics ranging from environmental policy and Arabic literature to chamber music.

All five seminars were well-attended by Yale-NUS students, who had the unique opportunity to learn about specialised subjects from Yale faculty who are experts in their respective fields.

Shawkat Toorawa (pictured above), Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University, taught a seminar on ‘9th-10th Century Baghdad’ which looked at literary works from the “golden age” of Baghdad. In the seminar with Yale-NUS students, Professor Toorawa examined how these works changed Islamic society, human knowledge, and how the Arab-Islamic society’s contributions subsequently changed the world.

For Madison Lommen (Class of 2020), Prof Toorawa’s special seminar material raised questions that she intends to explore during her study abroad experience in the Middle East next semester. She said, “The course has challenged me to identify what it is about Arabian antiquity that entices me so. It is this internal conversation that I will take with me to my study abroad programme in Jordan next semester as I continue to define and refine the purpose of my pursuits.”

One of the more hands-on seminars was “Chamber Music Performance” which was taught by Melvin Chen (pictured above), Associate Professor of Piano at the Yale School of Music. Assoc Prof Chen received his bachelor’s education in chemistry and physics from Yale University and his doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University but also holds a double master’s degree in piano and violin from The Julliard School, one of the world’s leading music and dance schools.

Lucy Davis (Class of 2020), a Physical Sciences major and musician, was motivated to take the seminar because she felt that there will be little to no opportunity to pursue music for the sake of it after college. The class included short, intense sessions for practice and students received individualised feedback from Assoc Prof Chen. The students of the class also put together a special performance, where they had the opportunity to showcase what they had learnt.

For Annamarie Martin (Class of 2020) an Environmental Studies major who is intending to specialise in policy, the special seminar on ‘Global Environmental Governance: Pathways for Sustainable Outcomes’ was directly related to her academic interests. Taught by Benjamin Cashore (pictured above), Professor of Environmental Governance & Political Science at Yale University, the seminar examined pathways through which individuals and organisations might champion effective policy strategies.

“Professor Cashore’s teaching was very animated and engaging, often using personal anecdotes and amusing stories to convey his point,” Annamarie shared.

Professor Cashore said he found the Yale-NUS students to be curious, interested, and engaging. He enjoyed conversations with [Yale-NUS] faculty from various departments and disciplines, who were clearly committed to the institution and collaborative learning across disciplines.

The Yale Special Seminars are part of the diverse academic programme at Yale-NUS College. It draws on the resources from its founding parent universities and is part of the initiative where Yale faculty can visit their academic counterparts at Yale-NUS. Besides Special Seminars, Yale faculty also have the option to teach for one semester to two full semesters at Yale-NUS.