Written by Jacqueline Su and Clare Isabel Ee | Image by Ray Chua for Yale-NUS College
One morning in October last semester, 30 students and four Dean’s Fellows (DFs) made their way to MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore. Carrying snacks, books, and zip-lock bags, they hauled kayaks down to the waterfront and set off paddling as part of the “Boats ‘n Books” programme initiated by DF Lian Hai Guang.
Hai Guang said of the activity, “The point was to get students off campus and to enjoy the outdoors. I wanted something in-between so that all students could participate. Some students did class reading, some brought books for pleasure, and others kayaked around the reservoir.”
Hai Guang is one of 18 DFs who came to Yale-NUS at the start of this academic year with a variety of experiences and ideas to help develop student life at the College.
“There are elements of the academic experience that happen outside of the classroom, and it’s very important that dialogues continue in living spaces,” said DF Regina (Gina) Markle. “Student organisation activities and events that happen in residence are extensions of student learning.”
Gina, along with DFs Vanessa Kim and Salma Dali, ran Wellness Week at Yale-NUS in October 2014. They set up tables in the Dining Hall and had students write down things they were grateful for and strategies to cope with stress. They also facilitated discussion groups, a meditation session, and managed a goody bag assembly station for students to send good wishes to their peers.
The role of a DF is not limited to organising extracurricular events for students. There are also events planned in conjunction with other positions the DFs take up at the college. Caroline Manela, a Writer’s Centre DF, helped organise ‘Late Night Write’ during finals period in late November 2014, an idea that originated from Caroline’s experience at her alma mater – NYU Abu Dhabi. The Writer’s Centre remained open between 10 pm and 2 am and Writer’s Centre DFs offered on-the-spot consultations and cooked pancakes late into the night.
Last semester, a few DFs hosted ‘College 101’, a series of workshops where DFs drew on their own college experiences to offer guidance to students. There were workshops on study skills, student government, navigating relationships, and many other topics of interest.
Megan Chua, Class of 2018, found College 101 to be useful: “Attending these workshops helped with our academic life and facilitated the learning process, because once you know what to focus on in a reading and in an essay, you can look out for it.”
DF-planned events come in all shapes and sizes from larger events such as Wellness Week, to smaller-scale get-togethers. Sara Amjad, an inaugural DF, occasionally holds late-night chai-brewing sessions for students to socialise over a cup of chai at the kitchen.
“You have to give chai enough time and love for it to be good,” explained Sara. “It’s relaxing, it helps me slow down, and you stand around the chai and you inevitably make conversations while you wait and smell the spices… Some of the most important conversations I’ve had with people have been over chai.”
She added: “It feels like I’m bringing a part of home with me wherever I go.”