Written by Melissa Wang | Image provided by Dr Christopher Bridges
In January 2016, Yale-NUS College will welcome its new Dean of Students, Dr Christopher Bridges, who will oversee student life and residential living at the College.
Rich experience in student affairs
Dr Bridges is currently the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, a public liberal arts university. He has had extensive student affairs experience overseeing Enrollment, Residential Life, Orientation and Student Activities, amongst many other portfolios. During his time at Mansfield, Dr Bridges led the team that pushed retention rates to a twenty-year high. He has also played an active role in campus strategic planning, accreditation and the operations of the campus. With over a decade of experience within the higher education industry, mostly centred on student affairs, Dr Bridges explained that his career development stemmed from his own college experience, which he describes as “transformative”.
“When I found out that student affairs could be a career path, the idea was mind-blowing,” Dr Bridges revealed.
“I continue to be interested in student affairs because I believe I can be an impactful part of a student’s growth during their college years,” he added.
Firm believer in the residential living and learning model
As Dean of Students at Yale-NUS, Dr Bridges will be a champion for student life, overseeing Student Affairs, Housing, Athletics, Counselling, Wellness and Dining. A firm believer in the residential living and learning model, which aims to grow and nurture holistic graduates, Dr Bridges explained, “The ability to live and learn, not only with other students, but also with faculty and staff is yet another opportunity to take the lessons learned in the classroom and incorporate them into their life… it gives students a space to share ideas and questions as well as to combine multiple classroom and co-curricular experiences with each other.”
Dr Bridges also shared fondly about the impact his own Dean of Students had on him, and reminisced his personal experience of the residential living and learning model. Dr Bridges said: “I discovered music in a new way in college – I took a great class, taught by my Dean of Students, about country western music, and I had a roommate who played guitar and who exposed me to groups like The Rolling Stones (I even made it to a couple of their concerts). Thanks to that class, I could be at a punk rock or bluegrass concert and appreciate their roots in a different way.”
Impacted by our community of learning and committed to strengthening it
During his visit to Singapore to meet with the College community, Dr Bridges was impressed by the connection and sense of belonging that the community felt for the College.
“College campuses often have a great sense of energy, but I found passion at Yale-NUS,” Dr Bridges highlighted. “People identified current and upcoming challenges, and everyone was clearly committed to meeting those challenges. I was struck again and again by the fact that people at Yale-NUS choose to be here – to be a part of something new in Singapore.”
Dr Bridges sees his role as being the link between administration and the student body. He aims to do so by inviting the various stakeholders into conversation and supporting voices from all sides of the table. Hence, Dr Bridges’ top priority is to get to know the people at Yale-NUS – to listen, observe, learn and work, to understand where the College and its community have come from, as well as where they are headed.
He believes that the main role of the Office of the Dean of Students is to provide advice and be the students’ resource for expertise and experiences, skills and talent.
“Our roles are to set the stage more often than perform on it,” he concluded.
Excited about Yale-NUS and his new role
Dr Bridges is excited about the opportunities at Yale-NUS, particularly with the College’s strong commitment to liberal arts education. He believes that the unique partnership between Yale and NUS will allow the College to “not only be a leader in Singapore, but in the entire region and the world”.
Hailing from a liberal arts college himself, Dr Bridges described taking on the role as Yale-NUS College’s Dean of Students a form of homecoming. “When I fell in love with education, it was on a small liberal arts campus, where faculty, staff and students worked together to build a real community of learners. It might sound odd, but stepping into the role of Dean of Students at Yale-NUS is like coming home in some ways,” he shared fondly.
He added: “I look forward to learning from, and becoming a contributing member to, the Yale-NUS community. The Dean of Students role is one that combines leadership with team play and I can’t wait to get started.”
It seems he isn’t the only one who is excited. A father of four, Dr Bridges revealed that his family is excited about the move, describing it as their “biggest adventure yet”. Singapore’s strong focus on education is also a draw for Dr Bridges and his wife (also Dr Bridges), and they have received strong support from their family about the move.
He added candidly: “Almost everyone in my extended family is talking about coming to visit, so Yale-NUS and Singapore should prepare for an infusion of Bridges over the next couple of years!”