29 May 2017: Celebrating Yale-NUS College’s inaugural graduating class


By Julian Low

Four years ago, Yale-NUS College welcomed its first cohort of students. From the temporary campus at Residential College 4 and pioneering runs of the Common Curriculum, to the vibrant residential life activities and co-curricular programmes on its new award winning campus, Yale-NUS has grown within a short span of time. Now, it is time to celebrate the graduation of this intrepid group of students who took up the challenge of joining a brand-new College, experienced a new form of liberal arts education and played an integral role in creating a community of learning.

Under the proud gazes of their loved ones, 119 students were presented to Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, President of the Republic of Singapore and Chancellor of National University of Singapore (NUS) who presided over the ceremony at the University Cultural Centre on 29 May 2017. The event was graced by more than 1000 distinguished guests, including Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence, Mr Ong Ye Kung, members from the NUS Board of Trustees, Yale Corporation and Yale-NUS College Governing Board, faculty, students, parents, donors and industry partners.

The majority of students of the graduating cohort have secured jobs or university places to pursue graduate studies.

Those who had received job offers will be heading to a variety of industries, such as science and engineering, finance, technology and start-ups; communications; and consumer and lifestyle. They will be taking on roles in organisations in the public and private sectors, such as the National Arts Council, Ministry of Education, Oliver Wyman and SAP Innovation Centre amongst others.

Students who are pursuing graduate studies have been accepted into prestigious universities such as Cornell University, Harvard University, Tsinghua University, University College London and Yale University. Others will be taking up offers such as the Princeton in Asia Fellowship and the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

Professor Pericles Lewis, Founding President of Yale-NUS College, beamed with pride as he wished the Class of 2017 success for the future, “You have long and eventful lives ahead of you. I do not know what causes and communities you will serve, but I hope you will associate your days at Yale-NUS with the responsibility to be of service and that you will bring the distinctive ethos of our College along with you as you join new communities and take on new responsibilities in your future life.”

Minister Ong encouraged the students to achieve their goals and soar to greater heights. “Your graduation marks the coming of age of the College, as it does the turning of a chapter in your lives. Keep your sense of adventure, fearlessness, and perhaps even some of that youthful foolishness. Live life passionately, and be ready to make a difference. Leave that distinct Yale-NUS mark wherever you might venture,” he said.

Graduation speaker Professor Richard C Levin, Chief Executive Officer of Coursera and President Emeritus of Yale University, congratulated the graduands and paid tribute to their parents for putting their faith in the faculty and the curriculum of the College. “You took a big risk in sending your brilliant and accomplished children to this entirely new enterprise when they had many other college choices. We thank you for your courage and we hope that your confidence in this College has been amply repaid.” he said.

A loud roar from the graduands resonated throughout the hall as Assistant Professor of Social Sciences Anju Mary Paul took to the stage and gave a moving speech on behalf of the College faculty.

In an age where many global issues and uncertainties are present, Dr Paul challenged the students to put the skills learnt during their time at the College to good use. “As you set off into the wider beyond, as you join other organisations, to work, to serve, to learn, to lead, I ask that you bring with you the values, knowledge and skills that you have learnt here. The world needs you. It needs your art, your ideas, your research, your energy and your hope,” she said.

Anshuman Mohan, the Class of 2017 student speaker, brought much comedic relief to his peers as he took them down memory lane. He urged them to cherish the memories created and maintain the audacity, quirkiness and resilience they had displayed as the College’s pioneer batch of students.

After the formal ceremony, there were plenty of selfies, warm hugs, tears and smiles. The College’s very first graduation ceremony marked a major milestone in its history as the community came together to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2017. The students have indeed done Yale-NUS proud and will surely go on to become beacons of the College wherever they go.