3 September 2019: Yale-NUS Afro Society (YAS) spearheads mentorship programme for students

By Chloe Lim

The Yale-NUS Afro Society. Image by Darren Ang/Yale-NUS College.

Receiving mentorship from industry professionals has always been regarded as a valuable opportunity for students at Yale-NUS, for them to gain insight on the working world and the new culture that comes with it. Students from the Yale-NUS Afro Society (YAS) have been paired with industry mentors under the YAS Mentoring Programme since 2016, receiving invaluable guidance and advice on topics ranging from professional undertakings to navigating life in Singapore.

YAS was set up by a group of students of African descent in October 2016, with the intent of raising awareness of cultural diversity, increasing discussions on relevant socio-political and economic issues and bringing people together for cultural events. Currently, YAS has 11 members and previously organised fashion shows and food-related events like the Jamaican Jerk Festival to share their culture with the wider Yale-NUS community.

The mentorship programme was started by then-President of YAS Waihuini Njoroge (Class of 2020) and Meddley Bourdeau (Class of 2017). There are currently three students and six alumni participating in the programme.

“Many of our members had questions and concerns that related to career aspirations as well as personal challenges which required support only working professionals could provide,” Waihuini shared. This inspired them to collaborate with Sisters in Singapura (SIS), an organisation in Singapore that supports women and their families, and reach out to people who would best serve as mentors, from various sectors spanning from law and consulting to business and finance.

“Given that YAS is predominantly composed of international students who are of African descent, our intention was to ensure that participants of the programme would have the opportunity to learn firsthand about building a career in Singapore, on top of knowing how to navigate more personal situations that are unique to people of African descent,” added Waihuini.

Waihuini developed a positive relationship with her mentor through the programme, who was a corporate lawyer by training. Even though Waihuini was more focused on developing a career in finance and consulting, her mentor was able to connect her to people from different sectors such as finance, consulting, and business development, to help her in her career development and with more technical sector-specific advice.

“One of my favourite parts of our programme is that we would come up with timelines and plans of the specific goals and objectives that I would like to accomplish during the semester,” she shared. “At every stage, she would always ask me how she could be of help, and what role she could play to support me wholly.”

“Our vision for the programme has been to foster genuine relationships that go beyond Yale-NUS, between our members and these professionals.”

Waihuini Njoroge (Class of 2020) co-founded the YAS Mentoring Programme in 2016. Image by Darren Ang/Yale-NUS College.

Another participant of this programme was Haroun Chahed (Class of 2020). His mentor, John Okoro, was educated in computer science, law and business, and is experienced in working in startups and the corporate and public sectors. Mr Okoro played a great role in moulding Haroun’s career and education decisions.

“John was very helpful in advising me on my career and academic choices through the programme, where his guidance helped me navigate the workspace successfully over my summer internship at Oliver Wyman as a consulting intern,” Haroun said.

The Mathematical, Computational and Statistical Sciences (MCS) major feels that he has “benefitted immensely from this programme,” as he received professional exposure and guidance in a wide array of fields from Mr Okoro.

“Being mentored by John is a great privilege, and I am glad that YAS students have access to this programme as an invaluable resource,” he said.

Moving forward, YAS intends to recruit more participants as sophomores transition into their junior year, to provide them with a platform to gain both professional and personal advice from seasoned professionals living in Singapore.