8 September 2017: Student Associate Programme offers students professional experience through on-campus employment

Text and images by Yasunari Watanabe 

On the Yale-NUS College campus, students have the opportunity to gain work experience through a variety of roles, from assisting in research to conducting campus tours. Yale-NUS students can seek employment on campus through the Student Associate Programme (SAP), which offers employment in the form of work attachments with faculty members and staff departments.

According to Programme Manager (Leadership and Global Citizenship) at Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE), Ms Zhana Sandeva, the SAP aims to provide students with professional work exposure to help them clarify their interests. It also builds the soft skills of professionalism, such as time management, reliability and effective communication. “We hope that the experience will be fulfilling for the students and bring them the satisfaction of contributing to the College’s mission,” she added. CIPE is the intermediary for students seeking employment as well as for faculty and staff who wish to hire student associates.

Some roles, which are specific to an academic field, give hands-on experience to  student associates who assist in faculty research.

Yejin Park (Class of 2019) worked with Assistant Professor of Economics Lei Yu-Hsiang, to collect data on 62 oil-producing nations to better understand how oil revenue affects a country’s potential for war involvement. In another project for Assistant Professor of Economics Xia Xing, she gathered data from Chinese water utility websites, and compared Chinese water quality against global standards. “Given that both studies were in their early stages, I got a glimpse of what real research was,” said Yejin. “It’s like being a detective with a set of incomplete tools and trying to piece the clues together to shed light on a mystery.”

After consistent research work, many student associates acquire essential research and professional skills that could prove useful after graduation. “It bodes well for students who aim to go to graduate school or take on challenging positions early in their career,” said Ms Sandeva.

Other types of student associate roles include building specific professional skills such as work as graphic designers, campus tour guides and library assistants.

Nirali Desai (Class of 2020) is a student associate at the President’s Office. Besides being involved in the office’s engagements with College donors and external partners, she also emcees donor events and gives campus tours occasionally. Other duties include writing articles and assisting in administrative matters for ad-hoc events.

Nirali took on the job because she was excited about meeting people in the President’s Office. “I feel that it is a very influential space,” she said. “It’s fun to meet people who are interested in this school and are genuinely curious about it.”

The College benefits greatly from students like Nirali representing the institution. “We appreciate these connections greatly because they enable our visitors to witness how passionate and welcoming our student community is,” said Ms Sandeva.

Khang Huynh (Class of 2020) holds two student associate positions. As the manager of the Saga College Buttery, he oversees the operations of the student-run eatery that offers late night suppers and a place to hang out in the evenings. He fulfils multiple roles that range from cooking to the shopping of groceries.

The buttery is where Khang further develops his passion for cooking. “I used the kitchen a lot back at my old school hostel,” said Khang. “I discovered that cooking was very therapeutic and I have kept going at it ever since.” When he saw the buttery position listed on the CIPE website in August last year, he wasted no time in applying for the position.

Khang happily added that his signature dish is Nutella toast, as he describes, “I toast two pieces of bread until they are crunchy. I spread a layer of butter before applying plenty of Nutella. I then sandwich the pieces of bread, put two berries on top and then make a smiley face with some chocolate syrup. Everyone who has eaten it loves it!” he said.

Khang is also a social media student associate in the Admissions and Financial Aid department where he provides ideas and content for the department’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. He works in a team of four student associates who plan and post content throughout the year. They also analyse the social media engagement on both platforms every week.

“The team is super supportive and we work very closely together,” said Khang.

Although he was initially uncertain about finding a balance between his assignments and his student associate responsibilities, he said that his supervisor imparted many important skills to him and always provided constructive feedback. “I have learnt a lot and it turned out to be quite manageable,” he said.

Other than the social media team, the Admissions and Financial Aid department also have student associates who work in the video production and tours and outreach teams. The video production team films and edits video content while the tours and outreach team leads campus tours and participates in outreach events at local schools.

Mr Kong Delin, a Senior Admissions Counsellor in the department, said that the students’ perspectives are an important asset to rely upon whenever the department reaches out to prospective students.  “Prospective students have reflected that interacting with current Yale-NUS students are important touchpoints for them to understand the College better during their application process,” he explained.

He added, “We hope to impart skills related to working in a professional setting so that the student associates learn how to work in a professional team and gain confidence in a workplace setting.”