9 July 2014: 15 new Dean’s Fellows arrive at Yale-NUS College

Written by Clare Isabel Ee 

With just a few short weeks left to the start of a fresh academic year, 15 new Dean’s Fellows (DFs) have checked in to Residential College 4, and are busy forming fast friendships and building a powerful group dynamic along with three of the inaugural Dean’s Fellows, Ng Yin Ling, Sara Amjad and Vanessa Kim.

In total, the 18 DFs are from 10 colleges worldwide, while the 15 new DFs’ mix of different ethnicities and nationalities reflect the diverse student body. They are all brimming with anticipation, and bring to the College a variety of creative ideas that could be implemented. Nishant Jalgaonkar, who recently graduated from NUS, suggested developing a schedule for meals when each individual brings or cooks food from their ethnic background.

“I was missing home a lot [as an undergraduate] and I think it’s going to be as similar experience for not only the first year students, but also the second years. Focusing on the theme of ‘home’, it can be anything from sharing stories to sharing cultural events, festivities, food (I love food!), just so that you have a chance to connect back and share your home with everyone else,” he said.

Anh Vo from Yale University, spoke about a college-wide activity that was popular during her freshman year, called ‘Lunch Tag’.

“It’s like a competition,” she explained. “You sign up, and randomly pair people together, so those two people have to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner together, and you have to take a picture in the dining hall where you eat. You meet a new person after every meal and if you have the most number of meals, you win! In the end, everyone wins because you just get to meet so many people.”

For others, like Daniel Gordon, it’s a broader focus on the general direction the College is heading in. “Moving into the new campus, which will be the campus for the foreseeable future, is really exciting to think about, and I am excited to think more about and talk to my fellow Dean’s Fellows and students about how to make it a home. While the architects have designed it to work really well as a college, making it a home will need touches from the students, faculty and everyone in the College community.”

DFs can play many roles over the course of their term, mainly in their capacity as mentors to the young student body. All the DFs are recent graduates fresh from their own college experiences, so they are in the perfect position to advise Yale-NUS students on starting new Yale-NUS College traditions, enriching residential life, and lending support to budding student organisations and interest groups.

Last year, the first class of students had 12 DFs living and learning with them on their College experience. Similarly this year, each of the new DFs has ideas on what they would like to create or at Yale-NUS College, and it looks to be an exciting year for all the sophomores and new first years.

Words of Wisdom from our new DFs

“I think because it’s a new college, there’s probably a lot of pressure, and you see a lot of people starting a lot of clubs and trying to be trailblazers, but by making the decision to be in the class, you’re already a trailblazer. If it takes you a little extra time to find the specific area that you want to lead in, that’s okay. You can do it in your second or third year. Don’t feel pressured just because everyone is starting his or her own club. To the sophomores: because I’ve been in an inaugural class before, it’s going to feel a little bit awkward to welcome a new class after spending a year building a new community and traditions. But it’s awesome that you have new people, and you should step aside and let them take over a little bit, make their own traditions, and it’s also a year for you to do more for yourself than just building the college.”
— Caroline Manela, NYU Abu Dhabi
“For me, there’s only so much they can learn in the classroom, so just making sure that they become involved outside the classroom, in some shape or form, whether it’s through community service, community engagement, or in a club, a sport or whatever, just being involved in some form where they can develop some sort of group and leadership skills…Just helping students understand that there is a merit to your academic studies but there is also a merit to doing things that would help you become a leader and build character, and be a better person in general.”
— Emeka Ojukwu, Amherst College
“Acknowledge your vulnerabilities, your strengths and weaknesses and the amount of resources you have. Learn to say yes to the things that you’re not confident in, but learn to say no to things when things are impossible. A lot of times, we push ourselves to adhere to stereotypes, but I think it’s important to have self-esteem and the confidence to say ‘no’ and ‘this is who I am’, and stand for your own values even though the crowd isn’t in agreement or it’s not what the professors say. Be brave! If you need help, talk to us.”
— Erin Cher, NUS
“Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. It’s really easy to fall into a group, and say this is who I am and these are who my friends are, and in the reality of it, you have such a short time to explore everything here at your college. Ultimately, the people who succeed most at College are the people willing to take that class that they may not ace, or go on a random lunch and meet someone completely new. Make as many friends as possible, and realize that you may not be the best at everything – just because you may struggle and fail doesn’t mean that you didn’t learn anything from it.”
— Jacob Butts, Williams College
“Don’t spread yourself too thin and be mindful of what you’re saying yes to. You only have so many hours in a day and there’s just so much you can do during those hours, so choose what you’re passionate about, choose the amount of time you need to spend in academic contexts, in social contexts, personal contexts, and don’t lose sight of the things you need to do for yourself to be balanced…You’re going to feel guilty for maybe not doing things, especially in such a close-knit, social environment, you’re going to feel bad that you’re letting people down, that you cannot do things that you’re not hurting their feelings if you need time for yourself.”
— Regina Markle, Quest University
“The thing I’m really excited about is about building pride within each of the residential colleges, because I know that is something that’s lacking right now. There’s a whole spirit of togetherness, which is think is really great but I think it would also be really interesting to see the development and competition between all the residential colleges. It would be cool to see them create their own identities.”
— Salma Dali, Yale University