Two new Rectors appointed at Yale-NUS College

2 April 2014

Unique fully residential living and learning undergraduate experience taking shape

Yale-NUS College has appointed two new Rectors, Professors Derek Heng and Sarah Weiss. They will join the inaugural Rector, Professor Brian G McAdoo, in shaping the community of learning at the College. In the new Yale-NUS campus, which is currently under construction, each Rector will take up residence in one Residential College, where they will oversee the culture and social activities for the students living there. Yale-NUS freshmen will be assigned a Residential College, each with its own identity within the Yale-NUS community.

One of Yale-NUS College’s distinct qualities is the close-knit residential community where all students live and study on campus throughout their four-year education at the College. This unique model of residential living and learning, a first in Asia, will see interactions between students and faculty members extending beyond the classrooms. For example, in the College’s Dining Hall, students eat meals and interact with their Rectors, faculty and peers. In the spirit of fostering leaning outside of the classroom, academic discussions that begin in class can continue over mealtimes and even after school hours.

“Our College is creating a unique culture for our students to learn, live and engage with their peers and the faculty, not just in the classrooms, but also in communal settings, creating lively exchanges of ideas and opinions. We aim to equip our students with the means to think critically, inquire endlessly and pursue beliefs passionately. I believe that our two new Rectors, along with Rector McAdoo, will continue to build on this foundation and truly make a difference to our students’ undergraduate experience,” President Pericles Lewis said.

Associate Professor of Humanities Derek Heng, a graduate of the National University of Singapore, recently returned from Ohio State University, where he was an Associate Professor of History (Southeast and Maritime Asia). This will be the first time Professor Heng is serving as Rector and he is looking forward to this new challenge of creating a residential college model that is unique to Yale-NUS.

“I would like to see the college be a vibrant environment that encourages the construction and preservation of heritage and social memories, a place where the arts at all levels can be produced and appreciated, and where both intellectual and spiritual contemplations can take place,” Professor Heng said.

A former residential fellow for Calhoun College at Yale University from 2010 – 2013, Associate Professor of Humanities Sarah Weiss has much experience to share with the students both in and out of the classroom, from organising Master’s Teas to advising students on courses and plans. Since joining the Yale-NUS faculty in 2013, she has added vibrancy to residential life by organising music events open to the College community, such as a workshop conducted by a visiting Hindustani musician, and by starting an after-hours a cappella group, The Lecture Notes, comprising Yale-NUS faculty and staff.

“We need to find ways to make our colleges unique: residential learning and living experiences that can only be had in Singapore,” Professor Weiss said. “This will involve engaging with national and regional figures, of course, and also with NUS faculty and the families of our students from around the world. Without doubt, however, the most important influences in creating our unique college experience will be the ideas that spring from the minds, energy and spirit of our amazing students.”


Derek Heng
Associate Professor of Humanities

Professor Derek Heng obtained his PhD (Southeast Asian Studies [History]) from the University of Hull in 2005 and specialises in the trans-regional history (pre-modern) of Maritime Asia, with an emphasis on the Maritime Southeast Asia-South China Sea-Bay of the Bengal nexus. Professor Heng, who also sits on the National Heritage Board, has a keen interest in the historiography of Singapore’s past and the internationalisation of Singapore’s history. He authored the book Sino-Malay Trade and Diplomacy from the Tenth through the Fourteenth Century (Ohio University Press) in 2009. For his research, Professor Heng has been awarded the Isaac Manasseh Fellowship, Asia Research Institute Summer Sabbatical Fellowship and Lee Kong Chian Senior Research Fellowship. He is currently working on how archaeological materials such as ceramics can be used as a means of developing ethnicity markers of societies in the past.

Sarah Weiss
Associate Professor of Humanities

Professor Sarah Weiss holds a PhD in Music (with Distinction and Winner of Dean’s Dissertation Award 1998) from New York University. She examines issues of postcoloniality, hybridity, gender, and aesthetics in her writing and teaching. Professor Weiss is currently finishing a second book entitled Ritual Soundings: Women Performers and World Religions and working on a project that examines the oft-heard and  puzzling comment that ‘Singapore has no culture of its own’, with particular attention to performance cultures. During the mid-semester break in October 2013, Professor Weiss led a group of Yale-NUS students to Central Java to examine two different realisations of the Ramayana – bas-reliefs on a temple, a Wayang Wong dance performance and a Wayang Kulit, a shadow puppet performance. These performances brought the Ramayana to life for the students, creating an embodied, sensory experience that added layers of significance to the familiar themes while enhancing the experience of reading texts.


11 Jun 2019: Outdated links have been removed.