By Melissa Wang | Image by Aleithia Low
Since its inception, Yale-NUS College has placed great emphasis on building up a strong team of faculty who are committed to both research and undergraduate teaching. To augment existing efforts to strengthen the tenure process and faculty development, the College has appointed a new Associate Dean of Faculty (Faculty Development), Professor Joanne Roberts.
Strengthening the tenure process and focusing on faculty promotion have been the key areas of concern for the senior members of Academic Affairs such as Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) Tan Tai Yong and Dean of Faculty Steven Bernasek, who have both previously highlighted that this would be a key focus for the College in the coming years.
The appointment of Professor Roberts is testament to the efforts towards this direction. In this new role at the College, Professor Roberts will assist Professor Bernasek in overseeing the process of annual reviews, tenure, and promotion for Yale-NUS faculty.
An academic tenure offers faculty a permanent post, as opposed to a contract position. A common practice among universities worldwide, untenured or junior faculty members are typically considered for tenure after about six years.
As the College moves closer towards this six year mark, the focus on academic tenure will cater to the needs of many of the younger faculty members within the College who have come onboard in the last four to five years.
Formerly a visiting professor at Yale-NUS College and Canada Research Chair in the Economics of Organizations at the University of Calgary, Professor Roberts shared that her focus in her role will be two-pronged:
“On the more institutional end, I will be working with the Dean of Faculty to coordinate and process promotion and tenure files, and ensure our process is clear and efficient with the highest levels of integrity and credibility,” Professor Roberts shared.
“On the more faculty-facing end, I look towards helping to demystify our process of tenure and promotion, and mentor faculty through their academic careers more broadly,” she added.
Barely months into her new role, Professor Roberts has already begun a process of consultation with faculty, focusing on faculty development, mentoring and progression through the ranks.
“I’m impressed with their [the faculty’s] energy, the innovative research, and the commitment to the College that my colleagues have, and I’m excited to work with them,” she revealed.
Professor Roberts herself is a noteworthy addition to the faculty of Yale-NUS College, helping to boost the standings of the College in the world of academia. The noted economist has served as a member of the executive of the Canadian Economic Association, President of the Canadian Economics Women’s Network, and co-editor of the Canadian Journal of Economics. She is also a previous winner of the Polanyi research prize.
On the structure of the faculty working in one of three broad divisions at the College, as opposed to the traditional academic departments that Professor Roberts is used to, she shared that this is the first time she has been in a larger inter-disciplinary unit, and that it is “the most exciting and intellectually engaging environment” she has ever been in.
“Every day, I encounter research that is new to me, not only in terms of research questions, but also in terms of approach and method. It is hard to imagine that such a challenging and thought-provoking environment isn’t going to affect the way I approach my own work and the assumptions of my own discipline of economics,” she reflected.
In July this year, Professor Roberts will also be taking over the leadership of the Division of Social Science from Professor Jane Jacobs, who will be stepping down from the position.
“Jane has been a tireless advocate and really visionary leader for the Division. Hers will be very hard shoes to fill,” Professor Roberts said.
She added: “Under her leadership, the Division has grown to be large and popular with seven different majors and many students. I hope to continue what she has begun, building not only deep disciplinary strength in our research areas and academic programmes but also finding ways to facilitate engagement across those disciplinary lines, to take full advantage of the synergies that are available to us as a division instead of a department.”
Professor Roberts is joined by her husband, Associate Professor Eugene Choo, who himself is a widely-published economist.
She shared the process of making the joint decision to join Yale-NUS College:
“We spent a year here as visitors and loved the experience, interacting with such a dynamic, exciting, and very welcoming group of colleagues. We were amazed at the energy, diversity and engagement of the students, the thoughtfulness of the curriculum, and the breadth of research interests,” she noted.
“I think we both love the idea of being part of the Yale-NUS experience, being part of building a new, innovative community here. We also both love Singapore and Asia, and are excited to raise our family here.”