story | Justin Ong ’19
photo | Enkhzul Badral ’17
When I first matriculated back in 2015, my initial instinct was not to explore new experiences and passions. It was to gravitate back to old ones and develop them further. That is why I joined The Octant, and only The Octant. I attended weekly meetings and wrote article after article. I didn’t question the origins of the organization at the time, and just happily went with the flow. One thing led to another, and I found myself staying on in the organization through my first and second, now approaching my third year.
I worked closely with then Editor-in-Chief, David Chappell ’18 and Enkhzul Badral ’17, the Outgoing Managing Editor, over the past two semesters. Though there were always challenges to overcome, the structures were already in place to ensure we didn’t have to bend over backwards too much. There was a salient style guide, an interview guide, a pitching template and a hierarchical structure to fall back on. It only occurred to me sometime last semester that The Octant used to be called Panopt, when David made an offhand comment about it during a meeting. It took me a few more months to find out that there were once interviews one had to pass to become members of the organization, and that Panopt used to be an academic newsletter. When I signed up, I took the existence of the organization as a given, like the showerheads in the Yale-NUS College suites or the projectors in the classrooms. But then again, even those aren’t exactly givens!
The graduation issue is a celebration of the initiative of the Class of 2017, and the drive they had when the college was nothing but faculty, classrooms and residences. They had dreams that were as ambitious as the College’s—if not more so. They took a chance, and entered the college not as passive recipients of an education, but instead as active builders; one conversation, one meeting, one organisation at a time. There were Joyan Tan ’17 and Spandana Bhattacharya ’17, who had the vision to establish the first autonomous student-run publication. It might have been an incomplete vision at first, but it was a vision nonetheless.
As you can already imagine, it was not all smooth sailing. The Class of 2017 had to re-adjust their expectations at every juncture, and learned that great aspirations do not necessarily lead to great outcomes. There were plans that had to be cut short, various relationships that were strained and many questions asked of the College in its early days. But they were humble in accepting the struggles and resilient in overcoming them. By the end of their time in College, the Class of 2017 did more than just fill the classrooms; they gave future students like me the opportunity to explore further and deeper than they ever had themselves.
As the Class of 2017 graduate, The Octant wishes them all the best. We say this acknowledging that things have come full circle, that the tree the Class of 2017 planted has grown and bore fruit, casting a pleasant shade over the festivities today. As pleasant as the shade is, the college cannot grow complacent, but must continue to strive for more. There are many things students can do for the Class of 2017 in this period. They can write encouraging notes, make great videos, or put together a graduation issue like The Octant is doing now. But the greatest thing students can possibly do is to continue their legacy, their tenacity to explore and create. Do that, and Yale-NUS will have an identity it can always be proud of.
Thank you, Class of 2017, for all you’ve done to build this institution, and the tools you’ve left us with to continue your good work.
Good night and joy be with you all,