story | Pham Le Vi, Justin Ong

photo | Yale-NUS College Website

On 14 March 2017, the Governing Board of Yale-NUS College named Tan Tai Yong, Yale-NUS’s current Executive Vice-President (Academic Affairs), as the new President of Yale-NUS College. Madam Kay Kuok, Chair of the Governing Board, announced this news to the roaring applause of students and faculty who packed the Performance Hall.

The Governing Board unanimously elected Mr. Tan Tai Yong after a seven-month long global search led by the Presidential Search Committee. The committee was co-chaired by Richard C. Levin, President Emeritus of Yale University, and Tan Chorh Chuan, President of the National University of Singapore (NUS).

According to Mr. Levin, the committee had intensely interviewed around half a dozen candidates. “[But] in the end, we concluded that the best candidate was right here,” he said. Peter Salovey, President of Yale University, also added: “It seems right that we have the first two presidents coming from our founding universities.”

In his speech to students and faculty, Mr. Levin said the committee wanted someone who is passionate about the distinctive mission of the college, especially the Common Curriculum. He said that the committee was impressed by Mr. Tan Tai Yong’s determination to “ensure that nothing dilutes the programs that set this College apart, and make it distinctive and more consequential than other liberal arts colleges today.”

Mr. Tan Chorh Chuan said that the committee was helped by input from the students, faculty and staff of Yale-NUS on what they wanted from the next president. “Students shared that they would like a president who is approachable, present, and who cared deeply about them and their educational experience,” Mr. Tan Chorh Chuan said. He also said that he was “happy that in [Mr. Tan] Tai Yong, we have a President who fully encompasses all these qualities.”

Mr. Levin also said that the committee wanted to recruit a President who was “a proven and effective academic leader”. Before coming to Yale-NUS, Mr. Tan Tai Yong was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at NUS and Vice-Provost for Student Life at NUS from 2010 to 2014.

In addition, Mr. Levin added that the committee was impressed by Mr. Tan Tai Yong’s commitment to maintaining Yale-NUS as an autonomous institution while strengthening ties with its parent universities.

He said that Mr. Tan Tai Yong is well suited to maintain a strong relationship with NUS since he “knows the NUS systems and personnel well and can represent the College effectively across the [NUS] campus”. This has become even more important as Mr. Tan Chorh Chuan, who has been the “guardian angel” of the College and helped the College navigate many challenges, will be assuming a new role in Singapore next year. Mr Tan Tai Yong has also been an effective advocate for the College with the Ministry of Education, Mr. Levin said.

Mr. Levin also said that Mr. Tan Tai Yong enjoys the respect of many colleagues at Yale; together with Mr. Lewis who will return to Yale as Vice President for Global Strategy and Deputy Provost for International Affairs, Mr. Tan Tai Yong will able able to strengthen the bonds with Yale, he said.

In his speech, Mr. Salovey announced several initiatives to deepen the relationship between Yale-NUS and Yale. There will be an increase in the number of places available for Yale-NUS students for semester abroad in Yale at New Haven and for Yale College summer sessions. In addition, Yale will be discounting the tuition charged for both term-time and summer students. Yale-NUS faculty can also spend one-semester or one-year sabbatical in New Haven.  

Mr Tan Tai Yong was then introduced to the stage by Mdm Kuok to a standing ovation. In his speech, he said he “humbly accept[s] this privilege to lead the college in its next phase of development and growth.” Touching on his vision for Yale-NUS, he said that the “audacity and gumption to face the challenges of an increasingly volatile and uncertain world” is “the resilience that must characterise [Yale-NUS] students.” He also said that “we must not be complacent […] we must not lose that desire to go beyond, to exceed ourselves.”

On the topic of Yale-NUS’s relations with its founding institutions, Mr Tan Tai Yong expressed his appreciation for Mr Salovey’s commitment to Yale-NUS, and also said that he “will continue to broaden and deepen [Yale-NUS’s] engagement with New Haven”. Given his past engagement with NUS, Mr Tan Tai Yong also said that he “knows NUS well, and will work to strengthen ties with the Colleges in UTown, as well as the schools and departments across the bridge.”

“[Yale-NUS is] a community of learning, founded by two great universities,” said Mr. Tan Tai Yong. “The continued involvement and support from Yale and NUS will make the College distinctive and strong.”

Mr. Tan Tai Yong will take office on 1 July 2017.

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