Story | Dave Chappell, Executive Editor
Photo | Dave Chappell and Yale-NUS Public Affairs
On July 29, 2017, the Yale-NUS College campus came alive with the familiar sound of students dragging luggage to their rooms. These students were the Class of 2021, Yale-NUS’s fifth cohort, arriving for their orientation.
The Class of 2021 consists of 248 students—Yale-NUS’s largest intake yet—bringing Yale-NUS’s total number of students to 826. This brings the college close to its steady state target of admitting 250 students each year. They boast an acceptance rate (7%) similar to past cohorts.
The Class of 2021 is also the most diverse intake, in terms of the number of nationalities. This year’s intake heralds from 45 different countries and, for the first time, features students from Uzbekistan and Paraguay, among others. Like previous intakes, the largest pool of students are Singaporean, with India, the US, China and South Korea having the strongest international representation. Dean’s Fellow (DF) Christopher Tee ’17 said he was excited to see how the diversity of perspectives would trickle down into both residential life and into the classroom.
Like previous cohorts, the Class of 2021 includes the siblings of current and former Yale-NUS students. Boden Franklin ’21 follows in the footsteps of Anne Caroline (Kei) Franklin ’17, after he was “encouraged by [her] transformative experience at Yale-NUS.” He said he wanted to attend a college that would push his cultural and social comfort zone, incorporate non-Western-centric perspectives and support academic study with experiential education.
The sentiments were echoed by other members of the Class of 2021. Yao Sifan (Stacy) ’21 said that she thought Yale-NUS was “a great combination of Western liberal arts education and Eastern culture.” She added that she hoped the curriculum would help her gain a critical understanding of the world.
Other students cited different reasons for studying at Yale-NUS. Muhammad Faris Bin Joraimi ’21 said he was looking forward to experiencing the Common Curriculum, while Wong Cai Jie (Jay) ’21 said she was attracted by the College’s diversity and bold initiatives.
Yale-NUS Director of Admissions, Laura Severin, said that she was thrilled that the students had found Yale-NUS to be the right fit for them. “The drive and passion for learning that we have seen in the incoming class, combined with their diverse skills and experiences, will enrich the lively exchanges of ideas in the Yale-NUS community of learning,” she said.
The Class of 2021 is also the first cohort to have Residential College Advisers (RCAs): upper-class students who will be a support system for first-year students. The role is intended as a substitute for the existing DF role, which is occupied by recent graduates of other universities and is slowly being phased out.
This year each RCA will be responsible for a group of 12-15 first-year students, a role previously occupied by the DFs. According to Tee, the DFs now support the first-years in a more secondary fashion as by presenting themselves as guides and resources to the RCAs, who in turn are guides and resources to the Class of 2021. The RCAs joined the DFs for half of their pre-orientation training and accompanied the new students on their RCX trip, where the new joiners visit neighboring countries with their Residential College (RC).
Evan Ma ’18, an RCA, spoke highly of both the incoming Class and the RCA experience. He said he really liked their “measuredness, energy and spirit” and that it had been fantastic to experience orientation and the RCX trips with them.
As Yale-NUS approaches full capacity, its orientation program is becoming more solidified. Timothy Goh ’18, an Orientation Group Leader (OGL) in 2017 and 2015, said that the tone “was more serious, institutionalised, and individual-focused than previous years.” Tee echoed similar sentiments, stating that the programming was much more intentional.
For the first time all the RCs travelled to the same destinations as those in the previous year for their RCX trips: Saga College to Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Elm College to Surabaya, Indonesia; and Cendana College to Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.
In line with this, the orientation program has been spaced out and some old orientation initiatives have been scaled back in size. The Centre for International and Professional Experiences (CIPE) Urban Solo now is conducted entirely on the Yale-NUS campus, in contrast to previous years when it spanned Singapore.
Similarly, the Amazing Race, which was a two-day orienteering race around Singapore in previous years, has been substituted by a set of Orientation Games. The Games lasted for one day, with no points being awarded for speed of completion.The Race has been rebranded from Amaze in 2016 to Flight 21 in 2017, and no longer features skits or flag-making. Still, RCs still competed for the Orientation Cup—with Cendana winning it for the third year running.
|Orientation Year||Orientation Cup Winner|
The tone has also changed to reflect the more intentional focus. Orientation this year was focussed on four key questions: “Who am I?,” “Who am I and who am I here with?”, “Who are we and what is this community?”, and “Why am I here?”
The response to the changes in programming from those interviewed was mixed. Goh said it made for a slightly more rigid and less community-focussed orientation experience, while Tee said that the mandatory sessions, “coupled with less ‘compulsory’ social time allows for more agency on the student’s part.” Ma added that he thought that “this orientation is one of the best-run orientations I’ve seen.”
Still, all of those interviewed agreed that the orientation was all about the first-years’ experience. Goh said, “The proudest moment an OGL can experience is not their RC winning the Orientation Cup, but seeing their freshmen bond and gel together without them having to step in.”
The Class of 2021 was officially welcomed on 11 August with their First Year Assembly.
How does the Class of 2021 compare to previous intakes?
|Class of 2017||Class of 2018||Class of 2019||Class of 2020||Class of 2021|
|Number of Nationalities||26||35||26||40||45|