The Octant – A Student Voice for a Community of Learning
story | Eduardo Lage-Otero, Former Vice-Rector
photo | Eduardo Lage-Otero, Former Vice-Rector
Around four years ago, Yale-NUS College was something of a blank slate. Although a lot of planning and thought had gone into developing our innovative curriculum and the basic structure of the fledgling institution, student organizations were still in their budding state and the idea of starting a student-run publication was not heard yet in the halls of RC4.
At that time, I had started my tenure as inaugural Vice Rector, working with the incoming students on academic and personal matters. One of my goals was to figure out how to keep them informed of all the things happening around the College in any given week. It was part of my job description to send regular updates to students on all kinds of issues as a way to bridge the gap between different offices and the student body. As I was meeting students and learning about their abilities and achievements, I realized that I could harness their talent to help me with this process of disseminating information. With this idea in mind, I embarked on a quest to select a student who could take on this project. After reviewing several CVs and interviewing the most promising candidates, two students became the clear frontrunners to make this a reality: Joyan Tan ’17 and Spandana Bhattacharya ’17. They had the right combination of experience and drive to create a newsletter that would be useful and appealing to their classmates.
I had no idea whether this project would be successful or not, but from the start I wanted it to be student-driven and student-centered. Joyan and Spandana embraced this task with gusto and they soon launched Panopt to the community as an entirely student-run publication. They would touch base with me from time to time on what their plans were for upcoming issues and share with me some of the challenges that any start-up publication is bound to encounter. But what had started as a way to share information within the College, quickly became – in Joyan and Spandana’s capable hands – the vehicle for students’ voice and perspective at Yale-NUS.
The rest, as they say, is history. Panopt became a staple in our community. It soon outgrew its original, tongue-in-cheek name, and morphed into The Octant, becoming the main source of news for our community. Its remarkable journey parallels that of the Class of 2017. There have been controversies and difficult moments, but the resilience and ingenuity that this group of students has displayed is an inspiration to all of us. What started as a two-student operation, quickly turned into a much larger enterprise that included students from other cohorts and with different perspectives and aspirations. There has been experimentation, crises, reorganizations, successes, failures, and a constant need to take stock of how things are going.
And yet, in spite of all this (or because of this), The Octant has become ever more central to student life within our community. It has been an amazing journey. Joyan and Spandana and all those in the Class of 2017 who contributed to this publication should be very proud of what they accomplished and are now leaving behind. As we reach full capacity and the Residential Colleges become an even more integral part of a student’s life, having this newspaper as the common thread that weaves the student experiences together is key. I look forward to reading this issue and all the issues in the years to come.