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story Yonatan Gazit | May Tay
Two weeks before classes began for the sophomores at Yale-NUS, seven Yale professors made the trip halfway around the globe from New Haven to Singapore. They were here to visit the Yale-NUS and NUS campuses, as well as to teach mini-courses for the Class of 2017. These classes lasted from August 6–14, and their diversity was evident in titles ranging from ‘How to Find an Asteroid’ to ‘Reimagining Bruce Lee: A Writing Workshop’ and ‘The Moralities of Everyday Life’.
The courses were created to strengthen Yale-NUS’s connection with one of its two parent colleges, Yale University. “One of the things we’ve been concerned about all along is making sure we take good advantage of the resources of both our parent institutions, Yale and NUS. With NUS, partnerships can happen more conveniently and almost automatically because we are just across the bridge. With Yale, we need to put in some extra effort,” Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn said.
These courses were exciting for both the students and professors involved. Natalie Tan ’17, who attended Professor Rick Prum’s course on the ‘The Evolution of Beauty’, elaborated, “It was inspiring to meet someone so passionate and dedicated to something. [Professor Prum] was telling us that he has been an avid bird watcher since he was eight… and he has kept the excitement ever since.”
Christian Go ’17 said that Professor Guiseppe Mazzotta taught him a lot in his short course, ‘Dante’s Divine Comedy’. “I thought we would be doing a lot of the things we did during LitHum, such as close reading and text analyses…but what enriched our experience was Professor Mazzotta’s expertise as an Italian Studies scholar. He really emphasised the context of the Comedy,” he said.
The professors, too, were impressed. “[The students] so outperformed my expectations that it stunned me on a daily basis. They were wildly inventive,” Professor Matthew Polly, who taught ‘Reimagining Bruce Lee: A Writing Workshop’, said. “One student did a mock tabloid interview, another a screenplay where Bruce Lee didn’t die, and yet another a musical. One…decided to write a brilliant rap song from Bruce’s perspective. And as if that wasn’t enough, he then laid down the track with a vocal assist from his classmate.”
Some students, however, felt the courses could have been better executed. “The course was structured and taught haphazardly; it tried to cover too long a timeline and too much ground…Professors should take into account the fact that it’s a short course—6 days—and focus on specific content or themes,” Toh Hui Ran ’17 said.
Overall, the courses were a learning experience for all members of the college, be it students, faculty, staff or visitors of the college. Tan agrees, “I do feel like it was less of a course and more of an engaging experience.”