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Outside the Common Course

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story May Tay

Academic Choices
Playing with our options. (Pareen Chaudhari)

About three to four times a week, Anshuman Mohan ’17 rides his bike or takes the shuttle to the National University of Singapore’s School of Computing. This semester, he is enrolled in four courses, two at Yale-NUS College and another two at NUS.

Like Mohan, many students at Yale-NUS take up alternative academic options such as a 2 Modular Credit (MC) module, an independent study module, or an NUS elective. Some students also choose to overload with these courses or with another standard 5MC course at Yale-NUS. Why do students take up these options? Is the popularity of these alternative options a healthy sign or a cause for concern?

Most students interviewed cite academic interest for choosing options outside of the standard electives. “To some extent, I’ve always wanted to [take classes at NUS] … It is a great place with really good courses that are available to [Yale-NUS students],” shared Mohan. He chose his NUS courses on Software Engineering and Database Systems to look into specific fields within Computer Science. He is also taking another programming elective at Yale-NUS.

Other students highlighted the lack of standard electives at Yale-NUS that cater to their specific interests. Herbin Koh ’17 is taking a class on Investment and Portfolio Management at the NUS School of Business. There are currently no finance electives offered at Yale-NUS. On the limited course options, Koh said, “[That’s] the inevitable result of having such a diverse student body, which is why it’s great we can take classes at NUS too.”

Evannia Handoyo ’17, on the other hand, is taking two separate 2MC independent study courses on Shakespearean works and musical theatre with Yale-NUS professors this semester to explore her specific academic interests in those fields.

Among the standard 5MC courses offered this semester, enrollment figures for classes range from one student to more than twenty. On whether this range represents an efficient allocation of resources, Saga College Vice Rector Eduardo Lage-Otero noted that a similar dynamic can be found at every college.

Elm College Vice Rector Suyin Chew also noted that low enrollment figures in a class do not necessarily imply low interest. She suggested that timetable clashes could have prevented students from enrolling in all their top choices, leading some to choose alternative options that provide a similar experience. “Also, if you don’t offer a class, how will you know whether there is interest?” she added.

All the students interviewed for this article acknowledged the fact that Yale-NUS is a new college and are optimistic about changes to come. Yale-NUS currently faces space and time constraints, but as the college expands into the new campus and hires more professors, more 5MC electives in niche interests will be offered. Sean Saito ’17, who has taken a 2MC module and NUS electives, pointed out that the option to take the 2MC classes and electives at NUS represents “a good show of flexibility [on YaleNUS’ part]”.

Until this point, the faculty has primarily taught common curriculum classes instead of electives. That said, “this is only the third semester electives are being offered, and we don’t have enough data yet to make conclusions. We just have to monitor the situation,” said Mr. Lage-Otero.

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