Branching Out: Defining Residential Colleges
story Yonatan Gazit
January 1, 2015 marked six months since Sarah Weiss’s long wait began. Hired in April last year, she had been looking forward to what would possibly be the best job ever” for her. “I love the idea of being around so many interesting minds and having the opportunity to help shape their college experience,” she said. At the start of the new year, Mrs. Weiss became Rector of Saga College.
The Rector’s office supports the student community, by hosting and funding events and promoting student well-being. During YaleNUS’s first year-and-a-half, the Rector’s office consisted of a single Rector, Vice-Rector, and Executive. According to Elm College Rector Brian McAdoo, the Rector’s office is now changing to accommodate three Rectors, Vice-Rectors, and Executives, one for each Residential College: Saga, Elm, and Cendana.
Mrs. Weiss’s promotion marks an important step in this ongoing process, said Mr. McAdoo. Professor Derek Heng is expected to officially become Cendana College’s Rector on July 1 this year according to the Yale-NUS Newsroom. As the separation occurs alongside the school’s growth, students and faculty have raised concerns and hopes for the school’s future.
Parag Bhatnagar ’17 says there was little distinction between Residential Colleges during Yale-NUS’s inaugural year. During their orientation, the class of 2017 went to Yale University for three weeks, but during the class of 2018’s orientation each RC went to a different part of Southeast Asia.
Mrs. Weiss said this was deliberate, as the Rector’s office wanted to start distinguishing RCs in anticipation of moving to the new campus, where each RC will have its own building and dining hall. Bhatnagar acknowledged the eventual need to separate Yale-NUS into RCs, yet, “I don’t really see … it being a necessarily good thing for the first two batches, since there aren’t that many of us,” he said.
The physical growth of the student body also plays a role, since it now occupies eight stories of the RC4 building, as opposed to just four last year. Both Bhatnagar and Mr. McAdoo pointed out that last year every student knew each other by name, but with the addition of the 170 students from Class of 2018 this has changed. “As the college continues to grow, this necessitates the college breaking down into [residential] colleges,” Mr. McAdoo said.
The delayed move to the new campus, however, has hindered the full development of ‘Rectorships’. Partly due to space constraints in the current campus, separate rooms for each Rector will only be available in the new campus.
Before each College gets its own building and Rector’s Office, there is “the need to develop not just a college identity and culture, but also the associations and notions of who we are as individual colleges,” Mr. Heng wrote in an email. Nevertheless, the Rectors hope a cooperative environment will develop between the Residential Colleges.