Saturday, August 20, 2022

A Conversation with Rector Steven Bernasek, Rector of Cendana College 2019-2022

Genevieve Soh
Genevieve Soh, ‘24, is a student writer in Cendana. A starry-eyed storyteller, she loves seeking beauty in everything and transforming these discoveries into words.

Story | Genevieve Soh (she/her), Staff Reporter 

Photos | Steven Bernasek

It was a heartfelt moment on the afternoon of January 12 this year when esteemed Professor and Rector of Cendana College, Steven Lynn Bernasek, sent the students of Yale-NUS College an email titled “My Retirement.” In the email, Rector Steven announced his upcoming retirement as of June 30, 2022. Serving as Cendana’s Rector for the past three years, and as a Professor of Science (Chemistry) since joining Yale-NUS in 2015, Rector Steven holds a special place in the hearts of the Yale-NUS community. The announcement of his next milestone was met with overwhelming responses of warmth, well-wishes, and sweet sentiments from everyone. 

The Octant held an interview with Rector Steven in commemoration of his journey with Yale-NUS through these years. Here are some precious thoughts and words from the heart that Rector Steven would like to share with the staff and students of Yale-NUS:

What’s a really endearing memory from your time as the Cendana Rector that you hold close to your heart? 

“Start of Sem and End of Sem dinners, especially the group photos with students.”

Having been with Yale-NUS all these years, which three words would you use to describe/represent your overall journey at Yale-NUS, and why? 

“Exciting: The excitement of starting something new in my career. The excitement of the start of each semester and the return to classes.

Challenging: The variety of interesting problems to solve in various administrative roles. The uniqueness of the challenges in the context of starting up curricula, laboratories, and procedures.

Colleagues: The support of my colleagues in carrying out my work here, particularly my research fellows and students in my laboratory. Also my faculty colleagues who share a dedication to the idea and goals of Yale-NUS College.”

Rector Bernasek in the courtyard of ‘Pulau Cendana’.

What is one word you would use to describe the students and staff of Yale-NUS, and another word you would use to specifically describe the students and staff of Cendana, and why?

“For Yale-NUS—Committed: Students committed to and excited about learning. Staff committed to the goals of Yale-NUS, and to growth in their jobs.

For Cendana—Tall: Everyone knows that our students seem to be the tallest on campus. Must have something to do with the size of Tower A😊. And students and staff stand tall in the building of community in Pulau Cendana.”

Do you currently have any exciting retirement plans that you would like to share? 

“I expect to return to the US, to a home that I own in Texas. I probably won’t retire there long term, but will move to Kansas and a small rural property. I also plan to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, and to see interesting places around the world. I would also like to get my private pilot’s license up to date, and pursue my long time interest in flying small airplanes to visit interesting places in the US.”

Is there anything you would wish to tell the students and staff of Cendana and Yale-NUS before your retirement?

“It has been a real pleasure to work with and live with the students and staff of Cendana and Yale-NUS. Retiring is bittersweet, because I will be leaving friends and colleagues and the excitement and challenges of living and working at Yale-NUS and being in Singapore. I hope to return for visits and will continue to cherish the memories of my time here.”

As our final semester with Rector Steven comes to a close, from all of us here at Yale-NUS, we wish Rector Steven a wonderful and restful retirement, and a great big thank you for all he has done for Yale-NUS!

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