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Friday, July 19, 2024


Anne Caroline Franklin || Guest Columnist

Branching toward oil-spilt sky
Branching toward oil-spilt sky

A good friend once told me “the way I see truth is like this – each one of us is looking through a tiny keyhole on a different door into a singular room. We are looking into the same room, but the interior looks completely different for each person, depending on the placement of the door, and the position and size of the keyhole.”

Yale-NUS is the interior of this room – some larger whole that no one of us can fully see or know through our tiny keyhole vantage point.

So, take a look – what is Yale-NUS?

Perhaps for a professor, it is a job, or a pool of eager young minds, an opportunity to pursue research, or a tenure, a secure stream of resources, a chance to build a curriculum from the ground up, an opportunity to live and travel in Southeast Asia.

Perhaps for an administrator it is a start-up company, a new fusion ‘brand’, the chance to be part of something new and fresh, a way to re-think education, a sign of hope for future international relations.

Perhaps for CIPE or Admissions personnel, it is a beautiful and terrifying chance to try something new, to actually implement all those programs and opportunities that bigger and older schools just could not handle, a place to put risk into practice.

Perhaps for a parent it is ‘a compromise’, or an abstract force that is changing their child in ways they are not completely comfortable with, or perhaps its an American school, or ‘that school in Singapore’, or its the cause of sleepless nights and other ‘empty-nest’ symptoms.

Perhaps for a student it could be a stepping stone, a gentle introduction to the international job market, a place to network and make connections, ‘just another college’, an eventual academic transcript, a family away from home, the chance to be part of something revolutionary, a place to make friends, an opportunity to find what they love, a good excuse to travel, a once-in-a- lifetime, something they have worked towards for years, a space to be a leader, a space to be a learner, a culmination of a random sequence of events, an example of shifting paradigms in global tertiary education.

How does our position in this Yale-NUS community influence how we describe ‘what it is’ to our outside friends, our families, our NUS neighbors, the press?

How has the shape and size and tilt of our keyhole painted the portrait of shadows and light that we now claim to be ‘Yale-NUS’?

And more than any of this – how can Yale-NUS be an amalgamation of all of these keyhole impressions, at once all of them and none?

I have chewed on these thoughts extensively in my last 15 months of being part of this dynamic community. I often wonder – How can each one of us most respectfully act, speak, live, and contribute, in and as a part of Yale-NUS so as to best honor and uphold our various definitions of what it is?

What can I do, as an individual, to most responsibly do justice to the myriad pieces of shadow and light, promises and potentials, hopes and fears, expectations and labels that comprise this living breathing ever-changing thing we are creating, together?

Am I primarily to be a student? A community builder? A feedback-generator? A 21 year-old?

The answer to this question will not only shape our time together, but will have ramifications that seep into the roots of our community, directing the bend of the branches of our Yale-NUS tree, as it matures and steadies itself in the generations to come.

So whether Yale-NUS is, for you, a 9:00-5:00 income generator, or your sole reality, or your closest friends, or a lot of readings, or the chance to be part of a Community of Learning in Asia for the World…. I invite you to ask yourself: first – what does your keyhole glimpse look like? And second – when can we go through the doors and bring life to the room?

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