Local Students Become Kingfishers for a Day
story | Ryan Ma, Staff Writer
photo | Ooi Mae Hweei
The week of Sept. 9, 2019 saw the Yale-NUS College campus buzzing with a little more activity than usual. Over the week, 109 students from local pre-university institutions visited the College for the Kingfisher for a Day (KFAD) program to experience a typical day in the life of a Yale-NUS student.
These prospective students hailed from a variety of backgrounds, such as junior colleges, polytechnics, and private and international schools. Each of them were assigned to a current Yale-NUS student, who hosted them either individually or in groups of up to three. They took part in classes, lunch in the dining hall, student organization meetings, and other daily activities.
Teo Qinyi ’20, was one of many hosts showing the students around on Thursday that week. She was invited to volunteer for KFAD by Anju Mary Paul, Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, who was looking for representatives from the Global Affairs major.
She met her three students at the Admissions & Financial Aid Office early in the morning. They came from a good mix of backgrounds – one of them recently graduated from junior college, another came from a polytechnic, and the third took the International Baccalaureate program, said Teo.
Teo and her students began their day at a ‘Politics of Identity in Developing Countries’ class, led by Risa J Toha, Assistant Professor of Political Science. As it was an advanced 4000-level class, Teo sent her students the readings beforehand to help them keep up. “My professor was very supportive [of KFAD], and she also tried to include them in the discussion,” she said.
After class, Teo’s students followed her to a weekly consultation over lunch with her Capstone project advisor, Chin-Hao Huang, Assistant Professor of Political Science. There, they discussed potential methodological approaches to her research topic. The students also enjoyed a candid conversation with Teo and Mr. Huang about the college and the liberal arts education.
Later in the day, Teo brought her students on a campus tour that ended at the Saga College Office, where they played board games with a Residential College Advisor. Before the day ended, the students joined her at the Global Affairs major Welcome Tea, where they had the opportunity to speak to faculty members and current students in the major.
“I think [KFAD] was a very nice experience,” Teo told The Octant. “[My students and I] were on the same frequency, so our conversations were quite comfortable.”
While events similar to KFAD are common among small liberal arts colleges in the US — such as Haverford College and Pomona College — it is unheard of among Singapore’s autonomous universities. “[We were looking for] new ways that we could show off the campus, and to bring students to the campus,” said Christopher Tee ’17, Admissions Counsellor. “And we were deliberately looking for formats that [are] not like an open house and open day because we already do that.”
“I think it’s great in the sense that this is a program that we’ve created from the beginning,” said Yeap Yi Yi, Admissions Counsellor, who jointly organised KFAD with Mr. Tee and Rebeca Salazar ’19, Admissions Counsellor. “We didn’t have a standard to follow,” said Ms. Yeap.
Although this was the second time KFAD was held at the College, it was the first time it was organized at such a large scale. Whereas the pilot edition in 2018 saw only 44 participants, this edition saw 109, a 150% increase. In addition, while participants of the 2018 edition were only matched to juniors and seniors in four majors — Anthropology, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Mathematical, Computational and Statistical Sciences — this edition was open to students of all classes and majors.
Thet Yin Zaw ’23 participated in KFAD as a junior college student in 2018 and remarked that the event cemented her decision to apply to Yale-NUS. “Living through a whole day like a student gave me a more accurate picture of Yale-NUS, and what I experienced matched with what I thought I would experience,” she said.
“Another reason why we also opened KFAD to first-year and sophomore students this year is because we got feedback from last year that prospective students wanted to try Common Curriculum classes, because that is signature to us,” explained Mr. Tee.
A total of 225 pre-university students registered for KFAD, and each of them had to submit a 150-word essay explaining why they wished to attend the event. “We want to see that the applicants understand what Yale-NUS was going to offer, and have an interest in studying in a liberal arts institution,” said Mr. Tee. “We also wanted to create access for all schools in Singapore, so we looked at giving access to junior colleges, polytechnics, and international schools as well. As long as there is interest, we wanted to make sure that those opportunities are fairly distributed across different education systems, and even within education systems in many schools as well.”
Looking forward, Ms. Yeap said that KFAD definitely has room for growth. The end goal is for anyone who wants to participate in the program to be able to do so, she added.
“We do want to try and create more spaces and opportunities, because there is a demand for it,” said Mr. Tee. “We’re also open to experimenting to see what prospective students might want to experience based on the feedback we collected.”
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