story | Shawn Kit, Contributing Reporter
photo | Dave Stanfield
An earlier version of this article stated that Dean Stanfield is the College’s Inaugural Associate Dean of Students. He is the newest Associate Dean of Students, and the article has been updated to reflect that. We apologise for the error.
Among the many new faces seen on campus this semester, many people have probably noticed the new Associate Dean of Students, Dave Stanfield, and his family eating in the various dining halls. Originally from Texas, Stanfield is Yale-NUS College’s newest Associate Dean of Students. Before coming to Yale-NUS, he held the Directorship of Student Activities and First-Year Programs at the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and was the Head of Research and Development at the Council of International Schools (CIS) in the Netherlands.
Though the Dean of Students Office is responsible for overseeing Student Organizations and Leadership, Wellness, Athletics and Recreation, and Intercultural Engagement, the position of Associate Dean comes with a few additional responsibilities. Dean Stanfield will be developing a Residential Education curriculum, consolidating the non-academic learning that takes place outside of the classroom. As he and his family settle into their new roles on campus, I sat down with him to ask a few questions.
Shawn Kit: You’ve called quite a few places in the world home for some time or another; what made you choose to add Yale-NUS and Singapore to that list? Was there any one motivating factor that made your mind?
I learned about Yale-NUS while studying the global trends in higher education at the CIS. And I thought to myself, if I could go and work there one day, that would be really amazing. Also, having spent that short time in China, I always had the kind of desire to come back and live in Asia for a longer time. The chance to both move to Asia and to work at Yale-NUS was for me the perfect opportunity, which is why sought it out.
SK: You and your family are rather visible around the College. I’ve seen you, your wife, and your two kids often in the Elm Dining Hall. If you are willing to share, might I ask what your plans are for bringing up your kids here?
My son Owen (7 years old) grew up in the Netherlands, and my daughter Mira (4 years old) was born there. One of the things that we value as a family is interaction with diverse people and communities. There’s a danger in being in a place like this and only becoming friends with other foreigners, or other Americans for us. Both me and my wife Karen really want to seek out connections and friendships with Singaporeans, as well as the many different nationalities that are represented here. And we try to instil that value in our children as well. What better place is there to see and experience that than in Yale-NUS, with 71 different nationalities on campus, and it is an amazing privilege for them to be able to have this exposure at such a young age.
SK: Could you give a broad overview of your ideas regarding the Residential Education curriculum design which you are heading, and how may current students contribute to developing it?
There hasn’t been much effort done yet to start to talk about the specific aspects of a Yale-NUS residential curriculum. And so that will be one of my primary responsibilities in this role.
It’s important to realize that those learning objectives should be uniquely aligned with this institution’s mission and vision. The curriculum has to be unique to us. Right now, because the institution is relatively large, there might be three different administrative groups that are doing something related to time management, or financial literacy. So one of the objectives of a residential curriculum is coordination across the college, to bring those three different groups together and decide if we want to do a joint effort or continue to have our individual time management programs.
Another part of the residential curriculum is to add structure to the “out of the classroom” experience, and that entails making an effort, with a number of stakeholders — meaning with students, faculty, and staff, to define what the unique learning objectives for students are.
What we’ve decided to do is build it over the course of the next year, getting lots of input from different groups, and then go through an iterative process over between now and April, with the goal of rolling it out for the fall of next year. We’re also only focusing on the first-year experience to start. And then we’ll take what we learned from that process and use it as a building block for doing second-year, third-year and fourth-year.
While don’t have a committee structure ironed out as of now, a really important foundational belief of mine is that we need to have student involvement, and I imagine that would be in the form of representative committees from across the different year groups.
SK: I’d like to end off with asking for your vision of the College – what do you see of it now, and where it may be a few years down the road?
My perspective is that things are going really well, and that what we have are highly intelligent students that are engaged outside of the classroom. So luckily for us, we don’t have to convince students the value of being engaged on campus. That seems to be something that is already ingrained here, and that’s really special, and a great starting point. But there is an opportunity in what we’ve just discussed in relation to the residential curriculum, and that is to add a real structure and coordinated approach to the outside of the classroom experience.
I think what it will allow us to do is to be more clear about what we want Yale-NUS students to learn as a result of being here for four years. There is so much learning that can and has happened outside of the formal academic learning objectives.