This article is written in collaboration with On Century Avenue, the student publication at NYU Shanghai.
Spandana Bhattacharya ’17 Yale-NUS College, Kadallah Burrowes ’18 NYU Shanghai
Photos by Joyan Tan
On Friday Oct. 31, delegates from four different student organizations in Yale-NUS College arrived in Shanghai, China to meet with their NYU Shanghai counterparts. While the trip was originally created to form a connection between both schools’ basketball teams, the other three organizations that also participated in the exchange were Elected Student Committee (ESC)— Yale-NUS’ transitional student government, G-Spot— the LGBTQ+ society and Panopt— a Yale-NUS student publication. The 16 students were accompanied by four other staff members from the Dean of Students Office.
How were these organizations chosen out of over 25 student organizations in Yale-NUS? Chris O’Connell, Student Programs Manager at Yale-NUS, stated, “[NYU Shanghai] staff had suggested some organizations at NYU Shanghai that were particularly active and would be relevant and interested to host our students and… the ones that were suggested were basketball, the newspaper, the LGBTQ group and the Student Government.”
Though the selection process of organizations to participate in the trip was fairly arbitrary, the participating student organizations gained from the exchange. The students represented a diverse range of interests and perspectives from both colleges, and over the course of three days, they engaged in active discussion of their respective experiences, whether curricular or extracurricular. While both colleges share many similarities such as the sophomore class being the inaugural class, the differences in their experiences also allowed students to learn and benefit from their counterparts.
For example, Yale-NUS’ ESC is different from an official student government as they are still in a transitional phase and tasked with the process of setting up the school’s constitution. In addition, they also function as an avenue where student concerns can be heard and conveyed to the relevant administrative offices. As NYU Shanghai’s Student Government had created their constitution and elected their representatives by the end of the academic year 2013/2014, they could draw on their experiences to offer advice to Yale-NUS’ ESC.
NYU Shanghai’s Student Government President Roxanne Roman acknowledged that the process of creating a governing body is not an easy one, “The Student Government created the student constitution, and once the student government was created, then we [could] start creating all of the student organizations and student activities and start funding them, because it is the students who manage everything. We had to have a side governing body set up and have elections. And as the first Student Government [we had] to write [the] bylaws and plan the student events and each of the other committees [had] to write their own policies.”
Other organizations also benefited from being able to check their progress against similar student organizations that had developed under comparable circumstances. One such example is the student publication in both colleges. While NYU Shanghai’s student publication ‘On Century Avenue’ and Yale-NUS’ student publication ‘Panopt’ were both started in Fall Semester 2013, they adopted different approaches to suit their respective target audiences and objectives. On top of providing a platform for student voices to be heard, On Century Avenue (OCA) also seeks to take advantage of their location within the city to reach out to the expatriate population in Shanghai. This has led OCA to develop sections like City Lights that discusses nightlife in Shanghai, fashion, food, and more. Also, while OCA publishes exclusively online, Panopt publishes both print issues and online each week.
For the administration as well, the experience seemed to be a fruitful one. Kyle Farley, Dean of Students at Yale-NUS remarked, “It is clear that despite the differences between the two schools, them being in the second year meant that they share similar struggles and similar opportunities. Just having the opportunity to talk through those experiences was very powerful for administrators and students on both sides.”
When asked how the event was funded, O’Connell explained, “We put together a partnership agreement …[and] the hosting campus incurs all the cost associated with hosting so housing, dining, events, logistics etc, and the visiting schools covers the transportation and the visas too.”
According to the Yale-NUS administration, this exchange will be the first among many such exchanges. Farley commented, “This is clearly the first of several visits between the two schools and we look forward to future collaborations during visits and between visits. And we are very excited that by the time we host them next year we can showcase our beautiful new campus.”
The participants from Yale-NUS flew back to Singapore late afternoon on Nov. 2.