End of an Era
The school’s administration is undergoing a drastic change. Why has this come about?
story Scott Currie
reporting Yonatan Gazit
Within the span of seven months, all four of Yale-NUS College’s deans announced their plans to leave the school. In comparison, few faculty have left. How Yale-NUS deals with these significant personnel changes will play an important part in its future development.
With the announcement on Aug. 6 of Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Kristin Greene’s intent to return to the United States in October, the College lost its fourth dean. Along with Ms. Greene, former Dean of Students Kyle Farley and Anastasia Vrachnos, former Dean of the Centre of International and Professional Experience (CIPE), all signed three-year contracts, which they did not renew upon expiration.
Comparatively, founding Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn, whose contract initially expired in 2015, has decided to stay until June 30, 2016. He never intended to remain at Yale-NUS as an full-time administrator, but stayed to continue help setting up the college. In 2010, the prospect of creating an entirely new curriculum enticed the Yale University professor to sign on as Dean of Faculty while remaining appointed at Yale.
Mr. Bailyn said the administrators were leaving in part due to the volume of work during the start-up phase of the College. “Everyone is working beyond capacity … solving today’s and yesterday’s problems, not tomorrow’s problems,” he said. “I have to say, none of us can keep this up.”
On top of the College being a new institution, it has to liaise with its two parent institutions. This coordinating adds to the time that it takes to make decisions. Mr. Farley, who is headed to New York University Abu Dhabi as Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, discussed in an email the job’s “unique intensity … in trying to make everyone happy” when creating foundational policies for student life.
After this year, with the hiring of faculty to full strength and settling into the new campus, Mr. Bailyn hopes that the College will move into a “more steady state.” “If we could get into a more regular way of doing business, generally, I think there’d be a lot less burnout and a lot less anxiety,” he said.
The thorough totality of the administration’s changeover is in part due to the newness of school. Some of the administration saw their role as visionaries rather than managers, and only wanted to stay on for the startup phase of the College. Mr. Bailyn said this was exactly his interest, and he now wants to focus on research by taking a year-long sabbatical.
The creation of organizations and their maintenance presents different challenges, said Ms. Vrachnos, now Vice Provost for International Affairs and Operations at Princeton University.
Ms. Vrachnos said that the distance from her family was among the reasons for returning to the United States. “In most of the cases I think it’s got an element in wanting to be closer to their families,” President Pericles Lewis added.
The loss of the inaugural deans could have an impact on the direction of the school. Mr. Bailyn said “we have to pay attention that our vision is preserved in the transition to the steady state.”
The student body is uncertain what the shifts will mean in the long term. For example, Megan Chua ’18 said that she was worried that the school could not “maintain top talent,” and that leadership changes could mean that legacies were not furthered. But Ms. Vrachnos said that CIPE would be able to sustain itself “so long as there is the driving vision.” “You are trying to develop institutions that will survive without you,” she added.
Mr. Lewis dismissed the suggestion that the leadership renewal would bring instability. “Each of the departments is functioning pretty smoothly, so I wouldn’t call it instability,” he said. Deans, whose contracts are typically for three years, would also be hired in a more staggered manner in the future.
How the College survives this leadership renewal will be a measure of its strength. “The strength of the institution can be measured by its ability to absorb the departure of key individuals and keep on ticking,” said Mr. Bailyn.
The day-to-day operation now falls to a collection of new, experienced, and temporary administrators. Mr. Bailyn will continue until next year, and new CIPE Dean Trisha Craig joined in April. Two interim deans will occupy the roles until a new dean is selected. Brian McAdoo, Rector for Elm College, is currently interim Dean of Students, while Linette Lim, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, will be operating as interim dean.