Story by Nicholas Lua, Features Editor | Photo credit to Serena Quay
In her spare-room-turned-art-studio, Lauren Seaman shows me her latest art project. Careful black-and-white drawings of somewhat eerie humanoids reflecting her latest interest in cartoons, fill half the canvas. The other half is raw, spontaneous energy: an abstract orange explosion that looks like cakes of lava. She created the effect by using “tons of glue and wood shavings and set[ting] it on fire”.
A pop—we turn around. Christopher Mulvey stands in the doorway, toting a Nerf gun. Now Lauren is showing me her Strawberry earmuffs—and shrieks. Out in the hallway, Chris and Aieshah Arif both wield Nerf guns, laughing like crazy. More pops and whistles. Lauren and I edge into an open room, taking cover. For the rare few who don’t know them, Aieshah, Chris and Lauren aren’t students. They are Dean’s Fellows (DFs).
These three Saga DFs—two Americans and a Singaporean—share a suite designed for six people. Living among the student body is part of their role. Together with the other DFs, the trio serve as mentor-advisors to students and help encourage vibrant community life in Yale-NUS College. A tour of their “Nerd Room”, art studio and personal spaces revealed that their mission to encourage vibrancy extends to the lives they lead and the suite they live in. In the latest installment of The Octant’s suite profiles, we pay a visit to DF Suite #12-101.
The cosmopolitan influences are clear here. Textiles are the name of the game. Sofas, rooms and walls are decorated with cloths of varying origin and personal meaning. Next to Lauren’s bed hangs a vibrant orange cloth with drips of lighter hues in the style of Jackson Pollock. It was a gift from her cousin, who is now a designer. Aieshah’s bed looks like a Persian divan, her patterned carpet to match. I note Chris’ Christmas ornament, hanging on the window at the end of the corridor. “My mother made this,” he says, “it’s a Singapore Sling and a Merlion. She makes a Christmas ornament every year … And she sews whatever I’m doing [that year] on the other side.” Indeed, it reads “Chris / Yale-NUS / Dean’s Fellow”.
This suite also has other touches of the whimsical. The three insist I take a look inside their toilet cubicle. Not quite sure what to expect, I am pleasantly amused to find a page from a unicorn coloring book pasted on the wall. “Unicorns don’t replace the toilet paper roll,” it reads. Aieshah explains it serves as a reminder to everyone to refill the toilet paper when it runs out. A communal initiative, the public service announcement was originally a page from Chris’ tastefully colored unicorn coloring book, a gift to him from Lauren.
I notice their nameplates. Rightly, I see Chris’ name on the door of his room. Aieshah’s nameplate, meanwhile, is stuck on the entrance to the shower cubicle. Apparently because she takes really long showers. Lauren’s nameplate is pasted on the front of the toilet door. I make it a point not to ask why.
The three DFs have clearly made a home of their suite. In addition to personalizing their rooms and common area, they have converted the spare rooms to other purposes. Aside from Lauren’s art studio, the three have what they affectionately call “The Nerd Room”, where Aieshah and Chris have study tables for doing work. It is also home to their suite dinosaur. “Turn him on, turn him on,” Chris excitedly tells the other two. Dino remains unresponsive. Cries of disappointment from the others, myself included. Dino’s batteries are dead. “Sorry, I’m sorry—I should have prepared,” says Chris.
Their last spare room is currently a pantry. I see cups, a full-size fridge and two bookshelves loaded with breakfast cereals, cookies and chips. Suddenly I am aware of how close the time is to dinner. Aieshah offers me a cup of Korean corn tea and something out of her cookie selection. “Do you want the shortbread? I’ve been trying to find an excuse to open [the packet],” she says. They’re delicious.
The homeliness of their suite encourages visits from guests. Earlier this semester and the last, the DFs invited students over to their suite for tea parties. Occasionally, they also invite the other DFs for food and drink.
The time left for entertaining, though, is growing short. Chris will be heading to Yale University for graduate studies in Anthropology. In their post-DF lives, Lauren and Aieshah hope to continue their work at Yale-NUS in other capacities.