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Saturday, July 13, 2024

A School on Show

All PostsOpinionA School on Show

Column by Raeden Richardson, Guest Columnist | Picture credit to Roger Ko

For the first time in three years, many of my classmates won’t be around for the Experience Yale-NUS Weekend (EYW). For many of us who first fell in love with Yale-NUS College on the EYW and, subsequently, helped imbue prospective students with this same love, this April we find ourselves scattered across the globe and longing to be part of the excitement.

I hope all of us, whether in Singapore or elsewhere, can recognize the value of this upcoming weekend. Across three years we have built sports teams, theater troupes, intern partnerships and all the other staples that have defined this unique college experience—yet we shouldn’t neglect the most important component of our school: the people.

I write this as a reminder that we, the Yale-NUS student body, need to take ownership of this weekend, realizing our role not only as pioneers but caretakers of this school. Sadly, in recent EYWs, this has not been the case.

I remember standing, a year ago, in the college courtyard when, eyeing the silent corridors and empty dining hall, a girl with a place at Singapore Management University and Princeton University asked, “It’s a Saturday afternoon—but where is everyone? Is this even a college campus?”

“The weekend came at a bad time.” I felt myself shrink inside my Yale-NUS polo. “An economics exam… A Philosophy paper deadline…” Even before hearing my excuses I knew she wouldn’t give Yale-NUS another thought.

In conversations with classmates studying abroad at Yale University, Oxford University and Columbia University who have a wider perspective on Yale-NUS, we’ve reached the consensus that our school is indubitably world-class. We know that beyond the frustrations of delayed campus construction, course changes and honors confusion our experience in Singapore is close to unparalleled. The fact that almost all students are guaranteed a chance to study abroad, form meaningful relationships with professors, schedule office hours with the most senior administrators and create summer programs with the backing of the school sets us apart from so many other institutions—and this is only the beginning.

And on an individual level, the Yale-NUS experience produces students who fully embody the best of the liberal arts philosophy. Through the generosity of our Centre for International and Professional Experience programming and the commitment of our faculty, we are growing into worldly, empathetic and inspired undergraduates. Before the school existed, this imagined idol of the liberal arts was only potential. Yet now, given the accolades earned by our students, this hype is being realized. It’s not only the optimistic opinions of my peers that reinforce this status. Our internationally recognized debate teams, numerous hackathon victories, prize winning writers, champion power lifters and countless other successes are making this long-ago potential a reality. 

This year’s approach from Admissions has shifted from ‘Welcome to the Family’ to ‘Welcome to the Pack’—a subtle change, but an effort to synthesize our school’s vision as both “communal” and “elite”. We are wisely cautious of elitist attitudes on our campus, but we needn’t shun our aspirations towards being an elite institution, lest we deter those prospective students who are drawn, first, to prestige and success, and second, to community. Given our size, our students are proving we can compete with the standards set by the best schools in Singapore and across the globe.

I hope this year we can remember that we are the best advocates of the Yale-NUS education. It’s our responsibility to showcase this to prospective students, whether in theater performances, panel discussions, evenings across Singapore, or chance conversations over dinner. We need to showcase Singapore from all angles. We need to connect with admitted students beyond the programming offered by Admissions. We need to engage with them in so many ways beyond those on the itinerary.

Everyone on campus ought to be proud of Yale-NUS. It is, after all, a product of our toil, a child of our rearing. And we need to show this pride this coming weekend as we welcome more students to our campus.  Our school has afforded us phenomenal opportunities, but can only do so much through the faculty and staff who have committed and invested so much. The ongoing success of our school hangs on us showing these admitted students why Yale-NUS is so remarkable. So please, when the weekend comes, make your presence felt.

The views expressed here are the author’s own. The Octant welcomes all voices in the community. Email submissions to: yncoctant@gmail.com

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