story Yonatan Gazit, News Editor
Yale-NUS College has hired a new Dean of Students, Dr. Christopher Bridges, President Pericles Lewis announced on Oct. 21. Yale-NUS has operated without a permanent Dean of Students since August 2015, and will continue so until Jan. 1, 2016, when Mr. Bridges will officially join the Yale-NUS.
The Dean of Students’ office (DoS) experienced rapid change over the summer of 2015, with the departure of its inaugural Dean, Kyle Farley, in addition to moving to the new campus and expanding its staff. Both students and staff expressed hope that the new Dean will bring change and a definite direction for the office.
The DoS has generally functioned reactively as opposed to proactively for the past two and a half years, Jared Yeo ’17 said. He added that the DoS is currently lacking in official policies and guidelines, and hoped the new Dean will manage expectations. The new Dean will also need to carefully “straddle [the] diversity [of students]”, Yeo said. “If you want to know about the Singaporean context, then why not really ask the Singaporeans about their context, get to know their perspective.”
Mr. Bridges said that other than some tweaks that need to be made immediately, he plans on spending his first semester at Yale-NUS as a “learning semester” to get familiarized with the community and its needs. He first plans “to listen, to observe, to understand what’s coming forward, to understand where people are now.” He also said that he understood from his visit to the campus that there are issues with clear guidelines, policies and understanding of DoS processes, which he plans to rectify.
Mr. Bridges has a Ph.D in Higher Education Leadership and Administration from Ohio University. He has worked in various areas of student life, including working as a Residence Hall Director at the University of Cincinnati, in the Office of Student Involvement at Xavier University, and most recently as Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, a small public liberal arts university.
Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) Tan Tai Yong wrote in an email interview that the school was looking for someone with “understanding of our needs and circumstances, ability to work with faculty, staff and students, vision and energy, and a willingness to work in a new and evolving environment.” The DoS should make all aspects of student life meaningful, said Manager of Student Life Chris O’Connell. This could include student-led events, guest workshops, and college-wide changes informed by community discussions. Thus, the college would be best served by looking for someone with experience in student affairs at a small liberal arts college, Mr. O’Connell said.
Mr. Bridges fit a few criteria for the College’s new Dean of Students. Mr. O’Connell said that he thought a deciding factor in Mr. Bridges hiring was his approach to be “very open-minded to listening to the needs of the community.” Yeo added that his similarities to the previous Dean was probably another factor, so the candidate “would be a 1.1, not a 2.0” new Dean of Students. Mr. Bridges said in stepping into his new role, he wanted to “build on top of what’s there.”
Joining Yale-NUS involves a rather steep learning curve for students, faculty, and staff, Mr. O’Connell said. Especially joining mid-academic year, Yeo said that the new Dean will “have to hit the ground running.” However, Mr. Bridges said he expects this challenge and is excited about becoming Dean.
The search for a new Dean began in late May 2015, about two weeks before then-Dean Kyle Farley publicly announced his departure for New York University Abu Dhabi, Mr. Tan said. A search committee, chaired by Mr. Tan, went through several selection stages to narrow the applicant pool down to three finalists who were invited onto campus. In late August, they met with students and staff, , who all gave feedback on the candidates. Then, a report was submitted to Mr. Lewis who made the final decision over which candidate to hire, with the endorsement of the Governing Board. In the meantime, Elm College Rector Brian McAdoo has acted as the interim Dean of Students.
Mr. Bridges will be coming to Singapore with his wife and three of his four children.
Update: A previous version of the article stated that Mr. O’Connell said the college was looking for someone with experience in student affairs at a small liberal arts college. It has been updated to reflect that Mr. O’Connell said the college would be best served by looking for someone with experience in student affairs at a small liberal arts college. This article was updated on Oct. 28 at 8.25 pm.