story | Terence Anthony Wang, Editor-in-Chief; Yip Jie Ying, Managing Editor
photo | Yale-NUS Public Affairs
On April 18, Associate Dean (Academic Affairs) Khoo Hoon Eng and Head of Studies (Philosophy) Amber Carpenter were appointed as the new Rectors of Saga College and Elm College respectively. President of Yale-NUS College Tan Tai Yong announced the decision on behalf of the Rector Advisory Panel in the two colleges’ dining halls, at 6 PM for Saga and at 6.30 PM for Elm.
Ms. Khoo is one of the inaugural members of Yale-NUS College, joining in Oct. 2011 as Director in the Office of the Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs). She was later appointed as Director of Special Projects in the Office of the President, overseeing the hiring of faculty, campus design, and planning of Yale-NUS’s curriculum. A medical professor of more than twenty years, Ms. Khoo received her biochemistry degree from Smith College and her PhD at St Mary’s Medical School, London.
Ms. Carpenter specializes in Greek philosophy, but also has “deep expertise in Indian Buddhist philosophy,” according to an email sent to Yale-NUS students by Mr. Tan. As the Head of Studies for Philosophy, Ms. Carpenter has also helped design the Common Curriculum courses for Philosophy and Political Thought. She was previously a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of York, and has taught at Cornell University and Oxford University, among others.
Outgoing Rector of Saga College Sarah Weiss, who was invited by Mr. Tan to reveal the new Saga Rector, said that Ms. Khoo was involved in the college “before it was an idea.” She also said that Ms. Khoo was an important leader in Yale-NUS’ Curriculum Committee. “Most of the courses that students have been taking in the last three or four years have been shepherded through the process by this incredible woman,” Ms. Weiss said.
In her inaugural speech, Ms. Khoo said that she intended to continue some of the traditions started under Ms. Weiss, including the Rector’s Tea and the Saga Colloquium for senior capstones, which she called “a fantastic idea.” She also said she hopes to pursue some new initiatives, including cooking classes, connecting international students with local families, and “faculty tables” where students could meet and interact with faculty members.
Ms. Khoo revealed to The Octant that Mr. Tan had previously approached her eight years ago to become a Master (a similar position to Rector) of another residential college in the National University of Singapore (NUS), but she turned down the offer. Ms. Khoo said that she accepted the appointment as Saga’s Rector because “Yale-NUS is very important” to her. Other factors included the opportunity to have a lot more interaction with students, and to be able to shape the co-curriculum and intellectual life of Saga College.
Reacting to Ms. Khoo’s appointment, Ann Chen ’20 said that she “will really miss Rector Weiss, [Senior Lecturer] Tony Day (Ms. Weiss’ husband), and Milo (Ms. Weiss’ pet dog).” However, Chen said she was happy with the decision to select Prof. Khoo, as she had found her to be “friendly and open.” Nicolas Kang ’20, who attended the announcement, concurred with Chen and said that he had seen Ms. Khoo at many student-led events. “It’s a testament to her becoming a great Rector,” Kang said.
The new Rector for Elm College, Ms. Carpenter, was announced to the crowd by outgoing Rector, Professor Brian McAdoo, who was also the first Rector in Yale-NUS’s history. The announcement was met with cheers from the crowd, many of whom were especially surprised by the appearance of Ms. Carpenter’s four-year old son who excitedly ran around the dining hall.
Mr. McAdoo said that Ms. Carpenter, who has been in Yale-NUS since its second year, “represents the intersection of East and West that we talk so much about here at Yale-NUS,” as exemplified through her research topics on ancient Greek and Indian philosophy.
In her speech, Ms. Carpenter introduced herself and her family, and talked about the links between her research topics and life in the college. She thanked the community for entrusting the responsibility to her. “I don’t know what this job entails, so I’m taking this on, working to find that out together. To do that, you need to tell me what it is we need,” Ms. Carpenter said.
Mr. Tan said that the Rector Advisory Panel, which consisted of two faculty members, two staff members, and four students (one from each class year), had received “close to 200 nominations” from students. He praised the panel, saying that “they have been very wise” in advising him, and expressed “heartfelt gratitude” to the outgoing Rectors for their service to Yale-NUS.
Both Ms. Khoo and Ms. Carpenter will assume their new positions as Rectors at the start of the next academic year, in Aug. 2018.