Yale-NUS College appoints historian Tan Tai Yong as its new president

Historian Tan Tai Yong has been named the new president of the Yale-NUS College.
Historian Tan Tai Yong has been named the new president of the Yale-NUS College.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

SINGAPORE - Historian Tan Tai Yong has been named the new president of the Yale-NUS College, the college announced on Tuesday (March 14).

Professor Tan, 56, who is currently the college's executive vice-president (academic affairs), will assume office on July 1.

He will take over from Professor Pericles Lewis, who has helmed the liberal arts college - a collaboration between Yale University and the National University of Singapore (NUS) - since its founding in 2011.

Yale-NUS' governing board met here on Tuesday and unanimously elected Prof Tan following an "extensive global search". The search took seven months, with 80 to 100 initial candidates.

NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan, who was part of the Presidential Search Committee, described Prof Tan as a "highly effective academic leader" who is deeply committed to liberal arts education.

He added: "In addition, his (Prof Tan's) extensive international and regional connections will further advance the college's pioneering efforts to reimagine liberal arts and science education in Asia and beyond."

Since first taking in students in 2013, Yale-NUS has faced its share of challenges. These have ranged from striving to combine a liberal arts education with an Asian setting, as well as a perceived lack of communication with its student body when implementing policies.

With reference to communication with students, Prof Tan acknowledged it was "an area we want to improve", and said that the university will continue to broaden its existing channels while creating a more structured system to effectively ensure two-way communication between the students and the university.

"What we want to build is a culture of trust. Our students must believe we have their welfare at heart," he said.

Looking to the future, Prof Tan said that Yale-NUS college would continue to review all its major programmes to enhance, refine and possibly expand some of them. Yale-NUS is, for example, already reviewing its philosophy, politics and economics major. 

A former Nominated Member of Parliament, Prof Tan, who holds a PhD in history from Cambridge University, was appointed the college's executive vice-president in 2014 and oversees its academic and co-curricular aspects.

He was previously the director of NUS' Institute of South Asian Studies and also served as dean of the University's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences from January 2004 to December 2009.