Students brew ideas over tea at Yale-NUS College

Students get to meet wide array of speakers at 'tea sessions'

Associate professors Derek Heng and Sarah Weiss were named rectors of Yale-NUS College last month.
Associate professors Derek Heng and Sarah Weiss were named rectors of Yale-NUS College last month.PHOTO: COURTESY OF YALE-NUS COLLEGE

It has been a first year full of learning and activity at Singapore's first liberal arts college, with a focus not just on gaining information, but also developing how students think and respond to a wide range of issues and experiences.

Since August last year, Yale-NUS College students have had the chance to meet all sorts of people, from journalists and authors to YouTube stars.

The university has organised 34 Rector's Tea sessions - modelled after Master's Teas at Yale University, where students in groups of around 20 mingle with guest speakers.

These include a line-up of local and international speakers such as opposition figure Nicole Seah, sociopolitical blogger Alex Au, and Judy and Dennis Shepard, who set up the Matthew Shepard Foundation to champion tolerance and diversity after they lost their son to a hate crime 16 years ago.

Some, like student Christopher Tee, got to meet American YouTube music stars Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider when they were in Singapore, at Kallang Theatre before their show.

"We just sat on the floor and talked for an hour. They shared with us their experiences from university - they are both Yale graduates - and what it is like to pursue a fulltime music career," said Mr Tee, 21.

Conversations also continue after the sessions, as some students go for dinners with guests, said Professor Brian McAdoo, inaugural rector of Yale-NUS.

In addition, six President's Speaker sessions - which are usually attended by all students and open to the public - have been held since last year.

Associate Professor of Humanities Sarah Weiss said: "The number of knock-on effects of any one of these things can't be predicted. It depends on the imagination of students."

These sessions could be turned into business and networking opportunities, future internships, or students could build on ideas for their own projects, she added.

Prof Weiss is one of the two faculty members - the other is Associate Professor Derek Heng - who were named rectors of the college last month.

Both join Prof McAdoo in leading the three future residential colleges of Yale-NUS.

The pioneer 155 students have been assigned their residential colleges, but for now, they are living in the same block at the NUS University Town campus until their facilities at Dover Road are ready next year.

Yale-NUS, which is raising this year's intake to 170, has the capacity for 1,000 students.

When they are ready, the three residences will each house about 330 students, and have their own amenities, including common rooms and a casual lounge space called a buttery.