Editor’s note: starting this semester, the News is collaborating with a group of student journalists at Yale-NUS, founding members of The Octant — to provide our readers with on-the-ground coverage from Singapore and to share with readers there a better sense of events at Yale. This story was reported in Singapore and edited here in New Haven. We hope this fosters dialogue between our two campuses and promotes student journalism at Yale-NUS.
SINGAPORE — Yale-NUS is seeking to grow its full-time faculty by nearly 40 percent, using a process that administrators say reflects the culture of the nascent school.
The college is in the midst of a series of hiring workshops, offering students the chance to interact with prospective faculty members over lunch or dinner. A workshop toward the end of January was the third in a series of five such events, with the final one scheduled for March. Roshan Singh YNUS ’18, who attended a workshop in the sciences, said the sessions reinforce the college’s commitment to teaching.
“Professors have a few roles in the college. One is to add to the research vibrancy, but at the same time they are also teachers,” he said. “You can’t tell the worth of a teacher by the pieces of paper they’ve accumulated, or even the testimonials that they have, because at the end of the day those are pieces of paper. But you judge the worth of a teacher by their communication of ideas.”
After each session, students are asked to fill out a form providing feedback on the candidates. The forms are then forwarded to one of the 17 review committees, depending on the professor’s specialization.
Dean’s Fellow Regina Markle said the students’ evaluations can make or break a candidate’s chances.
“Being part of a start-up institution, it is important to provide feedback, as faculty, staff and administration take it very seriously, and it contributes to the development of the institution,” she said.
Still, student feedback is one element of a multi-part hiring process, which involves going through a review committee, then the respective division and finally the appointments committee before coming before to the governing board for ultimate approval.
Yale-NUS Director of Faculty Affairs Navin Raj said the process is currently expected to end with offers for up to 30 new faculty members, though he emphasized the provisional nature of that projection. The college currently employs 76 full-time faculty members, including four on visiting appointments and three senior administrators.
Dean of Faculty Charles Bailyn ’81 said roughly 100 candidates are expected to visit the school over the course of the five workshops. For each position the college is seeking to fill, roughly three applicants are invited to the hiring workshops. The only departments that are not recruiting new faculty members are Economics, Psychology and Art, Bailyn said.
Raj said the college employs 34 full-time faculty in the humanities, 22 in the sciences and 20 in the social sciences. It also maintains a part-time teaching staff of five, he said.
The student body is a major draw for faculty candidates, Bailyn said: Sharing a meal in an informal context makes them excited about the prospect of teaching at Yale-NUS.
“The faculty members who want to teach the kinds of students we have here are exactly the kinds of faculty members we want,” he said.
Echoing Markle, Bailyn said the distinct culture of Yale-NUS is reflected in the hiring process. Merit alone is not enough to land a position, he said. Review committees also consider a candidate’s ability to work with the current staff, which is small, and to be involved in building a new curriculum and, fundamentally, a new institution.
Jay Lusk YNUS ’18, another student who attended a workshop in January, said he was eager to have a hand in shaping his own academic experience.
“I’m really thankful for the experience because I think it’s very important that students have a say in what happens in the academic life of the college,” he said.
Eleven Yale-NUS faculty members are currently on leave or sabbatical.
Scott Currie and Ying Tong Lai contributed reporting.