Three years after its debut as Singapore’s first liberal arts institution, Yale-NUS has a campus to call its own.
Having spent its first two years in buildings belonging to the National University of Singapore, Yale-NUS began moving into its newly constructed spaces in May. Following the completion of one of Yale-NUS’ three residential colleges, Cendana, just before freshman move-in in July, only a few projects remain in the campus’s long-awaited completion. Now, students and faculty members hope that the university’s new signature space will help solidify the college’s identity.
“In short we have space to do many of the things we have been hoping to do for the last two years,” said Saga Residential College Rector Sarah Weiss. “In an interesting way, creating new spaces and differentiating the three residential colleges in real buildings has simultaneously enhanced residential college identity and enhanced our sense of belonging to Yale-NUS. Our presence is now undeniable and our goals are even clearer.”
The campus’s completion, which was five months behind schedule, was delayed due to the region’s monsoon season as well as a dengue outbreak in Singapore’s University Town, which contains NUS and Yale-NUS. But Roland Betts, a member of the Yale-NUS Governing Board and chairman of the board’s infrastructure subcommittee, said that since construction projects are generally hard to complete on schedule, he is not disappointed with the timing of Yale-NUS’ completion.
Each of the three residential colleges — Cendana, Saga and Elm — contain courtyards, classrooms spaces, a dining hall, common spaces and some administrative offices. Betts said that when the initial vision of Yale-NUS came to being, he felt strongly that the residential college system should be preserved.
“The residential college system takes a big school and breaks it into little pieces,” Betts said. “It forces everybody to crisscross the quadrangle, to go to dining rooms and common rooms, and as we thought about it, we thought that if we’re really going to do this right, we need to build residential colleges there to recreate the experience.”
The physical appearance of Yale-NUS was described by students as feeling distinct from both NUS, defined by a series of sleek towers, and Singapore more broadly. Jordan Bovankovich YNUS ’18 said Yale-NUS has a more “antiquey” and wood-furbished style, but with a modern spin.
But Bovankovich added that since student life is no longer contained within one single building, the new campus and its expanded spaces will take some getting used to.
“Some of the sentiments that infused our previous single building have also faded — the closeness, the need and desire to recognize every face, the familiarity, the occasional claustrophobia,” she said.
Though all five students interviewed expressed excitement over the new campus, they also acknowledged that a newfound sense of college identity would not come automatically. Students would have to work to maintain the sense of a small, close-knit community segmented into various residential colleges, they said.
Feroz Khan YNUS ’18 said the new campus brings with it new responsibilities and privileges.
“The truth is that the new campus isn’t a wonderland where all our dreams of school pride and collegiate bonding over fun spaces magically come true,” Khan said. “We still have to create things — build traditions, name spaces, host events — in order to foster identity. It remains to be seen how well students can keep old friendships alive or build new friendships across residential colleges.”
However, Khan did speak positively about the convenience of having designated Yale-NUS spaces, as opposed to the old shared spaces — namely the basketball court and soon-to-be completed black box theater.
For Bovankovich, questions about identity will only settle with time.
“We might not yet know what traditions or values mark this young culture, but we can be certain that it is there,” she said.
The campus’s grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 12.