Three years after its founding, Yale-NUS is undergoing significant leadership changes.
Three of the college’s four inaugural deans have announced their departures in the last 10 months, with former Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Kristin Greene leaving just last week. Former Dean of Students Kyle Farley left for another startup university, New York University Abu Dhabi, while the other two deans will both have returned to the United States by the end of the month. Yale-NUS Dean of Faculty and Yale astronomy professor Charles Bailyn ’81, the fourth founding dean, will leave Singapore for Yale after June 30, 2016.
Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis said he is not surprised by the deans’ departures, as their three-year contracts have expired. But students interviewed expressed concerns that all the turnover might imperil the continuity of the school.
“There were no surprises,” Lewis said. “[The deans] were initially hired for three years. They have done a good job, but it is also a good opportunity to review the leadership … The overall message is that we are an ongoing institution with people leaving and coming. Overall, the departure rates are no surprise. We are working on attracting strong candidates for our open positions.”
Bailyn said he initially planned to spend just one year at Yale-NUS, but ultimately decided to remain in his position in order to oversee ongoing developments in the college. Bailyn added that the ongoing review of Yale-NUS’s core curriculum, which he is leading, helped convince him to extend his time with the college by another two years.
Former Yale-NUS Dean of Center of International and Professional Experience Anastasia Vrachnos said the distance from her family contributed to her decision to return to the United States. Vrachnos now serves as the vice provost for international affairs and operations at Princeton.
“My reasons for leaving were personal — wanting to be near to family with the birth of our third child and wanting to be of service to Princeton University, my alma mater, on issues of international education, about which I am so passionate,” Vrachnos told the News in a Wednesday email.
She added that the goal of an inaugural dean should be to create programs and systems that long outlive his or her tenure, and she is glad to see the new CIPE office running even more strongly without her.
For her part, Greene said she left knowing that the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is in good hands. But she added that the decision to leave was a difficult one, and one she “didn’t take lightly at all.”
Several students interviewed said the deans’ departures may negatively impact the Yale-NUS community, though some were hopeful that new leadership would bring positive change.
Qi Siang Ng YNUS ’19 said he doubts the deans left because of dissatisfaction with Yale-NUS’s liberal-arts model or tension with the administration of the National University of Singapore. Still, Ng said the lack of continuity in the college’s leadership could impede the development of campus culture and traditions.
Aadit Gupta YNUS ’19 said it is understandable that the inaugural deans decided not to renew their contracts, as they all moved halfway across the globe to work at Yale-NUS.
Isaac Lee YNUS ’19 said although he would have liked the deans to stay until the college’s inaugural class graduates next year, their departures are not a major issue as Yale-NUS has already gotten off the ground.
Having hired a new dean of the CIPE, Trisha Craig, in July, Lewis said he expects to find a new dean of students by January 2016, in addition to the other two replacements by the start of the next academic year. In the meantime, Yale-NUS Director of Admissions Linette Lim is working as the interim dean of admissions and financial aid, and Brian McAdoo, the rector of one of Yale-NUS’s residential colleges, is the interim dean of students.
Bailyn said the replacement deans will assume their positions as Yale-NUS secures its institutional footing.
“It’s an interesting moment in the history of Yale-NUS,” he said. “The task is to move from a startup mode in which everything is new to a mode in which things are being set up for the long run. So there will likely be some attention paid to how to sustain our programs for the long run.”
Ng said the college is involving students in the hiring process by asking for their input in selecting the new dean of students.