Yale NUS’ five-month search for its new dean of students came to a close on Oct. 21 with the appointment of Christopher Bridges as the successor to Kyle Farley, who left earlier this year for New York University Abu Dhabi to become the school’s associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students.
Bridges, who currently serves as vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, will assume his new position in Singapore in January 2016, though he declined to specify the length of his tenure. The college’s search committee for a new dean of students formed in late May after Farley announced his departure. After the three finalists visited the Yale-NUS campus in early September for the final round of assessment, a report was submitted to Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis, who selected Bridges.
Administrators interviewed cited Bridges’ rich experience in student affairs and his willingness to listen to students’ concerns as highlights of his appointment, while students interviewed were pleased with the search committee’s consideration of student input.
“Bridges is a wonderful student affairs professional with a background in all the areas that matter most in the Dean of Students’ Office: residential life, dining, student organizations, diversity, athletics, orientation, academic advising,” Lewis said. “He comes from a liberal arts background and has been admired by the people who have worked with him in his diverse prior experiences.”
Bridges said his exposure to a variety of student-life issues have well equipped him to perform his new role at Yale-NUS. He said his current position at Mansfield University concerns four subdivisions: auxiliary services and athletics, admissions, student life and residence life. Before coming to Mansfield, Bridges served as residence hall director at the University of Cincinnati, where he focused on fostering student community and supervised the student dining program. He also worked in Peace and Justice — now called Faith and Justice — at Xavier University in Cincinnati where he helped manage community service projects. Bridges said he was attracted to Yale-NUS because of its small, close-knit environment and its mission to promote liberal arts education in Singapore.
He added that he was excited to join the Yale-NUS community to help the college build new traditions.
“I and my family couldn’t be more excited for this [new role],” Bridges said. “It is many of my passions all in one place. It’s a great opportunity to work with both Yale and the National University of Singapore and to work across my fields in student affairs and work with the student body … Each and every piece of it really spoke to me.” Bridges added that he is excited to work in a liberal arts environment and help develop student culture at a new school that is still forming its identity.
Bridges said that although he has never worked outside the USA before, his experiences in working with international students and at various kinds of institutions — from urban to rural, public to private — will make him a good fit for the new role at Yale-NUS.
Yale-NUS Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Tan Tai Yong, who chaired the search committee, said the committee paid special attention to candidates’ track records in student affairs management, understanding of Yale-NUS’ needs and circumstances and willingness to work in a new and evolving environment. Tan said he hoped Bridges could build on the foundations Farley built during his three-year tenure.
Bridges said his first priority will be to fully acquaint himself with the college as it stands now, and he will use the coming summer to propose changes and implement new policies in the fall of 2016.
Yale-NUS students interviewed praised the search committee’s efforts in engaging students during the search process and expressed hopes that Bridges could further strengthen the student community at Yale-NUS, especially now that the college has settled into its new campus and permanent home. When the final three candidates visited Yale-NUS, each gave presentations in front of a group of faculty and students to introduce themselves.
John Reid YNUS ’18, who attended the presentation given by one of the other two finalists, said the students in attendance had a chance to ask questions, engage in discussions and provide feedback on the candidates after the presentation. Reid added that because the school has now moved beyond its inaugural dean, he hoped Bridges could work to strengthen existing processes, rather than start things from scratch.
“I don’t think anyone has very strong reactions [to the appointment] yet,” Reid said. “We have had a lot of senior administration — all our inaugural deans — leave or announce plans to leave, so we are adjusting to this change in leadership. I think there is a ‘wait and see’ approach. Nobody I know is vehemently against the appointment, but no one is wildly excited either.”
Jolanda Nava YNUS’ 17 said that Yale-NUS is changing rapidly each year, as the number of students, professors, courses and student groups keeps increasing with the move to the new campus. Nava said she looks forward to a dean who can help students adjust to all these changes as they move from a start-up college to a more settled school.
Thu Truong YNUS ’18, who works at the Dean of Students’ Office, said the school is ready for the new leadership after Yale-NUS finds its footing three years after its founding.
“From what I read about him, he seems like a very capable and accessible person — someone our student body truly needs for transparent communication and integrity,” Truong said.
Since Farley’s departure, Yale-NUS professor of environmental studies and geophysics Brian McAdoo has served as the college’s interim dean of students.
Correction, Nov. 3, 2015: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Christopher Bridges worked in the Office of Student Involvement while at Xavier University. In fact, Bridges worked in Peace and Justice.