Yale Daily News

Amid efforts to strengthen ties between Yale and Yale-NUS, the sister liberal arts college in Singapore is looking to host more Yalies studying abroad and facilitate collaborative research projects across the two schools.

Noting that research is “core to the mission of both institutions,” Yale-NUS President Tan Tai Yong emphasized the importance of facilitating partnerships in research projects between Yale and the its sister liberal arts college in Singapore. In addition, Tan said student exchanges allow members of both communities to “immerse in new campus experiences and local cultures.”

“We already have a strong ongoing relationship with Yale, one which we want to continue to deepen,” Tan said. “We believe that strong ties bring not only benefits to our faculty, staff and students, but also benefits to Yale faculty and students and to the institution itself as a global presence.”

Tan said that the institutions are working on establishing summer research opportunities in Singapore for Yalies, similar to those Yale has already been extending to Yale-NUS students. He added that the two schools are exploring how “to create funding mechanisms for students to jointly develop social impact projects around the world.”

Tan said that there are also collaborative initiatives underway in environmental studies, development economics, migration, public health, foreign languages and digital humanities.

“We are leveraging our presence in Asia, and embrace the opportunity to welcome Yale faculty, students and staff to Yale-NUS College, where they can work ‘on the region, in the region,’” Tan said.

In an email to the News, psychology professor Jeannette Ickovics, who was named the dean of faculty at Yale-NUS this fall, said that Yale-NUS administrators and faculty members are actively working to recruit more Yale students to spend a semester in Singapore.

When Tan visited Yale in October, he hosted a meal with former Yale-NUS faculty members, along with Yale-NUS students studying at Yale and Yalies interested in studying abroad at Yale-NUS in the spring. And during her visit to Yale last month, Ickovics also met with Yalies considering a semester in Singapore.

“Knowing what’s available at Yale-NUS and issuing a big invitation to come can help convince more students to take a semester abroad in Singapore,” Ickovics said.

Yale has hosted Yale-NUS students since 2014. Starting in the 2015-16 academic year, the University welcomed 24 Yale-NUS students every year through the Visiting International Students Program. Still, Tan said no Yale student has spent a semester abroad at Yale-NUS.

According to Study Abroad Director Kelly McLaughlin, eight students were “looking closely” at the Yale-NUS study abroad option for this coming spring, a “marked uptick in interest” from past years. Three of those students have already been approved to study abroad at Yale-NUS this spring, though McLaughlin added that they have not yet officially committed to the program. Though the Center for International and Professional Experience has offered the opportunity for three years, only two or three students had expressed interest in prior years, he clarified.

McLaughlin told the News that it is unclear what sparked the increased interest this academic year.

“One student joked that the release of the movie Crazy Rich Asians served as at least one catalyst for interest; the movie, after all, is a visual feast that features some stunning, ultramodern city- and streetscapes,” McLaughlin wrote in an email to the News. “I think Singapore and Yale-NUS College have been visible at Yale for a number of other obvious reasons beyond that, of course, the two institutions’ close partnerships chief among them.”

Asked about the lack of Yalies studying at Yale-NUS, Ickovics said that while “there is a culture of study abroad and of seeking international opportunities at Yale-NUS,” a smaller number of Yale undergraduates choose to spend time studying abroad during their time at Yale.

Charles Bailyn, current head of Franklin College and former inaugural dean of faculty at Yale-NUS, also said that he believes that the lack of Yale students studying at Yale-NUS has to do with student life at Yale, not with Yale-NUS. He noted that many Yale students do not study abroad during the term due to extracurricular commitments.

Bailyn said that junior year is the most academically sensible time for a study abroad experience, but he has noticed that most student organizations at Yale award leadership positions in that year, which makes students reluctant to give them up. Betty Pu, a visiting student from Yale-NUS, said that at Yale-NUS, sophomores hold most leadership positions, which allows more students to go abroad in their junior year.

Last academic year, a total of 838 Yalies studied abroad for credit, but only 107 of them did so during the academic year, according to McLaughlin.

Kento Tanaka ’20, who is one of the three students approved to study abroad at Yale-NUS in the spring, said he chose the college as a study abroad destination to take time away from Yale while still feeling an “institutional connection.” He said that being at Yale-NUS could offer a compromise between experiencing a new environment and still having familiar academic and support structures.

Dustin Nguyen ’20, another student who has been accepted to study at Yale-NUS in the spring, said he found the opportunity attractive because it fits with his academic goals as an East Asian studies major. Nguyen, who has already committed to the program, said he was excited about his upcoming semester at Yale-NUS.

“I’ve already booked my flight,” he said.

Yale-NUS was founded in 2011.

Asha Prihar | asha.prihar@yale.edu .

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu .

Asha Prihar served as managing editor of the News during the 2019-20 academic year. Before that, she covered community service, Yale's professional schools and undergraduate student life as a staff reporter. She is a senior in Silliman College studying political science.