Robbie Short

SINGAPORE — Five Yale faculty and one staff member spent a part of their spring break teaching — but on the other side of the world.

Every year, Yale-NUS — a Yale-affiliated liberal arts college in Singapore — invites Yale faculty members and staff to the college to teach one-week courses that “add to the repertoire of courses available to students,” according to Yale-NUS Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Joanne Roberts. This year, geology and geophysics professor Ruth Blake, Assyriology professor Eckhart Frahm, art history professor Edward Cooke ’77, Digital Humanities Lab Manager Catherine De Rose, art history professor Ruth Barnes and political science professor Nuno Monteiro each taught a five-day evening course at the college from March 11–15. Course topics ranged from “The Bible in its Ancient Near-Eastern Setting” to “The Arts of South-East Asia.”

“The Special Seminars … are a distinctive and unique opportunity for Yale-NUS students to learn a highly specialised subject and/or skill from esteemed visiting Yale faculty,” Roberts wrote in an email to the News.

Yale-NUS students receive one modular credit for a Special Seminar, while most semesterlong courses at the college are worth five modular credits.

Roberts said the college decided that offering the courses in the second semester coincides well with Yale’s spring break, making it easier for Yale faculty to visit campus.

“Such collaborations will continue to deepen and broaden in scope and we hope to grow them further,” Roberts said. “Changes in the timing during which they are offered might still take place to best meet Yale faculty and our students’ needs as we aim to work together to enable the best programme to take place.”

The faculty and staff members who taught the seminars spoke highly about the students in their courses and the experience overall. Blake, who taught “Earth Materials (Minerals) and Human Health,” during her week in Singapore, said the students “were as well-equipped as the students [at Yale].” She added that the 10 students enrolled in her module voluntarily undertook extra work to attend the classes, as Yale-NUS was not on spring break that week.

Blake based the module on an existing course she typically teaches at Yale in the fall semester. She said she condensed the semesterlong course to five lectures, each two and a half hours in length.

Frahm said his course “The Bible in its Ancient Near Eastern setting” was different from any course currently available at Yale-NUS. Frahm added that he would consider teaching at Yale-NUS again, should the opportunity arise.

“I was curious to see how a newly created, small but ambitious college in one of the rising global centers of the world would work,” Frahm said. “Moreover, the visit provided opportunities to talk to faculty and postdoctoral fellows at Yale-NUS and establish closer connections. Finally, spending some time in Singapore gave me a chance to experience a part of the world I had never seen before.”

Anupriya Ramamoorthy, a Yale-NUS first year who took “Earth Materials (Minerals) and Human Health” with Blake, said that she wanted to take a Special Seminar because it was “a cool and interesting way to learn more about a new topic without having to take on a ton of workload.” She chose Blake’s seminar specifically because of its relevance to her prospective major in Life Sciences.

Ramamoorthy said that she was nervous coming into the course because it had been a while since she had done chemistry, but added that Blake “ensured the class wasn’t too chem-heavy.” She said  that she enjoyed the hands-on elements of the course — when Blake let the class touch and hold minerals and rocks so that they could “understand their different shapes and conformation.”

“It’s a wonderful way to learn something new in a short span of time, and these visiting professors really care about their work and their area of study so you can really feel their passion and interest, which just makes it all the more better,” Ramamoorthy said.

Yale-NUS offers 14 different majors.

Asha Prihar | .

Carly Wanna | .

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.