Yale-NUS celebrates opening of its permanent campus

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An aerial view of Yale-NUS College campus.

Yale-NUS College celebrated the opening of its permanent campus with an international symposium and an inauguration ceremony on Oct. 11–12. 

Established in 2011, Yale-NUS College is Singapore’s first liberal arts college with a full residential program that integrates living and learning. Drawing on the traditions of Yale University and the National University of Singapore (NUS), the college aims to redefine liberal arts and science education for a complex, interconnected world.

International symposium

“International Liberal Education” was the theme of the Oct. 11 symposium, which brought together approximately 40 international thought leaders in higher education from leading institutions around the world to talk about reshaping undergraduate education for the 21st century.

Peter Salovey, president of Yale, and Richard C. Levin, Yale president emeritus and chief executive officer of Coursera, were among the featured speakers at the symposium. Salovey presented opening remarks on “Transcending Boundaries: A New Variation on the Liberal Arts Ideal,” and Levin provided insights into the founding of Yale-NUS College during the first panel discussion, “Founding Yale-NUS College: Dialogue Among Presidents.”

“[M]ake no mistake in your assessment of what Singapore and its national university are accomplishing here with Yale-NUS,” said Salovey during his opening remarks. “They are creating something new; they are taking risks to do so; and they are exploring the future of higher education on behalf of their own country — and on behalf of the many other countries now sending students to Singapore for a unique liberal arts experience in Asia.”

The President noted that neither Yale nor NUS “took lightly the challenge we had set ourselves. We were each lending our good names to a new entity, with no history or reputation of its own, in a world of undergraduate education where — both within Singapore and in all other countries — the recruitment of the best students in the world is driven by a well-known hierarchy of prestige and selectivity, heavily reinforced by parental and student anxiety about future career opportunities. …

“And we scored an immense success,” he added. “In the first three application cycles, Yale-NUS has attracted over 30,000 highly qualified applicants from all regions of the globe, admitted fewer than 5%of them, and yielded over half of those who were offered admission. … [O]ur results have also strongly confirmed what we believed from the beginning: There is a tremendous hunger for a holistic, liberal arts education in Asia and around the world, even among students in places where a liberal arts education is not yet widely understood.”

The President noted that the new Yale-NUS campus includes residential colleges, modeled on those at Yale, which bring together a subset of students into a community where they live, work, dine, and play. “We have discovered over the years that our residential colleges at Yale foster collaboration, lasting friendships, and mutual support of high aspirations, creating lifelong bonds,” said Salovey.

“Our architects have done an exceptional job translating the design for residential college rooms, common spaces, classrooms, and dining halls to this new environment, and we fully expect the students here to share happy and valuable experiences in a community similar to those that Yale alumni consistently tell us they value most,” he added. (Read the full text of the President’s remarks.)

Other education leaders attending the symposium included Andrew Hamilton, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford and a former Yale provost; Catharine B Hill, president of Vassar College; and Zhang Jie, president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Inauguration ceremony

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ong Ye Kung, acting minister for education (higher education and skills), was among the Singapore officials and international college presidents on hand for the inauguration ceremony on Oct. 12.

Pictured at the inauguration of the Yale-NUS’s permanent campus (from left) Yale President Peter Salovey, Acting Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis, and NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan.

During the ceremony, Salovey and NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan presented gifts to Yale-NUS on behalf of their respective universities. Salovey presented the college with a bronze statue of Nathan Hale, Yale College Class of 1773, “whose steadfast courage and dedication exemplify the spirit in which Yale-NUS College was conceived and founded.” Tan Chorh Chuan presented a specially commissioned painting titled “Spirit of the Explorer,” which “depicts a monumental landscape with different walking paths, encompassing voyages of external and self-discovery.” 

Yale-NUS College also received a Sol LeWitt mural, “Wall Drawing #442,” an asymmetrical pyramid with color ink washes superimposed. The mural was funded by three founding members of the Governing Board of Yale-NUS College: Levin; Linda K Lorimer, senior counselor to the Yale president and provost; and Roland W Betts, former senior fellow of the Yale Corporation. 

About the campus

The Yale-NUS College campus covers 64,000 square meters, and features three residential colleges, 1,000 student rooms, seminar rooms, laboratories, fabrication studios, sky gardens, a library, a black box theater, a performance hall, and art studios among other facilities.

“Our new campus is a ‘learning landscape’ equipped with a multitude of facilities to serve the needs of our students, faculty and staff,” says former Yale professor Pericles Lewis, now founding president of Yale-NUS. “With three residential colleges as well as the common social spaces across the campus complementing our educational facilities, our model of a learning community has been greatly strengthened. This state-of-the-art campus provides our community with the resources to bring the best of the East and West together in a powerful and profound dialogue, helping us shape leaders of tomorrow who will have an impact both within our community and beyond.”

It was designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli of New Haven in the United States and Forum Architects of Singapore. Yale-NUS College received the Green Mark Platinum Award from the Building and Construction Authority in May of 2013, and was the first educational institution to receive the Landscape Excellence Assessment Framework certification in August 2014, given by Singapore’s National Parks Board in recognition of its efforts in designing and implementing ecologically friendly landscapes.

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