New Yale-NUS president Tan Tai Yong visiting Yale

Two men sitting in arm chairs having a conversation
Yong sits with Benjamin Franklin head of college Charles Bailyn. Photo by Harold Shapiro.

The current president of Yale-NUS, Tan Tai Yong, has been on campus for a 10-day visit to meet with numerous Yale faculty and senior administrators to build upon the robust relationships that have been forged between the university and Yale-NUS College.

While visiting Yale Tan has stayed at Benjamin Franklin College, enjoying the opportunity to fully immerse himself in the Yale community. He has met with President Peter Salovey, Provost Benjamin Polak, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences Tamar Gendler, as well as Yale faculty who have taught at Yale-NUS, and representatives from the Faculty Senate. In addition, Tan has reached out to deans and faculty members who are less familiar with Yale-NUS College to provide an update and extend the relationships between the two institutions.

While in New Haven, Tan gave a talk on Dec. 6 in Benjamin Franklin College about liberal arts in Asia, and at Yale-NUS College, specifically.

Tan began his presidential term in July 2017, succeeding founding president Pericles Lewis who returned to Yale this fall as the vice president for global strategy and deputy provost for international affairs.

A strong believer in the value of a liberal arts and science education, Tan has been a leader in the Yale-NUS college community since the early days of planning. In 2011, Tan co-chaired a joint Yale and NUS committee that advised the hiring of inaugural Yale-NUS faculty and participated in the developmental work which shaped the college’s common curriculum. As the college’s executive vice president for academic affairs (equivalent to the Yale provost’s role), a post he held from 2014-2017, Tan worked closely with students, faculty, and staff to enrich the educational experience of the Yale-NUS students and to enhance the college’s academic programs. Under his vice president leadership, the size of the faculty at Yale-NUS nearly doubled and the academic and student life of the college was given more structure with the recruitment of four deans who worked to integrate the academic and student life of the college. He also led efforts to enhance research, strengthen the sciences and social sciences, and improve the college’s laboratory and library facilities.

A man in a suit talking to three college students.
(Photo by Harold Shapiro)

A graduate of the National University of Singapore (NUS), Tan earned a Ph.D in history from Cambridge University before returning to NUS in 1992 as a faculty member in the history department. He served for six years as dean of the NUS Faculty of Arts & Sciences and for four years as vice provost of student life. During those years, he was one of the key architects of academic and student life programs at University Town, the college’s close neighbor.

Tan is a noted historian, specializing in South and Southeast Asian history. He has published extensively on the Sikh Diaspora, social and political history of colonial Punjab, de-colonization and the partition of South Asia, and Singapore history. He is the founding director of the Institute of South Asian Studies, an autonomous university-level research institute in NUS. He has also served on the editorial board of the journal Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge) and on the international editorial board of India Review (USA), among many other professional services.

Tan has been a member or chair of 11 educational, cultural, and charitable organizations in Singapore, including serving as chair of the National Collections Advisory Panel of the National Heritage Board. Appointed as one of nine nominated members of Parliament in 2014, Tan has emphasized the importance of cultural diplomacy as the basis of strong relationships with other countries and encouraged resilience in Singaporean students. He has also been a champion for open dialogue among all members of the Yale-NUS community.

For more information on Yale-NUS, visit the college’s website.

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