An introduction to liberal arts. A peek at life in a Residential College. A master class on Global Politics 2016: The New Normal. A tour of an Advanced Robotic Centre. A lesson on Chinese ink painting. These are just a few of the talks and workshops available to donors as part of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Benefactor Campus Experience 2016. The event gave NUS alumni and friends a first-hand insight into the depth and breadth of an NUS education, both inside and outside the classroom.
The two-day event took place in Yale-NUS College (Yale-NUS), Singapore’s first liberal arts college, as well as University Town, NUS’ first residential college system where students and faculty live and learn side-by-side.
In his talk titled “Ever wondered what liberal arts is and why it matters?”, Professor Pericles Lewis, President, Yale-NUS, emphasised the importance of preparing students for tomorrow’s workplace by offering a broad education that brings together learning from both the West and Asia. He also shared that the era of lectures is over – Yale-NUS students only spend 20 percent of their time in lectures – as the information can be found elsewhere. What is important is knowing what to do with this knowledge and this is taught through discussions and group activities.
Several classes were put on by Yale-NUS professors to give donors a taste of a liberal arts education. In his class on “The truth about cats and dogs.”, Assistant Professor Philip Johns revealed that all dogs are descended from trusting Chinese wolves who befriended humans for food. Although they may be smaller than most dogs, cats have much stronger jaws, thus explaining why they will hunt much larger prey, whereas dogs hunt animals smaller than themselves. And, because of the way their legs are designed, cats can climb trees but dogs cannot.
In University Town, on the second day of the Campus Experience, donors attended master classes on smart technology, dementia, office behaviour and global politics.
Li Ka Shing Professor of Economics, Professor Danny Quah, in his class titled Global Politics 2016: The New Normal, provided insightful analysis of the current political arena. From the US Presidential elections to Brexit, he discussed how politics and democracy have changed over the years and the impact this has on Singapore and the region.
Prof Quah explained that the recent US Presidential Elections have changed the demeanor of America in the world, from being an open society, an open country, that was admired and respected by everyone around the world, to something that’s quite different. The old political divide used to be democrat versus republican; left versus right. The divide in America now is closed versus open. The fact that Trump has been successful so far shows that political conversations have changed due to factors that include institutional, psychological and intellectual ones.
In his master class on “Workplace Behaviour: Air Pollution, Coffee and Sleep”, Assistant Professor Kai Chi (Samuel) Yam explained how glucose is the biofuel of our self-control and this is undermined by the haze, sugar-free coffee and lack of sleep. For example, exposure to haze in the mornings leads employees to be abusive to their colleagues in the afternoon. A dip in glucose in the blood – so in the period before lunch or in the late afternoon – makes it more difficult for judges to make difficult decisions such as granting parole. The effect of lack of sleep is similar to that of alcohol in the blood. It leads to unethical behavior – in the case of accountants, they might commit fraud.
The NUS benefactors also took part in a campus tour of their choice. Among others, they were able to choose between visiting a simulated hospital for training young doctors; the Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology at NUS where technology is translated into solutions for industrial, clinical and consumer benefit; the Advanced Robotics Centre to see how robotics impacts productivity; and the only Formula race car factory in Singapore.
The event culminated in a tour of the NUS Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and a class on techniques of Chinese ink painting at the NUS Museum.
Ms Latha Nathan, who attended the Donor Campus Experience 2016 with her mother Mrs V R Nathan, shared, “We had a wonderful event. It was very enlightening because we had a good chance to interact with the faculty staff. We are also given a very comprehensive tour of the entire campus and I felt that they are making genuine efforts to spread the message that this college will definitely be a good choice for future generations.”
To register for the forthcoming NUS Campus Experience 2017, please contact Ms Fifi Pang at email@example.com