Yale Professor to Head Singapore College: a re-post of Mark Alden Branch’s July 2012 piece in the Yale Alumni Magazine

From the beginning, English and comparative literature professor Pericles Lewis has been active in designing the curriculum of Yale-NUS College—the university’s joint venture with the National University of Singapore to create a pioneering liberal arts college in Singapore. Recently, he says, he “expressed interest in being more involved.” In May, Lewis got his wish, and then some, when it was announced that he will be the college’s first president.

Lewis, who will retire from the Yale faculty to take the job, says he’ll be responsible for all aspects of the college’s operations: overseeing academic and financial matters, hiring staff, and “making sure the buildings go up.” He will divide his time between Singapore and New Haven until the college opens in the summer of 2013, at which time he and his family will move to Singapore.

Lewis, a graduate of McGill and Stanford, came to Yale in 1998. He studies British and European literature of the twentieth century. His wife, Sheila Hayre ’02JD, a public-interest lawyer, will work in the law school at NUS. They have two children, Siddhartha (12) and Maya (10). (“We like seeing the world,” he says of his family.)

There has been pushback on the Yale-NUS venture from some of Lewis’s faculty colleagues, who are uneasy about Singapore’s human rights record. Lewis is among those who have defended the project. In February, he coauthored a Yale Daily News op-ed essay arguing that, while “Singapore has very different laws and traditions from our own,” nevertheless “Yale needs to engage in the world.” Lewis says some people in Singapore were offended by the Yale faculty’s April resolution criticizing the country (see “Delayed Reaction,” May/June), but “in the long run this is a very solid partnership.”

The Yale-NUS campus is under construction, and the college has hired 36 faculty members, many of whom, Lewis says, are coming from tenured positions at “prestigious American universities.” Some 20 members of the new faculty will be in New Haven full time during the next academic year, planning Yale-NUS’s curriculum.

Students at Yale-NUS College will not earn Yale degrees, but they will have a relationship with Yale: a brochure for prospective Yale-NUS students promises they “will become part of both the Yale and the NUS alumni societies.” Mike Madison ’83, outgoing board chair of the Association of Yale Alumni, said in a statement this spring that the future 2017 graduates “will be warmly welcomed as a part of the Yale alumni community.” So what Yale alumni “society” or “community” will they join?

With the first Yale-NUS graduating class five years away, details of alumni relations are still being worked out, says Yale University vice president Linda Lorimer ’77JD, but the Yale-NUS alumni will become “international affiliates”—similar to the World Fellows. The World Fellows, who spend a semester on the Yale campus in a nondegree program, are invited to alumni events and programs and included in the online alumni database (as are Yale postdoctoral fellows). But Lorimer says that neither international affiliates nor postdocs are considered alumni.

Because they don’t hold Yale degrees, Yale-NUS grads won’t be able to vote for alumni fellows on the Yale Corporation, the university’s governing body; and because they haven’t spent at least one term as degree candidates at Yale, they won’t be able to serve as AYA delegates or board members. (For more, see From the Editor.) Like the other international affiliates, however, they will be AYA members. The AYA’s 2008 constitution grants membership to Yale’s international affiliates, giving them access to AYA programs and services.

One comment

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