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Oct 29, 2015
by Heather Jaber
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Salzburg Global President Talks Liberal Arts at International Symposium

President and Chief Executive Officer of Salzburg Global Seminar Stephen Salyer visited Yale-NUS College in Singapore for the Symposium on International Liberal Education, where education leaders from around the world discussed trends in higher education

While Young Cultural Innovators gathered at Salzburg Global Seminar, President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Salyer visited Singapore for another youth initiative. Yale-NUS College hosted its first International Liberal Education Symposium on October 11, where over 30 global education leaders discussed the future of higher education around the world.

“Talking about the future of the liberal arts with 30 of the world’s top university presidents and vice chancellors can be a little intimidating,” said Salyer, “but that’s the situation I found myself in at an invitation-only Symposium inaugurating the Yale-National University of Singapore College.”

The Yale-NUS College celebrated its permanent campus through a symposium on international higher education, which encouraged dialogue about obstacles and trends in education in an increasingly interconnected world. The discussion took place on a campus which is a unique addition to the higher education system, as it fuses an American model in an Asian context.

“It was a bit ironic, as Oxford Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton pointed out, to see so many education leaders who earned their highest degrees in the British system, gathered to celebrate adoption of an American model in Singapore,” said Salyer.

“But the new Yale-NUS College isn’t purely of one place or another. Over five years the founders agreed on something new to both — a common global core curriculum without departments for the first two years, followed by diving deep in a field of study for the second half of the undergraduate years.”

Salyer also touched on the physical intersection between American and Asian contexts on campus, and how this fosters rich student life. “It’s also fascinating to see the Yale residential college model - low-rise buildings built around a quad - translated into a high-rise Asian context.  Elevators don’t stop at every floor, for example, forcing students to walk vertically through each other’s space and get to know others beyond their nearby suite mates.”

While this model is relatively new in a context where college selection is often influenced by prestige and fear of future career opportunities, the interest and engagement on campus indicate a promising addition to the higher education system.

“Like all experiments, this one will benefit from the energy and excitement of founding faculty and students, all co-inventors of something brand new,” said Salyer. “It will be interesting to see if that sense of innovation can be sustained over time, and how this new, tightly-knit community interacts with the rest of NUS, the city of Singapore, and the world beyond.”