Do you need help?

If you are a USP student in search of a place to study, or struggling with your essays, help might just be at your doorstep, almost literally.

It’s often said that the wealth of any organisation is in its people. While this is also true of the USP, the learning resources which have been developed and made available to students over the years amounts to something of an undiscovered treasure trove. Let us take you down to the USP’s Learn Lobe, located just a stone’s throw from our residential block (Cinnamon College), to show you where USP students sometimes run to for ideas and advice.

The Reading Room

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Despite its matter-of-fact name, the USP Reading Room is far from your standard library with a standard collection of standard books. Sure, it may look that way, because it is indeed a relatively small space; not your grand, multi-storeyed library full of shiny new tomes. On first glance, it appears simply like a quiet, cosy space with tables and beanbags for students to relax, or work on their projects. 

But be careful. Grand ideas and strange stories hide inside the eclectic menagerie of books that line the shelves of this Room. The Reading Room hosts an astonishing diversity of reference books, fiction, and even videos for loan. Some of the Reading Room’s latest acquisitions include “The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch" by Thomas Thwaites, about one man’s hilarious, quixotic quest to do as its title suggests.

The Room also houses Brainfood, a lovingly curated and regularly updated collection of readings and books recommended by USP faculty, students and alumni. If you ever need new ideas or compelling reads, the Reading Room is an excellent place to drop by.

 

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"The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch" by Thomas Thwaites. (left) Check out the Brainfood shelf! (right)

The Writing Centre

Sometimes having an idea isn’t enough. Sometimes the idea needs to be captured in words, condensed into sentences, and communicated to different audiences. For many of us, writing essays can be a painful and onerous task. It’s always good to have someone to bounce ideas off. It’s even better if there are people specially trained to help you craft sharper and more focused essays. For free. A place like this actually exists in USP.

Adjacent to the Reading Room is the Writing Centre, a place where any student enrolled in USP modules can come for advice on their essays. The Centre is staffed from Mondays to Fridays by trained student Writing Assistants, who offer free, one-on-one writing conferences. If you bring a copy of your essay into the Centre, the Writing Assistant on duty can help you to improve on various aspects of your essay: from brainstorming initial ideas to revising final drafts; from advancing a more convincing thesis, to more critically looking at sources. Or, how to go about examining ideas in depth, and structuring an argumentative essay. Proof-reading and editing, however, remain the responsibility of writers themselves.

The Writing Centre is open to USP students from all years. It does not matter if you are a freshman struggling with a Writing and Critical Thinking module, or a student taking an Inquiry module with essay components.

“The Writing Centre consultations have provided me with not just valuable perspectives from seniors who have been through the freshmen period, they are also a bridge for senior-junior interaction. I learnt much more about writing than from readings alone!”
- Ng Jing Yi (Chemistry + USP, Class of 2018)

 

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QR Centre/Multimedia Lab

You’ve read the books in the Reading Room. You’ve written essays with help from the Writing Centre. But what if your problem isn’t with words, so much as it is with numbers?

Where do you go?

The answer: just keep walking, until you’re in the room next to the Writing Centre. This is the Multimedia Lab. Some days it remains a Multimedia Lab: with desktop computers and a scanner available for all USP students to use. There is also a relatively large space, with tables, chairs and even cushions provided for students who want to schedule group meetings or class discussions.

Other days, the Multimedia Lab becomes something more. It transforms into the USP Quantitative Reasoning Centre (QRC).

The QRC offers a space for anyone in the USP to work on projects related to quantitative reasoning. Like the Writing Centre, it aims to provide guidance to students using statistics and quantitative data in their research. In particular, QRC was set up with students taking the Quantitative Reasoning Foundation (QRF) modules in mind, as a means to help students understand key concepts taught in these classes.

At the moment, the QRC is open twice a week. Unlike the Writing Centre, which is structured on an appointment-based system, the QRC adopts a more flexible ‘drop in’ concept, in which students can simply walk into the QRC any time during its operating hours to work on any QR-related tasks. The QRC is managed by trained student QR Assistants, who focus on higher-level concerns in quantitative reasoning: that is, “big picture” elements, such as conceptual organisation of essays and answers, or alternative ways to understand certain ideas. However, visitors to the QRC need not necessarily enlist the help of student Assistants if they do not require it – the Centre positions itself more as an open space for any students which utilise quantitative reasoning in their assignments.

 

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Conclusion

USP students are familiar with the words curious, critical and engaged, and endeavour to build a community around these words. Curiosity sometimes needs to be cultivated, and a critical mind needs to be honed. Thinkers and scholars aren’t born overnight. They are enriched by the continual flow of resources and ideas they surround themselves with, and sharpened with the help of other incisive intellects. Drop by the USP Learn Lobe one day if you have not, and see ‘treasures’ and help you can uncover on your own.