By Abigail Goh
In the first of our series of interviews with the MC nominees, we speak to Gloria Pang, a Year 2 Geography major who is running for the position of Vice President (Welfare).
Fostering strong relationships and building a true sense of community where each individual feels cared for: these aspirations are at the heart of Gloria’s decision to run for the VP (Welfare) position, and, if elected, will be the premise of her work in the MC.
“I know that welfare is quite a broad and generic word, but when you come into university, when you come into USP – forming relationships, being cared for and having a good experience is, to me, something that is very important,” she explained.
Identifying various different avenues where relationships could be built (including the Interest Groups, Inter-Faculty Games, Houses, and the newly introduced Floor system), Gloria quickly zeroed in on the Freshman Floors when speaking to The Cinnamon Roll.
“What I want to focus on is stabilising the new Freshman Floor system, seeing how this freshman floor idea can flourish. I will definitely be following up on it and gathering feedback because it’s new and has a lot of potential as a new community for freshmen, aside from their Houses,” said Gloria.
She also spoke at length about the desire to explore the opportunities of community-building vis-à-vis the RC, beyond just the freshmen: “From what I see, we’re not making full use of the opportunities of living in an RC. If you just go to school and come back here to sleep, but don’t really know your neighbours or use the communal spaces here, how different is that from living in a flat by yourself?”
Besides stabilising the freshmen floor system, Gloria intends to work very closely with the Residential Fellows (RFs) and Residential Assistants (RAs), who would play vital roles in maximising the full potential of RC living.
For one, she raised the question of RA selection – what kind of RA would be the best fit to build a strong community and to helm the freshmen floors? Moreover, how can RFs be more engaged in the community? Citing the example of Yale-NUS, where RFs are very actively involved in student life, she observed that there still exists a barrier between the students and the RFs, where students are uncomfortable or even unaware of who their RFs are.
“RFs have such rich knowledge and experiences that I’m sure they’re itching to share, and we should really maximise their presence here in the RC,” she said.
When asked about her opinions regarding the currently nebulous status of the Houses in relation to USC, Gloria stated that it is not a question of whether or not Houses should be a formal or informal institution, but that they are empowered and supported (financially or otherwise) by USC, as legitimate communities that run in tandem with the Floor system.
In addition, she envisions elevating the current roles of House Captains and Vice Captains, such that they expand beyond a solely House-centric job scope.
“At present, their roles are confined within individual Houses. I really want the new incoming House Captains and Vice Captains to really rise up as representatives of their entire batch, whether it’s in planning events, or roles that will entail them representing, galvanising and rallying their batch together. Batch-wide bonding activities stop once FOP ends, but I think it’s something that should be continued. And while the MC represents the whole USC, there isn’t any batch-specific representation currently,” she elaborated.
Drawing on her experience as Orientation Week Director in this year’s Freshman Orientation Programme (FOP), Gloria also touched on the possibility of better integrating House Committees and FOP Committee such as having the “House Committees be more involved in FOP decision-making, especially since they are the ones running FOP on the ground.”
Moving beyond the scope of welfare in terms of residential life and the Houses, Gloria intends to undertake the challenge of broadening the current conception of welfare. She identified the importance of improving feedback channels as an essential way to figure out the key concerns and needs of the community.
She also spoke of thinking out of the box with regards to “everyday welfare”: whether it is through online platforms, or the use of communal spaces such as the dining hall and the level lounges, or in initiatives such as the book deposit and exchange scheme at the lobby area during the summer break.
Ultimately, Gloria says that engagement and ownership is the core of what she hopes the 14th MC can achieve in the coming year: “With the eradication of the pillars, it’s really up to the community to take ownership and to do what they want to do, and to seize every opportunity to be engaged.”
And in order for that to happen, building a tight-knit community like the one Gloria hopes to see would seem like a good first step.