14th MC Elections: Interview with Cheng Lei

By Matthew Poh

Continuing our series of interviews with the MC nominees, we speak to Cheng Lei, a Year 1 Information Systems major who is running for the position of Honorary General Secretary.

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“I always have a strong belief of contributing back to where I belong, to make the community a better place.”

Despite having just joined the USP community a few months back, Cheng Lei already has big plans and high hopes to make a difference, and wasted no time in telling Cinnamon Roll about how he plans to do. Specifically, how can we best utilise spaces around USP to bond the community together?

He intends to address this issue in two ways.

Firstly, Cheng Lei wants to make use of various technologies and knowledge from what he is studying to come up with more efficient communication platforms to aid both the student population and interest groups.

“One example is to create a common platform for all interest groups. This platform can then act as an avenue for new USP students to get to know more about the various interest groups,” explained Cheng Lei.

Secondly, he wants to make better use of the physical space in UTown that USP occupies. On hearing this, TCR quizzed Cheng Lei regarding his thoughts on the current Space Working Group, which has done a commendable job in reinventing Chatterbox and the theme rooms.

Cheng Lei acknowledged the good job that the Space Working Group has done thus far but believes that it is now time to take the Group to the next level: “I believe that it is time we move on from simply redesigning our physical rooms. Perhaps it is more pertinent for us to think about how we should market and publicize the spaces we have.”

He cited the example of the outdoor amphitheatre, which is a space he believes has massive potential. However, due to limited publicity and awareness, no one has thought about using it. He suggested that we could explore holding informal dialogues, such as those which take place frequently in Chatterbox, in a more open environment such as the Amphitheatre. “Not only will this make better use of the spaces we have, we can let the wider community in UTown know what is going on in USP,” added Cheng Lei enthusiastically.

To Cheng Lei, ‘spaces’ should not be constrained to the physical spaces USP has. He is also concerned with the ‘space’ each interest group operates within.

“USP is made up of a diverse group of people, each with very different interests. Could the proliferation of more and more interest groups be diluting our small population?” Cheng Lei was addressing the concern that interest groups are dying quickly due to low membership rates.

In response, Cheng Lei proposed combining similar interest groups. He explained: “Take for example Reversi and Chinese Chess. Instead of being two separate interest groups, they can come under one broad ‘mind sports’ interest group. This way we can foster continuity and stronger community bonds due to larger turnouts.”

Although the honorary general secretary is an “internal role which works behind the scenes”, Cheng Lei is determined to make use of his prospective role to organize ‘spaces’ (not just physical ones) and effect a larger, more outward community change. After all, this is nothing new to him.

In secondary school Cheng Lei recalled how as a vice president of the student council he had to organize and bring together various leaders to make a difference such as those on the prefectorial board and the CCA leaders. One such instance was during teachers’ day celebration where all the leaders in the school worked together to come up with tokens of appreciation to their teachers. He has also been involved in a community-based grassroots project, leading youths under the People Association Network of the Punggol Community Centre.

Ultimately, Cheng Lei’s vision is to “redefine spaces”, “to increase ownership of USP students over common spaces, and to forge stronger continuity of interest groups”. Granted, his aims are ambitious, but these are issues that the community has had to grapple with in the past three years since moving to UTown, and will continue to do so as we continue to find our place in the RC.