Prominent businessman Dr Stephen Riady believes in giving opportunities to develop students to their fullest potential. When the Stephen Riady Group of Foundations made a generous gift to the National University of Singapore (NUS), it was not only to help needy students but also to encourage them to pursue their interest in the areas of sports, arts and culture. It is important to Dr Riady that students receive a broad-based, experiential learning experience at the University and become wholesome individuals with strong character and heart to serve society.
With that, a first-of-its-kind initiative was kick started at the University to strongly encourage students to pursue their interests and passions outside the classroom. The University Support for Sports, Arts and Culture (U-SPARKS) dispenses funding grants to assist students in initiating and organising meaningful sports, arts and cultural activities.
Professor Tan Tai Yong, Vice-Provost (Student Life) says, “The gift has come at a time when it is more crucial than ever for our graduates to be future-ready in this ever-changing world. They have to be well-rounded and be able to think out-of-the-box. Setting up U-SPARKS was a good way of making funds accessible to students who have great ideas which can be translated into meaningful projects and activities with potentially good outcomes.”
Students have to apply for U-SPARKS grants with a detailed project proposal through the NUS Office of Student Affairs and each successful application may receive up to S$10,000.
“Students who do not belong to formal student societies may not have access to a lot of funding and it would be a pity if great ideas are hindered by financial limitations. U-SPARKS will be able to facilitate worthwhile projects by providing financial support,” Professor Tan explains.
In the first year (from October 2013 to June 2014), U-SPARKS supported 15 projects in NUS with more than 3,800 people participating in the events planned and executed by 150 students.
From a ballroom dancing competition that attracted participants from 22 countries, to a Museum Week where visitors could try their hand at many different activities including lithography – a fascinating technique of printmaking – the gamut of activities showed that the initiative was off to a very good start.
When NUS Business School student Jonathan Ng embarked on his Student Exchange Programme (SEP) in Belgium, Brussels, he was presented with a rare opportunity to participate in the qualifying rounds at the Garmin Barcelona International Triathlon in Spain. He successfully qualified for the biennial World University Triathlon 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil, and raced against the best university triathletes from across the globe.
“I was lucky to have U-SPARKS support me in my sporting endeavours. Through these experiences, I learnt major lessons in being independent and managing time well whilst studying and racing. The initiative is an important pillar of support for students to better themselves and society. It will stimulate students’ minds to step forward with radical ideas that could help themselves, the University, or the community at large,” Jonathan shares.
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