The "New" Talented Scholars Resource Room (TSR^2)

Office of Minority Education

Editor’s note: This summer, the Office of Minority Education’s Tutorial Services Room (TSR) received a new name: Talented Scholars Resource Room, or TSR^2. Located in 16-159, TSR^2 provides a host of academic resources, including one-on-one academic support, group study sessions, p-set nights, and a quiet study lounge. Although the program’s offerings and location haven’t changed, the new name helps reflect more accurately the breadth of offerings of this vital resource.

It also helps dispel several myths, such as the perception that because OME runs TSR^2, it’s intended only for minority students. In fact, TSR^2 is open to all students. Last fall, 36% of students who used TSR^2 services were non-minorities.

To help convey the many ways TSR^2 benefits students, we asked Alyssa Napier ‘16, a chemistry major and one of the TSR^2 teaching assistants, to describe her experience at the TSR^2.

A cheer erupts from the table as two of my chemistry students celebrate their Eureka moment with fist bumping and high fives. After noticing the other users of the TSR^2 giggling at their computer screens or grinning over their notes, they blush and apologize. But none of the laughing is malicious. All of it says, “We, too, understand the euphoria of finally comprehending what seems like the magic of quantum mechanics.”

Although the students I tutor are mostly freshmen taking GIRs or sophomores working on 5.12 or 5.13, the other users of the TSR^2 on any given homework night vary in class year and course. At times, students wander in because dorms are far away, and the mini-Athena cluster inside the TSR^2 provides a place to study that’s not usually as crowded as the libraries. Sometimes friends meet there independently of tutoring to study for a particularly difficult test.

Talented Scholars Resource Room (TSR^2)During the day, the TSR^2 users are transient—it becomes a quiet napping place between classes, a lunch table, a place to brainstorm on the many white board spaces, and more. I have given spontaneous Orgo lectures at 11 a.m. because I happen to have caught the frantic, last-minute cramming of a group on my lunch break. I have been given spontaneous lectures when, frustrated by studying alone, I’ve walked into the TSR^2 and asked users if they understood what I had been struggling with for days. Even if no one understands right away, I can trust that someone will at least be there to struggle with me or next to me.

The fact that so many people feel comfortable enough to use the TSR^2—regardless of whether they are being officially tutored or are officially tutoring—actually creates a better atmosphere for the tutoring itself. I tutor chemistry, and though I am a chemistry major, and have taken the same classes as my students, I do not pretend to know everything. Sometimes even the other upperclassmen tutors are stumped by a difficult p-set problem. Then, from the other side of the room, a senior in chemical engineering who needs a break from the thesis she’s been writing will reassure us all that she had this professor in the past, and while the solution may look difficult, most of his problems can be deduced from a pattern.

Talented Scholars Resource Room (TSR^2)My students have relied multiple times on the community of the TSR^2 to help, not only with p-set problems, but with MIT problems in general. Because of the diversity of students who use the TSR^2, students who have questions on chemistry might also find answers to questions they have about, say, the wrestling club, the Black Students Union, life in different dorms, or how to best utilize Pass/No Record in the sweet spot between total hedonism and constant studying.

In my opinion, the best thing about the TSR^2 is that peer instruction is not treated as a division between “all-knowing” tutors and “know-nothing” tutees. The line between the two is fluid. I have aced several chemistry classes, but had I known about the TSR^2  during my 8.02 semester, it would have been my own very loud Eureka moment that elicited laughs. At any given time, a tutee or even a random student can become a tutor or vice versa, and this helps create an atmosphere in which it’s okay to admit you are having trouble with a subject. The TSR^2  is not for wise beings to pass on their knowledge, but rather for students who have gone through what you’re going through to help you get to the other side safely—with the understanding that you might, in turn, help them someday.    —Alyssa Napier '16