Manifesto Reviews 2015-16: Abhishek Sharma, International and Alumni Relations Affairs Secretary

This is the eighth article in our Manifesto Review series, where we review the tenures of IITM’s Executive Wing (consisting of 10 posts) as well as that of the SAC Speaker, for the year 2015-16. In this review we evaluate the manifesto of Abhishek Sharma, IITM’s  International and Alumni Relations Affairs Secretary for the year 2015-16.

Note: The Manifesto Reviews team at T5E has made every effort to review the Executive Council in an unbiased manner and stay true to the facts, but it is possible that we may have made inadvertent errors. We request our readers to point out errors if any so that we may correct them immediately. Finally, we value your feedback! You can reach us at t5eiitm@gmail.com.

Vital Statistics

Manifesto PointsNumberPercentage
Completed529.5
Ongoing635.3
Unclassified317.6
Incomplete317.6
Total17100

 

The same color scheme is used in the review below.

The International and Alumni Relations Council is an important gear in the works which operate the alumni network and the international machine in IIT Madras. As such, the secretary of this Council holds a large amount of responsibility and is accountable to the student body. The International and Alumni Relations Secretary (I&AR Secretary) has many duties to perform. The major duties include

  1. To use the alumni network for the betterment of the institute’s current students
  2. To improve alumni–alumni interaction
  3. To improve alumni–student interaction
  4. To improve the interaction of the alumni with the institute
  5. To brand IIT Madras with respect to Public and International Relations
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Abhishek with the director on the Institute Day

Abhishek Sharma was the International and Alumni Relations Secretary for the year 2015-2016. As the new Secretary begins work, a review of the work done by Abhishek Sharma would be useful. It is to be kept in mind that the proposals put forth by Abhishek are long term ones and unlikely to be completed in the span of one year. This is supported by the fact that Poojan Patel’s manifesto overlaps with Abhishek Sharma’s to a great extent (~53%). While evaluating the manifesto it is to be noted that 35% of his initiatives are ongoing, which is a major chunk of the points, but that in each of these the level of completion of the initiative varies from just started to almost completed.

I&AR IIT-M Connect

  • Fundraising for projects by all organizations will be made possible through the Project Fundraising page, following the model of voluntary, crowdsourced funding directed towards alumni. A common platform for students to share problems faced by them in daily life (like centralized laundry system). Alumni will be able to help solve them through crowdsourced funding.

Status: Ongoing

It has not been publicized widely yet, as the team is still working on the user interface. Money required for projects and developments is usually obtained via fundraising. This raising of funds happens through the development office, who work with the team to create a good pitch and proposal and upload the entire project onto a platform where alumni and other people can view it and choose to contribute to it. It encourages the participation of alumni in the institute projects.

Here is the link for the page.

  • Leadership Lecture Series will be revamped, with emphasis on mentorship and personal interaction as compared to lectures.

Status: Ongoing

The restructuring was done successfully. The speakers, such as Satish Ramakrishna and B.N Suresh, both alumni of the institute,  were, for the first time, decided by the students.  Leadership Lecture Series Informals was started to facilitate interaction between the students and the speakers. Some steps in this direction have been taken and the team is working to increase personal interaction and providing mentorship.

  • Career development activities will be extended to the PG community, with the help of the MTech/MS/PG councilors.

Status: Unclassified

Career development activities included mock group discussions, mock interviews and lectures about research opportunities available. In the beginning, the councilors were involved in publicizing these activities to the students but later they were notified directly via smail. Career development activities were extended to the PG community but it was done just using smail without the involvement of PG councilors.

  • PG students will be included in I&AR team to facilitate greater interaction

Status: Unclassified

It took the entire year for this to be accomplished. A major portion of this included establishing a rapport with the PGs and convincing them to apply for the I&AR team. This helped to increase the interaction with the postgraduate students as a whole. As of now, there are two postgraduate students in the head team. The number can increase as the years go by.

  • Special focus will be to improve branding and awareness of these initiatives among institute students and alumni via IITM TV

Status: Done

IITMTV is used to publicize the institute and its activities, both to the campus and to the world outside the campus. Videos are made, usually by the students themselves. One instance would be the freshie video made this year for the freshers of 2015. Videos are also made with and for the international students- informal, fun and very relatable. Videos with exchange students tasting Indian food, slipping into the ‘insti lingo’, generally settling down to life in the campus were a great hit. There were also videos made for batch projects- to raise funds from the graduating batch of students. Videos of alumni reunions were also shot, as were alumni diaries, a series of interviews with alumni and leadership lectures involving alumni. There is also talk of publicizing the research projects being conducted in the institute as a part of branding the institute. The branding programme aims at branding IIT Madras to the world. Work has also begun on a series of videos- campus videos.

Some of the videos can be accessed here, here and here.

Career Development

  • High impact alumni will be brought in to interact with students through webinars and hangout sessions.  An Alumni Mentor Program will be re-initiated for students and alumni to receive personalized assistance on academic guidance, career advice, entrepreneurship mentoring and personal development.

Status:  Unclassified

A “Mentorcloud” can be accessed by the students. When it began, it was only for entrepreneurs. Now, it can be accessed by all students.  Mentorcloud is in the initial stages and like the above-mentioned programme, a lot of problems and obstacles need to be cleared out before the programme can catch on quickly. Of course, the one problem which technology cannot resolve is the resolve of the students and alumni to keep in regular contact.

  • Career Resources Portal will be setup for alumni and students.

Status: Incomplete

This particular project did not happen. This was due to the lack of co-ordinators. The size of the team increased drastically, from around 40 to close to a hundred, which enabled them to focus on a lot of other initiatives, such as the Career Dev Lecture series, which deals with career development.

  • Students and alumni will have access to Alumni Directory to find alums with similar industry or company interests shared by alumni on their profiles.  

Status: Done

Students can contact the office and ask for the alumni they wish to contact while stating their purpose. There is also an alumni tool on Linkedln, a public domain, which is publicized to the students. They can be searched for according to their year of graduation, the field of their work and so on. For specific details, however, the I&AR office will have to be contacted.

Alumni Outreach

  • Local Chapters – Alumni Chapters will be setup in Hyderabad, Pune and Kolkata, and frequency of alumni meet-ups will be increased in existing chapters

Status: Done

This comes under the supervision of I&AR and aims at increasing alumni-alumni interaction as well as alumni –student interaction. These chapters were very active in Chennai and Bangalore, fairly active in Delhi and very quiet in Bombay. However, there were chapters held in Pune, Kolkata and Hyderabad and also in Singapore. Students are also sent to these chapters and the office reimburses a part of the cost incurred.

In Bangalore, they were known as Adda sessions, and they were held on a monthly basis. Twelve students were sent every month for the first four months, after which students who were interested began to attend these sessions as well. Around forty alumni were involved in each meetup.

There was only one Chapter Meet held in Hyderabad which involved more than fifty alumni. Around ten to fifteen students were sent to this Chapter meet. The Delhi Chapter Meet happened only once too with only one student being sent from the institute. However, it involved a huge number of alumni, over a hundred. The Meet in Singapore involved approximately eighty alumni and ten students from the institute.

There were Chapter Meets held in Pune, Dubai and the Bay Area involving alumni, but no students were sent to these sessions.

  • Entrepreneurship will be organized to target the IIT-IIM Community

Status: Done

This programme was implemented under a different theme. Instead of the name given in the manifesto, it was launched as an entrepreneurship program, which attracted not only IIT alumni, but alumni from IIMs across the country and was more successful. Sessions like the Entrepreneurship Adda in Bangalore and Entrepreneurship Unconference in Chennai. The Chapter Meet in Delhi with Sanjeev Bikhchandani as the chief guest, the founder of InfoEdge which owns Naukri.com were a huge success. As mentioned previously, the Leadership Lecture Series also included alumni. In short, almost every program organized by the I&AR team this year has tried to draw in the alumni. Around sixty to hundred alumni were involved in each event.

  • IITM Alum Special Access Program will be initiated to provide alumni with special services and offers

Status: Ongoing

It is a new program, which has begun just this year and it has tied up with a number of companies to provide these services. Most of the companies are apparel and restaurants, such as Haagen Dazs, Spoonbill, Jonah’s Bistro, Internshala, Arrow and many more. This programme is still under development and the I&AR team are smoothing out the kinks in it. It is expected to be completed in a month. The offers will, at first, be made to the students and then to the alumni.

  • Library resources such as access to academic journal and databases will be made available to the alumni

Status: Incomplete

Due to financial constraints, this will not be happening. Academic journals are expensive, and the institute spends a huge amount of money simply by subscribing to these journals and making them available to the students.

Abhishek with the I&AR team
Abhishek (3rd from the left, bottom) with the I&AR team

International Opportunities

  • The International Opportunities Portal will be made for the application process. The portal shall act as a bridge for all the offices involved while applying for exchange, streamlining the current process significantly

Status: Ongoing

The International Opportunities Portal is the updated version of the Office of International Relations- OIR- website.

Information regarding the process of exchange semesters, international funding and so on is being made available more easily. The alumni international portal is nearly 80% complete. One of the major problems faced currently is the transfer of credits from a university abroad to the institute. There is no mapping system in place, no mechanism for equivalent credits. A committee of people comprising the current I&AR Secretary, Poojan Patel, a team of students and a few professors, has been created by the Dean of Academics to sort out the credit transfer mechanism.

  • International opportunities for the PGs – Awareness about research programs with other universities will be raised through sessions with the help of PG Councilors

Status:  Not Done

The PG Councillor team is usually rather busy with placements and couldn’t cooperate much. The sessions had delegates from other universities and organizations arriving. Postgraduate students were smailed directly when opportunities came up.

  • Information on international opportunities such as conferences, industrial internships, research internships, and international fellowships will be made more readily available by revamping the OIR website

Status: Done

This website has been updated and revamped. It is also the International Opportunities Portal. All the information on the previous site was transferred to the new website, along with FAQs and templates for interested students to apply for exchange programmes.

Alumni Database

  • A single consolidated database will be setup for the alumni information

Status: Ongoing

Previously, there were separate versions of the database. This meant that any changes made on one database would not be saved on the other. This caused a lot of confusion and loss of information. By cataloguing all the information regarding alumni such as their names, contact addresses, occupations and so on onto one single database, it will make it easier to maintain, update and access. The cataloguing is in progress.

  • Upcoming alumni portal will be linked to services such as LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn shall be used extensively for varied purposes like as an outreach channel, a platform for alumni to network and to exchange ideas

Status: Ongoing

The old team has been working to build alumni portal with all database and now it has been transferred to the new team. We are hopeful that it will be completed in the new secretary’s tenure.

Beyond the manifesto

“I could have done more,” he says when asked if he was satisfied with the work he undertook.  “However, a lot of things which were not present on the manifesto were done as well.” He states that the manifestos are good guidelines, but when a project or a programme doesn’t work out, then it’s important to realize the constraints and move on to another, perhaps begin another which is better suited to the situation than what the manifesto states.

Willkommen 2016 was much bigger than the previous years. The money raised and spent was around ten lakhs which was approximately two lakhs more than the last year. The Batch Project of 2016 was also much better than the previous year, in which funds were collected from approximately sixty percent of the students. Total funds were raised from more than ninety percent of the students .

Funds collected from the international students also helped to increase the activities held for them such as International Students’ Day.

Coming to the system in place, it was no easy task dealing with it. “My aim was to restructure the entire system,” states Abhishek firmly. The alumni affairs secretaries worked, with good intentions, on their own projects, there was not much co-ordination amongst them. They were not answerable to the dean, the I&AR council or to the Secretary. In his tenure, the Secretary has managed to replace the Alumni Affairs Secretaries with Hostel Co-ordinators, who work better together. However, the interaction between students and alumni still depends exceedingly on the individual hostel secretaries. Lack of alumni present locally also creates a problem. In the year, thousands of alumni have been contacted, either for telethons or for specific events, such as lectures. Abhishek agrees that a greater number of the alumni respond to the specific requests. The number of alumni contacted will always be greater than the number of alumni who respond.

Abhishek managed an overall success rate of about 30% which is a major chunk of the points. For the 35% of the points which are going on, the level of completion of the initiative varies from just started to almost completed. While about 17% of the points are left incomplete and the remaining 3 cannot be placed in a particular category.

In short, Abhishek’s tenure has seen the start of quite a few long-term programmes and the restructuring of the committee. Proposals such as the I&AR Student Council Rulebook which states the role and duties of every member of the team and the proposal to continue the branding of the institute, this time via domestic events such as Shaastra, Saarang, CFI and so on indicate that the long-term projects begun by Abhishek Sharma are going to be carried on and improved upon by Poojan Patel.  We wish them the very best of luck and hope they will continue their efforts to streamline the process.

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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