By Anshuman and Ruchir
The International and Alumni Relations Secretary Soapbox was the third soapbox on Day 1 of the Institute Soapboxes, held on 8 March. It was preceded by the soapboxes for the Academic Affairs Secretary and the Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary, both of which had single running candidates. The contesting I&AR candidates this year are Udith Krishna and Vineesha Badabhagni. As per standard Soapbox procedure, the candidates presented their manifestos and corresponding visions for the IAR department.
Vineesha began the proceedings by presenting 9 primary goals that she sought to accomplish.
- Access for All : Improved accessibility of the department, and discussion platforms for all.
- Career Development for All : Awareness of scholarships, joint degree and supervision programs, clubs for career development(finance, analytics and consultancy) and PG sessions.
- Opportunities for All : Opportunities portal, Projects and Interns through the IITMAA portal and the international fair
- Privilege for All: Affinity program
- Networking for all : Fostering and maintenance of Student Alumni Faculty Relations, SPARC, networking of Alumni in the Hostel and Department, School Programs and Competitions like the IITG Technothlon
- Assistance for All
- Branding for All: Betterment of the global reputation, the IITM Heritage Club, Institute Team Publicity, A Day at IITM (program for school children), an insti mascot, and Daan Utsav
- Approachability for All: Increase approachability of the IAR department for all students/alumnus
- Reputation for All : Growth of the IAR reputation among the institute networks.
This was followed by Udith’s presentation. Udith sought to improve upon Brand IAR and thereby Brand IITM. This would be done through the following:
- Augmented and Virtual Reality tours of the IITM Campus
- IITM-ED – IITM Research Videos
- IITMTV – New initiatives like live streaming of major insti activities, weekly insti features, and a feature to promote insti talent.
- Development and expansion of the finance, consult and analytics clubs
- Soft skill training programs
- Increased visibility of IITM Social Work
- Increasing outreach of hostels by merging the posts of outreach and hostel managers
Udith also stressed upon his plan to increase Alumni engagement by:
- Rebranding the Leadership Lecture Series
- Introducing the IITM Heritage Series and Alumni Series
- Establishing NPTEL like courses to help alumnus build their skill set mid career
Q&A Between the Candidates
The floor then turned to cross questioning between the candidates, roughly following an alternate questioning pattern.
Vineesha first tackled Udith’s plan to merge hostel and outreach managers by asking him for a well-defined set of responsibilities for each post and the necessity of equal hostel representation, especially when new hostels don’t have enough of an alumnus base. Udith responded by elaborating on how these posts were to work and that newer hostels required more representation due to their weak existing alumni base.
Secondly, Vineesha questioned the necessity of Udith’s plan to make the IITM ECell a Stanford ASES Chapter. Udith backed this initiative up with the fact that IAR outreach will increase by tremendous amounts. He went on to explain that the types of connections that IITM will develop will be top notch as ECell becoming an ASES chapter would result in the institute becoming a hub for young Asian entrepreneurship.
She then proceeded to question Udith on the viability of the mid-career career support programs and their feasibility considering the existence of online course websites like Coursera and EdX. Udith brought up the issue of Coursera and Edx affordability and the fact that industry specific courses were lacking on these platforms.
Finally, Vineesha asked Udith to elaborate on the feasibility and logistics of the IITM Pulse Program to which Udith described his team structure, which was in line with Vineesha’s assumptions.
Udith started off by asking Vineesha about her plan for the IITMAA portal and whether she had anything new to bring to the table, Vineesha responded with her plan to make the portal more PG student friendly as well as including more data of alumni such as PoRs, etc, data of which could be obtained from the DoSt office.
Udith then went on to ask Vineesha about her JDP and JSP vision, seeing as Poojan had a similiar set of points on his manifesto. One of the new things Vineesha said she’d be doing regarding this was conducting more specific fundae sessions compared to the existing ones. In response to this, Udith expressed his worry that these would be more redundant than helpful and then went on to question the feasibility and the conducted groundwork of Vineesha’s proposed school competition. Her model was similar to the IITG Technothlon and she explained that participation would be high due to the existing IITM brand. Udith followed up by questioning the motive of this, seeing as this relied upon using brand IITM as supposed to enhancing brand IITM.
Lastly, Udith wanted to know how Vineesha would go about improving social media publicity, seeing as it was an emphasized point in both her manifesto and speech. Vineesha elucidated upon her plan which involved creating guidelines for the content development team managing the page. This was questioned by Udith, as the nature of and the existence of power to create and enforce these guidelines still remained ambiguous.
After the completion of the cross-questioning session, the floor was opened to questions from the general public.
Both candidates were questioned on their vision to enhance brand IITM by Poojan Patel, the current IAR Secretary. Both of them responded by reinforcing the ideas/initiatives included in their manifestos. He went on to question the feasibility and implementation strategies of various other manifesto points of theirs, such as Vineesha’s affinity program as well as Udith’s vision for Chennai36. He also questioned Udith’s credentials, seeing as Udith was a Shaastra Core preceding this election. Udith responded by stressing upon his involvement in I&AR since his first year and that he was aware of the progress and needs of the department, having been alumni funded several times before. Poojan also questioned Vineesha about her plan on involving faculty as similar efforts have already been made, without much fruit. She elaborated on her plan by saying that efficient involvement of faculty would be done by communicating with representatives sympathetic to the department cause.
Other institute secretaries also raised questions asking how the Alumni were to interact with the Inter IIT teams to establish networking and questioning the feasibility of an IITM Mascot. Vineesha’s plan to establish relations of the Inter IIT Team with Alumni is based around the model the Aquatics team followed in the past. She also stressed upon the necessity of the mascot idea as it helped in branding, i.e, something to represent IITM as a whole. The Speaker then asked Udith about his IVil plans and the solidity of his groundwork. Udith established his plan for IVil, also citing a funding issue that he came across that he planned to fix.
The session closed with audience questions, a few notable ones being on how Udith planned to improve upon the dormant consultancy club as well as Vineesha’s plan for a portal for entrepreneurship oriented students in the institute. Udith responded to the consultancy club issue by stressing upon the fact that skill building was the primary issue that would be focused on in the club and that they would not be moving into a project/case study based model in the foreseeable.
There was some disruption towards the end from Mayank, a GSB member who claimed to have founded GRAIN, an initiative to bridge the gap between industry and academia, and compared it to Shaastra Solutions which was spearheaded by Udith. Mayank proceeded to question Udith in a heated manner and make repeated personal accusations and allegations. Udith’s attempts to refute these allegations led to a heated exchange which was subsequently moderated by the Speaker, who barred Mayank from asking further questions.