Manifesto Review: Academic Affairs Secretary — Damini Gandham


The colour scheme works like this:

Green – completed already.

Orange – will most likely be completed before end of tenure.

Red – not completed, or left to future Secretaries.

After proposing a total of 20 tasks at the beginning of her tenure, Damini took up 5 more new initiatives. A review of the Academic Affairs Secretary’s work shows a success rate of 30% in fulfilling her manifesto promises. Some of the tasks Damini hopes to complete in the next few weeks, before the end of her tenure, and a few are long-term plans that can only be taken to completion by subsequent Secretaries.

One notices a significant overlap between the points on Damini’s manifesto and the points on the manifestos of individual BC’s (Branch Councillors). In many cases, BC’s took up certain tasks as their own initiatives, having stated them on their manifestos. There was not much of a concerted effort from the AAS to coordinate and follow up with her entire team, perhaps because of the assumption that some BC’s were doing those tasks anyway. Consequently, many of these tasks were implemented by BC’s for their particular branches, but weren’t taken up more broadly and formally by the AAS. A word of caution for future AAS’s would be to ensure that this does not happen, either by having points that are separate from those that individual BC’s are going to carry out, or by coordinating with BC’s and the Placement team to ensure the completion of tasks at a broader level.

Apart from what’s stated on her manifesto, Damini’s tenure saw some new initiatives and achievements. The introduction of a Graveyard Slot (the midnight slot on Day 1 of placements) and a centralized Placement Preparation portal, a large-scale exercise in résumé authentication, and a high-performing internship team are all noteworthy, and they’ve been elaborated upon after the review.

Training and Preparation

● Initiate the establishment of Clubs in the Institute.

➢ Finance: Coordinate with DoMS to organize sessions on NCFM, CFA, FRM certifications and introduce Finance 101 boot camps.
➢ Consult: Case study sessions to be organized by a convenor and blended with training sessions by professional service providers.
➢ Analytics: Workshops and training sessions on Excel, Advanced Excel, VBA, Puzzles and Cases.
➢ Software: Focus on C, C++ and Matlab. Fundae sessions and mock tests to ensure high degree of proficiency.
Consult, Finance, Software and Analytics Clubs were to be formed soon after the elections, but these were not created. Initially, Damini intended to invite alumni or third-party experts to club sessions in order to train final year students. However, the current plan is to rope in the already placed batch of immediate seniors to conduct fundae sessions, since the administration objected to the idea of alumni and third party professionals taking training sessions. A Branch Councillor gave us feedback on this point, saying, “The club sessions were not conducted, and the current plan is to have sessions on various sectors over two weeks. In the previous years, the sessions on various sectors happened over a day or two as part of a ‘Placement Drive’. The only change is that this year they will happen over two weeks, so this is not a new initiative as such. The clubs which she proposed in her manifesto were intended to initiate rigorous training and preparation, but they were never formed. A consult session was initiated by some BC’s this semester, but there have been no sessions (outside the Placement Drive) organized by her so far on Finance and Analytics.”

● Personality Development Programme: An all-inclusive approach to soft skills enhancement. It will be done on two levels viz. Basic and Advanced.
Long-term and short-term soft-skills courses were offered in the odd semester.


● Target companies abroad through RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) companies like GradConnect, CareerNet, etc.
No RPO companies were contacted formally this year. A few BC’s, though, took up the task of contacting RPO companies as their own initiative. The BC’s we spoke to said, “Had the AAS formally contacted RPO’s, we would have had many more companies this year.”

● Emphasis on start-ups, reconnecting with past recruiters and a structured approach to add new firms from various sub-sectors.
There was no extra emphasis on start-ups, or additional structuring, this year. As happens every year, the placement team reached out to some recent alumni who started up on their own, and invited them to placements. A few start-ups also registered for placements on their own, and some individual BC’s contacted start-ups that then recruited from their department. However, there was no common, central list of start-ups compiled by either the BC’s or the IPR team.

● Suggestions for any new companies/PSU’s/other programs will be taken via Acad eHow to enhance the existing reach.
Acad eHow was not implemented (see ‘Academics’), and there was no formal structure for collecting suggestions. Many BC’s, on their own initiative, took suggestions from their electorate on what companies they wanted invited.

● Ensuring that major PG recruiting companies are slotted on earlier dates.
In the placement season, preference was given to some post graduate recruiters, and they were slotted on earlier days.

● Take feedback in the form of video-recorded interviews of the placed students within a few days of their getting placed.
This was not done right after placements, but is an ongoing project. The feedback will not be recorded on video, but will be documented as text. A BC clarifies that documented feedback is not a new initiative, saying, “The proposal was to video-record the student feedback, which is not being done now. The documented feedback is taken every year by individual BCs.”


● Department Connect: Academic mentorship for students on an informal basis by a set of seniors.
An informal interaction happened in a few departments at the initiative of some BCs. One of the hurdles in starting this was that seniors were discouraged from interacting with first years, but this does not explain why a programme was not started for second and third years. A Study Circle is to be initiated for this semester in most departments, and the Dean (Students) promises it shall happen once quiz 1 results are uploaded by faculty. This has been done for some branches (like EE, ED and AE) and is being worked on for the other branches.

● Adequate representation of the M. Sc. students in the academic council to address their issues and timely dissemination of information.
More M. Sc. students were included in the academic council.

● Acad eHow: A platform for students to bring up any academics-related or departmental query they might have. It shall be moderated by the team of all Branch Councillors and will contain a set of FAQs.

● ‘Research’ tab in IIT Madras home page – An online database listing all research projects undertaken, available research opportunities and IIT Madras-affiliated research papers, and Dual Degree Projects theses.
This is a long-term project and can only be done with the collaboration of professors, who will need to screen project theses before making them available online. Damini says that she has initiated some discussion about it and hopes it will be taken to completion in two or three years by future teams. (Since, according to Damini, this couldn’t have been finished in one year anyway, it has been marked in yellow and not red.)

● Facilitate the utilization of web space by students on their department websites to include a personalized web page.
This facility has been available to CS and EE students for the last few years, and a few other BC’s have tried to arrange this in their departments (without much success, due to logistical difficulties). Damini says that there is, however, a facility on the Students’ Portal to upload personalized webpages, which will be launched in two weeks.


● Revamp the Internship Portal: Information about research internships, foreign internships, Research Park internships and abstracts of the projects offered by professors will be uploaded and feedback of previous interns will be archived.
The Internship Cores have taken feedback from interns, but a separate portal for internships was deemed infeasible.

● Internship Preparation material will be created and continually updated.
The internship team has not been able to compile any such material for internship preparation, and cites being overloaded with other duties as the reason for this.

● Fundae sessions will be conducted and documented, and feedback will be shared.


● AppCell: A structured repository of information regarding the process of pursuing higher studies, alumni feedback and suggestions, interviews etc.
The idea of AppCell and IIT Madras University Fair is being worked on by the International and Alumni Relations Secretary, Jithin Sam Varghese, and Oswald Lobo, the Research Affairs Secretary. Notably, branches like BT, ME and ED already have long-term data for AppCell. For the remaining branches, over 3-4 years’ worth of data needs to be procured before being put up online, and the branch councillors have already consolidated one year’s worth of data.

● Organize IIT Madras University Fair and QS World MBA Tour TM to aid students in the application process and provide them with information and opportunities for the future
This has been done in collaboration with Jithin and Oswald and is scheduled to happen on March 14th.

● Dissemination of information on off-campus recruitment/research opportunities
There has been no extra initiative to do this, but information on off-campus opportunities is being disseminated, as always, through Smail.



Number of Points


Successful tasks (from manifesto)



Partially completed tasks






Total number of tasks (on manifesto)



Other initiatives and achievements:

• Institute Preparation portal – A one-stop site for all placement preparation material, the portal was made this year to help reduce the workload on individual BC’s and provide more centralized access to material.
• Increase in internships  The number of campus internships offered to students doubled in the academic year 2013-14. The internship team has been in touch with every company that visited campus as well as those that were approached in the odd semester.
• Résumé Verification – This was initiated quite successfully to ensure the authenticity of the résumés that went through our central placement process.
Graveyard Slot    A midnight slot on Day 1 of placements was introduced for high-paying (usually offshore and CS) offers. This was done to handle logistics better and to reduce the incidence of multiple offers. Also, Day 1 was split into two slots and those who received an offer in the morning slot were not eligible to sit for placements in the afternoon slot.


• Bluebook – As in previous years, feedback on the selection processes of various companies, taken from students placed in those companies as well as alumni working there, was compiled to aid the final years.


You can find all the manifesto reviews here.

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