October, 2015

Ashoka University gets its first Alumni Association

The association has been created to scale up and channel engagement within the diverse alumni body

By Malini Bose, Kshiti Gala and Jasmine Luthra

The wires have been burning up across the internet and other social media platforms recently – all in the creation of the first Young India Fellowship Alumni Association. After months of discussion, the creation of a Constitution, weeks of campaigning and a day of elections, the President and seven Senators were chosen and the Association came into being. A few weeks later, the YIFAA got its Executive Council. All elected candidates will bear office for a period of two years, with the next change coming in 2017.

The YIF started its first academic session in June 2011 with 57 Fellows selected from among 2,000 applicants. By its fifth year, the number of registered applicants was almost four times that and now the Class of 2015-16 has 198 Fellows attending the programme at the Ashoka University campus. In April this year, the first three cohorts of the Fellowship joined the fourth cohort at Ashoka University for the Annual Alumni Reunion. Much of the discussion that day centred around alumni engagement, with the common consensus being that an alumni association should be created to scale up and channel engagement within the alumni body.

Following that weekend – and after conversations between the alumni, founders and programme team – a 13-member Interim Alumni Council was set up. The Council charted out a Constitution detailing the mission objectives, constitution, mode of election and responsibilities of the YIFAA…and then the real excitement began.

Chief Election Commissioner Anunaya Chaubey, Deputy Dean, Young India Fellowship blew the starting whistle for the first ever YIFAA election. Eight alumni stood for the post of President, and 21 for the post of Senator. Two weeks of frenzied campaigning followed, and suddenly every form of social media was littered with every form of election promise – manifesto documents, witty hashtags, Photoshopped posters and video-pleas. Three media teams (The Patri Times, Unspectrum and Aaina-e-Ashoka) from the ongoing cohort added even more flavour to the campaigning by interviewing candidates and putting them on the spot on several occasions.

On August 30th, 2015 alumni spread across over 10 countries voted online. After the 354 votes had been calculated, the YIFAA had its first office-bearers.

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Words of praise followed quickly. Founder and Trustee of Ashoka University, Dr. Pramath Raj Sinha said, “Congratulations to all of you on setting a new benchmark for the Fellowship in the recent YIFAA elections. I think the YIF spirit is alive and kicking. Now the real work begins. The YIFAA must set a very high bar. Not only do you have the opportunity, it is what is expected of you. All yours!”

Amit Chandra, Founder, Ashoka University and Managing Director, Bain Capital said, “Great to see the spirit with which the elections were conducted and how Fellows have reacted to the results. Having never won an election in my life, I know from personal experience that the opportunity to contribute goes well beyond any elected position. I therefore hope that all our YIF alum will play a role in shaping Ashoka over the coming decades.”

Within two months of its formation, there has been noticeable activity in the Association. To commemorate and celebrate the formation of the YIFAA, elected office bearers organised alumni get-togethers simultaneously in eight cities across the world on September 13th. About a month later, the YIFAA hosted the “Back to YIF” event – an initiative to reconnect alumni with each other. Dwight Jaggard (Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering and Undergraduate Curriculum Chair at the University of Pennsylvania; Visiting Faculty at Ashoka University) addressed the alumni through a webinar on ‘Social Capital and Social Networks’. The Association’s work is only beginning – it is now set to launch interest groups, experiential task forces and local chapters to streamline engagement.

Like the Fellowship it represents, the first YIFAA Council is characterised by its diversity – among its members are engineers, economists, designers, consultants, a museum curator, an organisational behaviour PhD student and a wildlife expert, spread across four time zones. The Council hopes to unleash the power of this diversity to organise innovative events, forge strategic partnerships and contribute to the development of the Fellowship and Ashoka University.

 

 

 

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