April, 2015

Highlights of Young India Fellowship Alumni Weekend 2015

This year marked the first ever alumni meet on the Ashoka Campus

BY SUHA GANGOPADHYAY

The third annual Young India Fellowship (YIF) Alumni Weekend was held on April 11 and 12, 2015. The two day event hosted alumni from the past three batches of the Fellowship. More than 150 fellows travelled from different parts of the world for the weekend to share their experiences, interact with younger fellows and to relive memories.

Day 1 was hosted at the Ashoka University Campus in Sonepat. Dr Pramath Raj Sinha, Founder and Trustee, Ashoka University gave a kick start to the event by presenting a welcome address to the alumni. “It is fantastic to see the enthusiasm of YIF alumni in getting together so soon after their graduation. Most institutions see alumni return to campus after 10 years for their 10-15-year reunions. Being a new institution, we want to build a culture at Ashoka where alumni come back from their very first year and don’t break their links with the university. This is a critical part of our strategy since we eventually want the governance of Ashoka to transition to alumni from the founders over time. This year marked the first ever alumni meet on the Ashoka campus. We want this to be the start of a never-ending annual tradition,” he said.

 

The first day itself, had a surprise planned for the Fellows. Faculty member A K Shiva Kumar, Development Economist who is also the visiting Professor at Harvard University and ISB, Hyderabad delivered a guest session to Fellows. This left the audience as enthralled and spellbound as they had been when they were Fellows. The lecture was followed by a special session conducted by two alumni, Kshiti Gala and Natasha Zarine, on the importance of the formation of an official YIF Alumni Association, which was the key focus of this year’s Alumni Weekend. The sessions proved to be immensely helpful, leading to a number of important decisions to set the ball rolling for the coming years.

During the day, current batch of Fellows interacted with the alumni in various breakout sessions which had been organized based on different fields of interest, work and industries. For instance, one of the breakout sessions witnessed an interesting exchange of notes between the current batch Fellows and the recipients of the Mother Teresa Scholarship. The Scholarship was an initiative taken in the second year of the Fellowship by Amit Chandra, one of the Founders and Trustee at Ashoka to provide prospective professionals in the social development sector with financial assistance.

The composition of fellows is undoubtedly diverse. A large number of YIF alumni also have established start-ups in various fields. In association with the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Ashoka University, they were encouraged to put up stalls showcasing their services and products, which proved to be a huge success. Two start-ups from the founding batch ‘Convegenius’, by Jairaj and ‘Healers at Home’ by Kshitij Garg had put up stalls at the Start-Up fair.

Day 2 started on a nostalgic note at Shri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication (SACAC), the erstwhile Campus of the Fellowship. The Fellows relived their tenure at Ashoka as Ashish Dhawan, Founder and Trustee, Ashoka University addressed the crowd. This was followed by a guest lecture by Jonathan Gil Harris, Dean, Academic Affairs, Undergraduate Programmes at Ashoka University who spoke on “Bollywood and Shakespeare” an unusual combination which went down well with the Fellows. Over lunch, there was interaction and bonding between the old and the new. To ensure continuum elections for the Alumni Association Interim Council were also held, which resulted in the formation of the same with twelve members responsible for charting out the Constitution of the Association and conducting elections for the permanent Council at the end of three months.

Vineet Gupta, Pro Vice Chancellor and Founder at Ashoka University concluded, “Ashoka has the distinctive honour of having alumni in its first year of existence as a University. The YIF alumni are deeply passionate about Ashoka and are co-creators in the making of Ashoka University. It is very inspiring to see their sense of belonging to the University. The energy and enthusiasm of the alumni was infectious and very humbling. These are moments when you feel that the effort to set up Ashoka has been worth it. Great institutions have great alumni and Ashoka is headed for greatness on this account.”

(The writer is Deputy Programme Manager, Young India Fellowship)

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