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Building a close-knit Alumni community at Ashoka

With the growing number of alumni from the Fellowship and now the Undergraduate programme, the Alumni Association worked with the University leadership to plan a preliminary talk with the students on the 18th of April.

Office of PR & Communications

19 April, 2017 | 10 Mins read

On the 20th of May 2017, Ashoka University will conduct the Convocation for the founding batch of around 127 undergraduate students (2014-2017). A little over a month later, on the 24th of June, 2017, the sixth batch of Young India Fellows will have finished their year.

With the growing number of alumni from the Fellowship and now the Undergraduate programme, the Alumni Association worked with the University leadership to plan a preliminary talk with the students on the 18th of April. The conversations ranged over a variety of topics, from the role of alumni associations in general to the work done by Ashoka’s Alumni Association and individual alumni who have given back to the University. The two-hour long session saw Founder and Trustee, Ashish Dhawan; Dean of Undergraduate programmes, Vanita Shastri and Karan Bhola, President of the Alumni Association Council address the gathered students. Vice President of Development at Ashoka University, Eshwara Venkatesam, also spoke to the students and further outlined how alumni could assist their alma mater.

Vanita Shastri opened the session with her inputs on working with the founding batch, the importance of actively being an alumnus herself and how it helped. At present, the Alumni Association of Ashoka University has 642 members, all from the Young India Fellowship. Dean Shastri introduced the subject to the Undergraduate seniors, telling them, “If Ashoka has to be sustainable, scalable and continue to build and commit to excellence, it will happen with the help of alumni.”

While she spoke about her experience in studying at Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi University and then later at Cornell University, she touched upon the broader importance of alumni and institution relations. She said, “We really believe that some of you will come to Ashoka and lead it, some to work, and some to teach. You will bring others to recruit from Ashoka, you will fundraise for us and you will be on the board eventually, and be a part of the governance of the institution.”

Next, she handed over the stage to Karan Bhola, founding and current President of the Alumni Association, to give the audience an idea of how the Association has developed over the last two years. During his speech, Karan spoke about the inception of the Association, the role it plays in enabling Ashoka’s relations and its vision for the future. He said, “We are a young and diverse alumni community, and the Association drives initiatives to enable institution and community building by alumni in three ways: through their time, through their talent and through their treasure”.

Karan continued to stress the achievements of an institution like Ashoka, and how within two years of its existence, the alumni body is already working towards a 2020 vision. “There are 642 alumni over 15 countries and over 60 cities. There are 50 different career trajectories that they have taken. Yale and Harvard had their alumni associations formed after a long time, but the Ashoka Alumni Association has been set up in two years”, he said.

Whilst many alumni boards across the globe are playing multiple roles across development of the community, co-ordination of jobs as well as the formation of local interest groups, Karan touched upon the ideology behind setting up Ashoka’s Alumni Association, and said, “The purpose of the AA is to keep the alumni community connected, and we come back to the institution and give in different ways. The idea of the Alumni Association is to capitalize on the energy that we have. The Alumni Council is an elected body and there are local chapters to keep everyone engaged from time to time.”

Ashoka Founder Ashish Dhawan spoke next, and highlighted the role of an individual as an alumnus of an institution and how one can give back to their alma mater. As an active alumnus of his school and two institutions of higher studies – Harvard and Yale – he drew from his own experiences to connect with his audience.

He said, “I had the good fortune of going to two Universities that gave immense importance to their alumni. The commitment that these institutions made to us were that we were going to be a part of the institution as long as we lived.  When I worked at Wall Street, I always went to recruit for my organisation from Yale every year. The people to people factor helps. In terms of careers and creating opportunities, as alums, we can play a big role and benefit from it. There will be interest groups, to keep interests and networks alive and this network will expand globally, and you should take advantage of that.”

Ashish also spoke about his experience and expectations from working with the Alumni Association, and said, “We’ve had very good success, in Ashoka’s case, and last year, we had 50% of alums attending alumni related events. If we can get 50-60% percent on a regular basis, and that would be the eventual success of the alumni engagement programme at Ashoka.”

At present, the Ashoka Alumni Association is planning its second edition of the Alumni Weekender  (2nd, 3rd and 4th of June, 2017) at the University campus. As the number of alums will steadily increase, an Alumni portal and an Alumni Association app will be fully functional soon.

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