Scientists, writers, artists and business students converge at the university campus to develop their leadership skills and begin a year of growth and exploration
By Suha Gangopadhyay
July, 2015: On the morning of 15th July, Ashoka University welcomed the diverse and vibrant cohort of 198 Fellows, who make up the fifth batch of the Young India Fellowship. (The YIF is a postgraduate programme in the Liberal Arts and Leadership.) This is also the second group of Fellows who call the Ashoka campus home.
As with each preceding year, this year’s Fellows also come from varied backgrounds and represent 25 states in India. Without exception, they are all looking forward to this one-year residential programme that will enhance their existing skills and build new capabilities in them. “I have come here to the Fellowship with a mind that is open to the idea of exploring, studying new things, and extending my own boundaries,’ says a cheerful Mathura Vaidyanathan, who is a B.Tech graduate from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
For most Fellows of the earlier batches, the learning from their peers held as much value as that from their teachers and guides. The eclectic mix of academic backgrounds this year will ensure that the trend continues. While engineers make up 45 % of the current batch, they are followed closely by those from the Arts and Humanities (32%). Other backgrounds include Sciences (11%), Business (9%), Architecture and Design (2%) and Law (1%).
Anu Prasad, Deputy Dean of the Young India Fellowship says, “Each year we have an interesting composition of students in various facets – be it academically, economically, the regions they come from and even their ethnicity. We also have a mix of fresh graduates, post-graduates and entrepreneurs. We see that this mix leads to cross-fertilization of ideas, a space for healthy dialogues that leads to a very rich experience for them through the year. And rightly so, Fellows form the fifth pillar of YIF.”
This year, around 46% of the Fellows have come in with past work experience, 44% are college graduates and 10% have come to the Fellowship after acquiring their postgraduate degrees.
At the Fellowship, special emphasis is laid on the development of skills like critical thinking, leadership, communication and problem solving. The YIF seeks to groom women and men from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds into 21st Century leaders of India. The programme brings together these frontrunners and offers them a liberal education, opening their minds to a rich and diverse set of subjects delivered by some of the finest teachers from around the world. The subjects range from “The Foundations of Leadership” to “Sociological Reasoning”, and from “Art Appreciation” to the “Essentials of Business”.
The classes for the current batch have already commenced. The first course each year is Professor Dwight Jaggard’s “Foundations of Leadership”. “The course by Professor Dwight fills us with enthusiasm and sets tone for the entire year. I still remember the first assignment we were given as Fellows. We wrote our ‘vision’ for life and the dynamics behind that vision. It was a refreshing exercise,” said Sanjna Sudan, an alum and Fellow, Class of 2015.
Over the course of the year, along with the established courses like “Makers of Modern India”, Economics and “Political Development of India’s Economy”, the Fellows will also be offered Capstone courses on Leadership by Dr. Pramath Sinha, one of the founders of Ashoka University, and Business and Leadership by Rehan Khan, Managing Director of Abbott India. It promises to be a year of new experiences and greater learning for the incoming Fellows.