At IITD, my tenure as a mentorship coordinator is nearing its end. And now, our team is faced with the task of selecting the next MRC. I have a very mixed feeling about this. I loved working with my team. At the same time, it has been very challenging. I remember the night-outs, being sleepless during mentor allotment, freshmen orientation, while designing the survey, prolonged and heated discussions on what to do next and how. I have absolutely no idea how our team pulled it off.
And now when the time comes to select the next MRC, we realized that many are unaware of our activities. Many had queries on what we do, and how. I will make an attempt at answering those questions.
Prince Dhawan, our super senior, called together a bunch of his friends, and convinced the then president of BSW, Prof. G.S. Visweswaran, that IIT Delhi is in need of a structured student mentorship program. A team of students, hand-picked by him, formed the first Mentorship Review Committee. They selected mentors, assigned them to incoming freshmen, and tried to make a dent in the universe, so to say. That was the birth of SMP at IITD. Atleast that is what I consider it to be.
Three years down the line, I applied to be a student mentor. Deepak Vasisht and his team was the incoming MRC that year. In these few years, MRC has established itself as a recognized student body and it retained complete autonomous control over all its decisions. One fellow mentor, Sidhant Sachdeva found the existing orientation boring. A proposal for redesigning the freshmen orientation was put forward. It took a lot of effort, but we made it.
The freshmen orientation was redesigned, from boring lectures in our iconic Dogra Hall that I don’t think many paid any attention to, to be a tour of stalls that introduce freshmen to all student activities at IITD. I worked closely with the MRC during the orientation and throughout the year. That year, I was overjoyed to receive awards for the best student mentor and outstanding contribution to the program. Sidhant was awarded outstanding contribution to the program, for his efforts in redesigning the orientation. MRC had its constitution inked out, added as an annexure to BSW constitution. We got a faculty coordinator. In other words, the institute acknowledged the MRC.
And I made it into the next MRC. Vatsal, Isha, Sidhant, Tapas, Rohit, and myself. MRC 2013-14.
Also, Mentorship Review Committee was renamed to Mentorship Committee. But we stuck to the abbreviation MRC because MC in a Hindi-speaking community would have been slightly awkward.
Activities of MRC
We had some initial wave of meetings, and we got down to work.
We had to select our team. One mentorship secretary, and about 150 mentors. It was about two weeks before majors. I have absolutely no idea how we managed that. But after two rounds of interviews, and an intermediate round of peer review and background checking, and a final heated discussion that lasted an entire night – no breaks – we selected Ankit to be our mentorship secretary. Once we narrowed down the choice to last three, we had absolutely no way of picking one among them. Finally, sinceit is a purely managerial role, and this guy is known to have tricks up his sleeve that can get work done in our tight deadlines, we picked him.
We had to interview mentors, about 400 applications were received, and we interviewed every single one of them. Then did a background check on every potential candidate. We came out with a short list. The majors were near. Very near. And we had night-outs every day. It was when I invited people for a party, on my own, perhaps for the first time in my life. On a friend’s birthday.
We had estimates of how many students are going to be admitted, and what the hostel distribution is roughly going to be. And we spent about a month allocating mentors. And then the institute bombed us. Almost literally, with the actual allocation. More than 150 students in two new hostels, where there are no senior undergraduates. Our plans were screwed up, and we had to redo it all. And this was a bigger challenge. Cross hostel mentoring is known to be very tough. It had terrible feedback in all previous years. Isha managed to do a good job, though. Both while allocating, and in the previous year as a cross hostel mentor.
I set up a freshmen forum at our then-active domain discourse.smpiitd.org. It received an overwhelming response, and I was billed Rs.4000 for the server utilisation. I found it too heavy for my pocket with zero income, and so had to take the service down after orientation. I have later added it to our group expenses, and we are yet to settle it among ourselves, by the way.
Who is better suited at handling the orientation than its architect? Sidhant was the unspoken incharge of the team during the orientation. We had rains, unexpected delays, tight deadlines, and I have no idea how we managed it. Sidhant did an excellent job. We had tour of stalls, street play, and departmental Q&A sessions. And we had to handle parents who were angry at the infrastructure, who were angry at us, student volunteers. Oh and I got calls from parents asking which gate to use to enter IIT. You know what? Publishing your mobile number as a first point of contact has its perks. (Hope you get the sarcasm.)
Isha and Tapas worked on mentorship code of conduct and mentoring handbook. Rohit worked with Mrs. Rupa Murghai, our student counselor, and designed the mentor orientation and training. It was good, but in hindsight, the process should have been actively extended throughout the year. The initial sessions were not totally enough in my opinion.
Our team visited all hostels to meet with freshers and identify any potential issues. We conveyed the messages to the respective channels, and they were dealt with appropriately.
Language sessions were organised. Tapas handled english classes. An instructor was appointed by the institute for the classes, and they received a good response. I handled hindi classes, and that wasn’t as good. When the winter chills set in, all of them being new to such weather, completely bailed out.
We collected mid semester and end semester feedback. And I had to replace a couple of mentors who weren’t doing their job well.
Whoa! I barely covered major events of first semester. And people ask, what does MRC do at all? Maybe we should do better publicity.
Then we had a curious case of mass copying. I really don’t want to discuss it, but it should suffice to say that almost all of us spent a lot of time on that. We had another round of mentor self evaluation and feedback. It is being analysed. We had organised an all day long gender sensitisation event titled Jamaavda, followed by a discussion on the same. We had also organised a couple of career talks.
I personally toured all hostels with BSW secys and SAC and CAIC Gsecs, to discuss code of conduct and the general outline for the meeting with director. It was postponed due to an unfortunate accident that claimed the lives of four of our final year students.
Vatsal got a initial draft of survey questions designed, and myself and Vatsal worked for a couple of days and nights and published our annual assessment and feedback. Responses are being collected as I write this. We will analyse the results and present them as a part of our annual report. The anonymised responses will be made available for the entire IITD community to analyse for themselves.
We are still working on our recommendations to the institute, which will be included as the final section to our annual report. It is going to be slightly bulky. Just a review of our activities is upwards of 50 pages as of now.
We still have to select the next MRC, and join the advisory board of MRC. I just made that name up. All past members of MRC are still in contact with each other through a online community, and we regularly discuss our plans and ask for advice when necessary. Why not give it a good sounding name as well?
About the team:
The team consists of six coordinators, one of whom will act as the overall coordinator. We have a very flat structure, everyone is an equal. The OC is a little shiny tag that carries the massive responsibility of representing MRC to the institute. Also, an unwritten rule states that OC pays for all parties. By the way, MRC runs on a strict zero budget. We handle not a single rupee from the institute. We don’t want to.
Everyone takes up responsibility for some specific task they are good at. I was already moderately famous (infamous?) at IITD, and I managed to do a hopefully-not-so-bad-job of interacting with freshmen batch of 2012, so I took up outreach as my primary responsibility.
Primarily, Isha handled feedbacks, Rohit handled student counseling services, Tapas worked on language classes, Sidhant was incharge of orientation, and Vatsal managed all our activities. Most other activities were shared by two or three of us.
What do we do? We manage mentoring. And in short, if something concerns first yearites, MRC probably can do something about it. We just restrict ourselves to make the work manageable. I’m not really good at explaining stuff, but feel free to ring up any of us if you still don’t have a clear picture of what MRC does. Unless your query is “How did you manage to do all that”? For that, I have no answer. I have absolutely no idea how we made it this far. All I remember is it took us some effort.
It has been a great experience. Looking forward to the next team.
If you want to join the team and make a dent in the universe, so to speak, apply to be a part of the next team.