The banquet hall at Hotel Premiere Inn was swarming with people mingling and the entrance of corridor leading up to it bore a screen which read “Welcome ISM-CSE Alumni.”
Among the people were Dr. Chiranjeev Kumar, the Head of Department of Computer Science & Engineering at ISM Dhanbad and a beaming crowd of more than 80 students both new and old. The city was Bangalore, The date was 14th June, 2014 and the event was an Interaction Programme with Alumni organised by the Computer Science & Engineering Society (CSES) of ISM.
In the words of Dr. Chiranjeev Kumar himself, if there is one thing that the Department of CSE lacks and yearns, it is a sense of integrity, a family. As such, the industrial reach at the time of placement season, the true barometer of any academic department in India, gets limited, so does an expert counsel to the students when post-graduation world looms close. From a meagre 10% on-campus placement of the first batch in 2002 to more than 80% in recent times, the Computer Science students of ISM rise and shine and at places countless. So why is it that the students drift away?
With this question in mind, the HoD took the initiative. Dr. Kumar knew that getting all Alumni to the city of Dhanbad is infeasible and demanding. He also knew that it was not a one-man job, but a duty of society. When it happened that more than half of the pre-final year students of the department were allotted Bangalore as their city for summer internship, the opportunity presented itself.
The city of Bangalore houses more Computer Science Engineers than any other city in India. The pre-final year students were, as a member of the society, given the charge of handling successful organisation of the event, from venue to invitations. Little did they know that the Alumni would be so supportive. They knew that an Alumnus from Pontiac, Michigan or from Tokyo, Japan would have a hard time showing up but what they didn’t know was that people from Kolkata and Mumbai would show up. It was nothing short of overwhelming.
In the short span of time, of all the Alumni they tried to contact, more than 100 responded and around 50 of them agreed on coming. This number might stand low in front of the total Alumni strength, but to begin locating all of them from their years-old mail-ids and nothing else was no easy task. With the venue decided and the date set, Dr. Chiranjeev Kumar flew in to the city of Bangalore along with Mr. Tarachand Amgoth, Assistant Professor of the department.
The banquet hall was swarmed with more than 80 people ranging from the grads of 2006 to current students. All the gleeful faces mingled and talked about their Alma mater. But as was the plan from the very first thought into the organisation of the event, it was not only about having a cup of tea with the Alumni. More than anything it was about ensuring the development of the department with an integral role of the Alumni. Beginning with some photographs of the department and highlighting some infrastructural changes to it, swiftly and eventually Dr. Kumar came onto the role of Alumni to the department.
The first slide to the initiation read “Help us and yourself”. For he knew that the former students can benefit themselves from being associated with a department which has its roots at places and industries as diverse as it comes. The ensuing session was more than a presentation; it was a panel discussion. The agenda, front and centre, was to make the Alumni a part of CSE-Society and to plant the seed for a perpetual engine of growth driven not only by the students and faculty of the department but also by the Alumni.
The participation from Alumni was remarkable. Dr. Kumar would roll one proposal after another and the former students would suggest changes as they believed apt.
Alumni Affairs Team: It was decided that a committee will be formed to spearhead on the matters of Alumni Association to the department. It would comprise of: HoD as the President, An Alumnus as Vice-President, Two Faculty In-Charges, One Student Representative from UG & PG batches each.
The attendants reacted in affirmative unison. They believed that a hierarchy will have to be set up, and that a point-of-contact is necessary from Alumnus's point of view. They also believed that, it would be much more efficient if more than one Alumnus be a part of the team.
Further, the discussion led to the conclusion that every batch of the Alumni needs to have a point-of-contact of its own, so that the flow of information is systematically easy.
The Alumni Affairs Team is in its initial stages of working, with a view to put the crucial missing cog, that of Alumni, in this mega machinery.
The proposal was that the Alumni should take under their care one student each year, whom they would groom from inception to launching into a successful post-graduation life. The idea is for the Alumni to be an Industry mentor to students. Of all, this proposal received the most discussion and most applause.
Suggestions from former CSEians ranged from categorizing student allotment on the basis of common interests of a student and an alumnus to whether or not the task should be enforced on all the Alumni.
The Alumni were successful in convincing Dr. Kumar that any pairing between a student and an alumnus will have to be based on their common interests.
Lastly, everyone opined that besides a one-to-one correspondence, students should have a platform to contact any alumni and vice versa.
Miscellaneous Proposals & Suggestions:
The role of alumni is prominent in the bright future that HoD has planned for the department. Their role would range from mentoring students to helping the department sign MoU(s); from being a guest speaker on an invited talk to being part of BoCS (Board of Course Studies) for deciding more industry friendly subjects for students to being the event sponsors of Society-events.
In detail and steadily, all the points were taken up, discussed and concluded with necessary changes. The Alumni were asked to be a part of the CSES not only in speaking but also through registration, something they were most happy to do. It was left onto them to come up with a registration fees as they deemed fit.
The event proceeded, following the panel, into its conclusion with a couple of performances from students, current and former. Everyone signed off with a belief to contribute to their Alma mater.
It was never a struggle as some thought. The one very small, but relevant, need of the hour was the initiative which the HoD took. What ensued on the night was a mere beginning of what is to come along with the more glorious days for the department. But it was important because every journey begins with a single Step.