ISMP – The Silent Guardian
- The ISMP presently is an 80 member strong force with most students mentoring 12-14 freshmen. Mentors for freshmen are selected from to-be third, fourth and fifth year students through personal interviews conducted by the ISMP heads. The ISMP Heads last year were fifth year students Manish Shetty and Rahul Srinivasan.
- The mentors are supposed to be good role models for the first years with their ability to provide sound advice to them without any personal bias. This year a “Mentor Cabinet” was constituted of those students who have 1 year of mentorship behind them, to help the Head Coordinators manage the programme better.
- Although the selection of institute mentors is done carefully, there exists no mechanism in place other than random checks and mentee feedback to ensure accountability from the mentors. Once selected, the ISMP functions on trust and goodwill; with the 2 Heads overseeing its operation. There have been instances of freshmen saying that they would have appreciated more frequent meetings with their mentors. Mentors are broadly advised to meet their mentees once in 2 days initially to once in a week later.
- Jhonny Jha and Dhruva Shah, the new ISMP heads say, that the “Mentor Cabinet” helps keep a closer tab on mentors. Additionally, it gives guidance to new mentors and provides a platform for them to raise extreme situations or concerns regarding mentees which are better addressed by a group of people.
- To train the mentors, regular meetings and interactive sessions are arranged with the ISMP Faculty Advisor (presently Prof Nithyanand, who has taken over from Prof Vikram Gadre). This year, an interactive hands-on session with CREST, an NGO, was organised to teach the basics of identifying and dealing with mentee problems.
- An online forum was launched by the ISMP to enable seniors and to-be freshmen to interact even before the semester began. The forum was hugely successful with freshmen. Additionally, a letter written from the ISMP team was sent to the parents of each freshman. Translations of the letter into many regional languages were available on the Freshmen Forum. This initiative is appreciable but few freshmen acknowledge having received such letters.
- A Mentor Handbook and comprehensive feedback from mentors and mentees somewhat formalised the functioning of the ISMP this year. The ISMP also facilitated the creation of a Blood Group Database to assist students in case of emergencies.
- The freshmen appreciated that information flow among the mentors was good and reliable and claim that the 880-strong freshmen batch was regularly updated by their mentors. Academic help sessions were organised for various subjects, and although they were conducted by the faculty, ISMP was instrumental in arranging them. In some cases mentors who were also TAs conducted help sessions themselves.
- English Remedial Classes were for the first time jointly run by the ISMP this year. As this runs as an additional class, slot clashes with institute courses prevented students from making the most of this programme. While this shall be addressed in the coming year, another aim is to separate students based on their comfort level with English so as to tutor at two levels of difficulty.
- The novel idea of ‘Bridge Courses’ was introduced this year to allow freshmen expecting a low grade or a fail grade in a course to drop the course and instead pursue a “Bridge Course” at a lower difficulty level, with the approval of faculty and parents. While approximately 20 freshmen actually availed of this facility, the lack of prescribed structure to the concept and no permanent faculty attached to these courses proved major hindrances.
Potential of the ISMP
As a recognised body in the institute, the ISMP has the power to bring in policy changes for the betterment of the student community. As far as the institute culture goes, if at all anybody in the institute has a shot at changing the IITian attitude and mindset in the long term, it is the ISMP. Considering that every undergraduate freshman is influenced by a mentor for at least 1 year, it is fair to say that the example this person sets and the advice he/she metes out would mould the freshman’s thinking.
Some students are of the opinion that the ISMP has the potential to help academically struggling students in a much greater capacity than it presently does. One of the core goals of the ISMP is to prevent FR grades, but rather than taking reactive measures such as dropping a course, more proactive redress routes need to be explored by the mentor and mentee.
Of course, there is an extent to which mentors can guide and help the students, beyond which any help would border on spoon feeding.
The D-AMP:The D-AMP is at a nascent stage as compared to the ISMP. As of now, departments are struggling with devising a D-AMP which will bring a visible change to the students’ performance.
- Till now a major reason for the failure of D-AMP was the delay in mentor-mentee allotment as ISMP and D-AMP teams had common mentors. ISMP mentors were busy in the 1st month but now that the 2 teams are significantly different, this problem should not arise.
- To make a difference to a student’s performance, a mentor might have to go the extra mile and tutor the student himself. Such a commitment is often not possible from senior students.
- The faculty advisors are often apprehensive about sharing confidential information about the student grades with mentors. This problem has been eased by the intervention of a department specific faculty D-AMP coordinator.
- The defiant attitude of students towards slacking academics makes the mentorship process more challenging for mentors and any help the mentor is willing to provide is either rejected or taken sullenly.
- The D-AMP suffers from low visibility in the institute with many students and faculty advisors unaware of the facility itself!
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