Students come to Ahmedabad University from different backgrounds and with different expectations. For all students the University experience is a new one. Coming to the University can be exciting for students as it opens up many opportunities for them to grow and learn more about themselves, live out their passions, and gain a better understanding of the world around them. Yet, for many, the transition to the University can be an unsettling one. The learning process at the University is different from what they had at school, the classmates are no longer friends of many years, and, for some, coming to the University requires leaving home and experiencing life in a hostel or as a paying guest. While most go to school with a homogenous group who are more or less from the same financial and educational background, University is eye opening in the sense that they are suddenly in a class with people who are so different from them, they have no experience of working with them. Even after settling at the University many students will continue to seek advice about academic matters, career planning and non-academic issues.
The University recognises this and to ease the transition from school to college, it extends support to new students by integrating them in the system by way of two programmes: a week-long Orientation programme and an initiative called Circle of Care. The academic year commences with the student Orientation programme for the entire incoming batch of students.
Orientation Week is an annual feature. It is a unified orientation programme for all new students across all Ahmedabad University Schools. This is a week-long programme and has a wide variety of activities for students. The office of the Dean of Students coordinates various segments of the Orientation programme and executes it with the support of colleagues, faculty and student volunteers.
To cater to the different requirements of students, Ahmedabad University created a Circle of Care (CoC) programme in academic year 2018-19. This programme involves the Wellness centre at the Office of the Dean of Students, the Career Development Centre, the Office of the Dean of the Undergraduate College, and the Schools.
Under this initiative, Incoming Students are organised into groups of about 12-14 students with a common Faculty Advisor and Student Mitr who is a senior University student. The groups are heterogeneous, formed with students from different Schools and Programmes of the University. Group members’ details are shared with Faculty Advisors and Student Mitrs for the smooth coordination amongst their group.
As per the structure designed for CoC, students are expected to meet their Faculty Advisor regularly, at least twice in the Monsoon Semester and at least once in the Winter Semester. In these meetings, each student can discuss the concerns with the Faculty Advisor. Faculty Advisor (FA) also organises group meetings during the semester to help maintain the cohesiveness of the Friends Circle. If it is found by FAs that any student needs some emotional support, they advise the student to meet the Counsellor at SSETU (Student Support, Engagement and Tutelage) at the Office of the Dean of Students. SSETU provides counselling for personal issues in an environment of complete privacy and confidentiality. For any career related guidance, student was advised to approach the Career Development Centre (CDC).
Student Mitrs are carefully selected and sensitised to be friendly, compassionate and empathetic. They interact with their allotted circle of new students even before the Orientation programme commences. They receive their group on the inaugural day of the Orientation and remain engaged with them through both the semesters, and more closely during the first few weeks. Mitrs encourage new students to participate in extracurricular activities on the campus and familiarise them with various aspects of the life at the University.
A feedback is taken from the Student Mitrs and the First Year students on CoC. Feedback is also taken from Mitrs during debriefing meetings held once in each semester. This feedback helps to improve the programme.