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Welcoming Students to UWC Mahindra College’s New Programme

18 September 2019

Over the last few weeks, as students across the UWC movement return to and start their UWC journey, UWC Mahindra College’s social media pages have made it clear that something particularly exciting was happening on the MUWCI hill. Rebecca Warren, Senior Education Programme Coordinator at UWC International, caught up with the team there to find out the what and the why behind their introduction programme.

Your programme was redesigned this year. What was the intention behind the changes you made? 

First, there was to be a greater focus on wellbeing. We recognised that first years can be quite overwhelmed and disoriented when they arrive on campus, so we wanted to ensure that the logic and flow of the Orientation programme was clear to them from the outset.
We wanted to ensure that the UWC mission and values were not an afterthought but the starting point and guiding light for the two years spent at MUWCI. But more than that, we wanted students to engage with them and understand that they are not an indisputable sacred text either, they can be discussed, debated, understood and applied in a way that is tailored to our local context.

Next came the intention to make all learning relevant namely by building a greater sense of purpose around the subjects they will be learning. Many students come from different educational backgrounds and so we wanted to strongly promote the idea that at MUWCI, learning happens in all kinds of spaces - not just in classrooms, but at college meetings, through community engagement, and even the natural world - and that we consider all kinds of learning to be equally valuable. Students also learn and express themselves in a variety of styles - some prefer engaging in discussions, some are strong at reflecting, some express themselves through art. Being inclusive of every kind of learner in our approach to the Orientation week was important.

Can you describe some of the different component parts to the programme and how they were designed to meet the aims you describe above?

Our key components were made up of:

  • A MUWCI Values Session: Students discussed and formulated their own values rather than simply accepting the ones prescribed to them by UWC or the IB. They also discussed putting these values into practice at various levels of campus life (ecological, personal, interpersonal, institutional, academic and with local communities)
  • Experiential Introduction to Subject groups: Students understood and applied tools from different groups that would help them better understand the world around them. Be it using mathematics to map the campus (with our G4 faculty), exploring the linguistic diversity of their class (G1 and 2), examining notions of “home” (G6) and understanding the privileges of being a MUWCI student within our local context (G3).
  • Geographic Introduction: Students explored the local geography in a step by step manner starting with the campus, an activity based orientation to our local town (Paud), and a city wide scavenger hunt in Pune (our nearest big city).   
  • Expanding the idea of Community: Intentional Community Time was built into the week with events created to meet with different communal units - rooms, houses, advisors. It all culminated in the first College Meeting of the year so students could see the participative nature of the campus in action. Community building activities like dam building and tree plantation together with second years, faculty and gardening staff were used as a way to demonstrate the different ways in which we can care for and invest in the community and recognise the effort that we all need to put in to sustain our strong community feel.
  • Outdoor Training modules: Students learnt basic survival skills, building awareness and appreciation for biodiversity culminating in an overnight hike taking place at the weekend.

You still kept up many of the much loved traditions of MUWCI. How important is keeping some of these elements to the continuity of culture at MUWCI? 

These time-tested traditions bind generations of MUWCI students. The new approach looked at what was great about these traditions and integrated those to form a more cohesive structure. Be it the flash mob, Buddy Ball or the infamous Mud Games!

How did the staff and students come together to create the programme?

The 20-strong student Orientation Committee contributed significantly to the design, delivery and evaluation of the entire programme. They formed the backbone of this week and were supported by the administrative staff, Triveni Office, faculty and leadership. This was also to make sure that first years witnessed student leadership as absolutely key to the way we do things at MUWCI.

What have been the student responses to the programme, both for the firsties and for those who helped deliver the programme?

Although we are yet to send out the formal survey, the anecdotal response has been great! The campus is brimming with energy and enthusiasm. Faculty are excited about introducing students to their areas of interest and subjects and their love for the different aspects of MUWCI life.

How does this induction programme fit into your overall approach to education and have other changes been made to what you do?

There are three really important design elements here that fit with our overall approach to education:

  • Making sessions as experientially oriented and immersive as possible.
  • Making sessions and activities relevant and grounding them in real issues that are important to young people today. 
  • Putting student leadership at the center of all things.

I heard that you changed your timetable for this year. What does it look like now and how do you hope it will better serve the learning at MUWCI?

There are four main principles behind our new timetable. The first is deeper learning. We have created a timetable that is made up of 80 minute blocks leading to enough time for activities and discussions. We hope this gives students time to deeply reflect on their learning. 

The second main aim is giving time to what we value. As a result, the timetable also integrates community time and self care time into the day. Normally these are left as after hours activities but if we think they are important, then we must give them proper space. Campus services, advisor meetings and college meetings have all moved into morning slots. 

Thirdly, we are hoping to work more closely with the local community. Having a ten day cycle aligns us with local work weeks and allows for closer and consistent collaborations with local organisations. It also makes it easier for external speakers and mentors to have dedicated time slots on campus.

Finally, the new timetable focuses on interdisciplinary and collaborative learning. It also makes it easier for collaboration to happen between student groups, students and faculty, faculty members and departments, and makes time for exploring individual interest-based learning as well. 

Great work MUWCI. I am so inspired and want to join in myself next year!