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Who does not like to take a stroll down memory lane? And if it’s your mother institution where you learnt your basic ropes, honed your skills and developed your instinctive wisdom, then the sense of nostalgic association is that much stronger. The place that once meant home to you, fellow students that were family and faculty that symbolised elderly sanctity – when these sentiments inundate one’s perceptive self, an ex-student is automatically drawn to his alma mater.

Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. Its influence can be harnessed into many robust forms. The phrase ‘the good old days’ can not only be a soothing balm to a forlorn soul but can also be immensely beneficial to an institution.

The mother institution holds a special and a permanent place in the heart of every alumnus. This cherished charm entices every former student to return to his alma mater regularly, interact with the current crop of students, the faculty, and revisit the nooks and corners that contributed to one’s professional attainments. Not just that, many owe their marital bliss to the arrows shot by the winged cupid at such places. Friends earned here are known to keep company life-long. Reunions, therefore, don’t just promote fellowship and networking, they become a means to stir a complete emotional catharsis.

It’s pertinent to realise alumni don’t just reflect the past of an institution; they are very much a part of its present and are an important link to its future. India is just about waking up to the importance of alumni associations. Now that we are seeing the benefits accruing from alumni networks in Western institutions, we must replicate those successful models of Common Weal to help ourselves. It is however very encouraging that premium institutions across the country like the IITs, IIMs and many medical colleges are now networking with their alumni to build powerful associations.

It would be instructive here to know how the western world has been able to derive the advantage of alumni networks for over a century now. The US Alumni, for instance, contributed $12.15 billion to their alma maters in 2018. That was 26% of all support received during that fiscal year, just a shade less than the support received from various foundations (30%). At the very top was the Princeton University Alumni association, New Jersey, which contributed 49.8 % of financial support. These funds help institutions to build top-class campus infrastructure, employ the best faculty and make available cutting-edge learning technologies.

Many seats of higher education in India are run by the government or public corporations. Most of their budgetary provisions are earmarked for more basic public needs, thereby neglecting the health of educational institutes. This is where the alumni can chip in with their contributions, thereby sharing the financial burden of their mother institutions.

Very crucial to the formation of an alumni association is the support it offers to students with limited financial means. The sad part is that even if they were able to raise money for their education, they do not have enough to partake of two square meals or buy books and learning aids. These students need scholarships or financial aid in any form. Many alumni associations are already extending help for this cause. But their numbers at present are not enough.

One sentiment that runs common through alumni wishlists is the welfare of ex-faculty. Retired teachers and support staff require some degree of financial assistance and ancillary services like health and social support. Alumni associations of medical schools can play an effective role in keeping their ex-teachers and trainers in good health.

Research and development (R&D), unfortunately, has remained the Cinderella of our education system. Though an essential element, it continues to be the most neglected area in India.

While India’s investment in R&D has shown an increasing trend over the years, it is just a fraction of the country’s GDP, remaining constant at around 0.6 to 0.7 %. This is way below the expenditure in countries like the United States (2.8 %), China (2.1 %), Israel (4.3 %) and Korea (4.2 %). It is for this very reason that we do not have enough original thinkers and innovators who can help the country leap into the future. An important concomitant of this lack of initiative on home ground is that the Western world, with its enabling environment, has become a happy province for contemporary research.

This national fault zone needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. Indian alumni settled abroad can play a major role in meeting this challenge by offering knowledge inputs and financial help to facilitate the setting up of world-class research facilities in this country.  Similarly, guest lectures and transfer of teaching techniques can be of immense help to institutions in India. Many Indian alumni today occupy distinguished seats in Western universities. They yearn to transfer their knowledge and technological know-how to India. It is for us to tap this potential resource pool and make optimal use of it. The Internet has only made this job easier – a professor sitting in his office in a western university can lecture students in Indian classrooms.

The ‘Students Exchange Programme’ is another zone that needs to be tapped. There are a large number of Indians who are programme directors, deans or occupy influential positions in Western universities and companies and can easily facilitate exchanges. Needless to say, such interactions will open a whole new world for budding students. Placement for higher studies or gainful employment is always a fierce struggle for Indian students as there is very little networking or a system in place that can assist. Here again, the influential alumnus can fill the vacuum.

The purpose of any alumni association is to promote the welfare of its alma mater and establish a mutually beneficial relationship with it. They assist their mother institutions to benefit from their skill, experience and financial resource and are the most loyal supporters and best ambassadors of their parent portals of learning. Ergo, it is imperative to keep them engaged constructively at a personal and professional level as they will always be ready to ‘care and share’.  It is now up to us to get them on board!

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About the author

Dr Arshad G Moh'd is a Consultant General Surgeon. He has completed his Masters in General Surgery from T N Medical College and B Y L Nair Hospital and has been practising General Surgery for 38 years. He has been a past President and now Trustee of the Indian Medical Association, Mumbai West. Dr Arshad is also the General Secretary and Trustee of T N Medical College Global Alumni Association

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Comments

  • Chandra Shekhar Unni December 12, 2019 at 6:20 am
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    Absolutely agree with the views expressed. Alumni can be a force multiplier in the development of institutes into world class facilities. Unfortunately many of the institutions do not support formation of Alumni, creating difficulties in the belief that their autonomy will be effected. They do not even permit use of the institution address for their correspondence.

    Reply
    • arshadgm December 12, 2019 at 5:08 pm
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      Thanks, Colonel, for your kind words. I agree there’s some degree of resistance at the institution level. But the scene is changing – changing for good.

      Reply
  • Bindu Varma December 12, 2019 at 7:22 am
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    What better way to share interdisciplinary expertise and renew camaraderie! Well articulated, Dr Arshad.

    Reply
    • arshadgm December 12, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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      Many thanks, Bindu.
      As I said in the article:
      ‘It’s pertinent to realise alumni don’t just reflect the past of an institution; they are very much a part of its present and are an important link to its future.’

      Reply
  • Akshay Mehta December 12, 2019 at 9:27 am
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    Superb points. Very well thought of and written.

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    • arshadgm December 12, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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      Many thanks for your kind words, Akshay.

      Reply
  • Mukund Jagannathan December 12, 2019 at 10:28 am
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    There are a couple of relevant quotes which come to mind…at the risk of mixing them up…
    Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it…
    Many of us have reached where we are by standing on the shoulders of giants, many of them who didn’t have any shoulders to stand on, themselves!!
    It is imperative that we remember our own history and these giants who moulded us. Alumni are very important associations, which not only serve to remind us if these, but also help in shaping the present and future. It’s activities are a noble way of trying to give back at least a fraction of what we received, whilst passing through the hallowed portals of our parent institution. There is a huge “feel good” factor about relating to your Alma mater.

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    • arshadgm December 12, 2019 at 5:18 pm
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      Thank you, professor. Nostalgia is indeed a very powerful emotion.

      Reply
  • Sanjay Ghildiyal December 12, 2019 at 2:08 pm
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    Arshad G that’s quite a comprehensive work, you have covered all the bases one could think of!
    It’s a brilliant insight into something very pertinent, BRAVO.

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    • arshadgm December 16, 2019 at 5:01 pm
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      Thanks, Sanjay. Much appreciated.

      Reply
  • Dr. Vinay Wagle December 12, 2019 at 3:28 pm
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    My perspective of an Alumni Association was always from a social viewpoint. An organization where former students meet to relive their good memories and share with a hearty laugh, their follies.
    Your article made me realize the myriad ways by which alumni can also make meaningful contributions for the welfare and growth of an institution which nurtured them in the first place.
    The article is well written, needless to say, after a thorough research and study. Enjoyed reading it.

    As a Past President / Trustee of the TNMC Global Alumni Association, you are sparing your valuable time and efforts in guiding the Association. That too needs to be appreciated.

    Reply
    • arshadgm December 16, 2019 at 5:04 pm
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      Thanks for your kind words, Vinay. Glad you liked the article.

      Reply
  • Vasumathi Sriganesh December 12, 2019 at 6:02 pm
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    Great set of points. My experience has been that Alumni Associations (except for some of the larger ones like the IITs and equivalent) are still evolving and need some role models to follow. The AA of one of the schools that I studied in (KVIIT Chennai) – has done a lot over the last few years, but I know we can do lots and lots more. I have felt that we need one employed coordinator, but we have no clue what kind of a person can fit that job. Then, one more area where alumni can work (apart from all that you mentioned) – is to help each other out, by way of employment, business opportunities, fund raising for non profits run by fellow alumni and more. But such things are not happening. If you are aware of any practices followed by any AA worldwide, do share!

    Reply
  • Dr Shriniwas bansal December 13, 2019 at 12:33 am
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    Nicely written. We will try to have more reunions.

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    • arshadgm December 16, 2019 at 5:09 pm
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      Thank you, doctor sahab.

      Reply
  • Prashanti Pandit December 13, 2019 at 5:55 am
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    Well-researched article. You have presented an oft-neglected but relevant topic clearly and succinctly. Best Wishes, Dr. Arshad

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    • arshadgm December 16, 2019 at 5:11 pm
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      Many thanks, Dr Prashanti Pandit. Glad you found the article relevant.

      Reply
  • Srinagesh Simha December 13, 2019 at 11:47 pm
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    Very true. Alumni are an awesome resource and must be harnessed

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    • arshadgm December 16, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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      Thanks, Dr Simha.

      Reply
  • Dr. Vinay Wagle December 16, 2019 at 11:30 am
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    My perspective of an Alumni Association was always from a social viewpoint. An organization where past students meet, to relive the good memories and share with a hearty laugh, their follies.
    Your article has made me realize the myriad ways by which alumni can make meaningful contributions for the growth and welfare of an institution that has nurtured them in the first place.
    The article is well written, needless to say, after a thorough research and study. Enjoyed reading it.

    As a past President / Present Gen. Sec & Trustee of TNMC Global Alumni Association, you are sharing your valuable time and efforts in guiding the Association and that too needs to be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Dr Lalit Kapoor December 16, 2019 at 2:02 pm
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      Great food for thought ,Arshad. Congrats very well researched and written.
      Never realised this perspective .
      Should be explored further .
      👍👍

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      • arshadgm December 19, 2019 at 4:52 pm
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        Thank you so much, sir.
        The alumni association is a huge resource that’s waiting to be tapped.

        Reply
  • Vijay Rajput MD , Florida , USA December 18, 2019 at 9:11 am
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    I agree with everything you have written eloquently. In USA -many alumni society became legacy admission path for their kids into the prestigious colleges based on donations by alumni. There is a meritocracy trap if alumni organization uses the power of money for legacy admission for their kids in same schools .This may not be issue in India yet.
    Just a different perspective and downside of complex relationship between alumni and parent organizations.

    Reply
    • arshadgm December 19, 2019 at 5:04 pm
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      Many thanks. The downside you alluded to is luckily not an issue in Indian context. Presently, all we need to focus on is to tap into alumni skill, experience and financial resource.
      Let me take this opportunity, Vijay, to thank you for guiding young doctors through residency programs in the US.

      Reply
  • Dr Niharika Gill(Srivastava) December 19, 2019 at 2:17 pm
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    Excellent Write up…you become nostalgic….1980 long time

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    • Arshad G Moh’d December 20, 2019 at 10:24 am
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      Many thanks, Niharika.
      Yes, nostalgia is a powerful feeling.

      Reply
  • Gayatri Hattiangadi December 22, 2019 at 5:48 pm
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    Excellent line of thinking and very well articulated! You have covered all aspects for reiterating the need, relevance and scope of an Alumni Association.

    We at TNMC have seen and are seeing the phenomenal work done by the TNMC Global Alumni Association and their Trustees!

    Your work at TNMC is an inspiration!
    Regards.

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 4:58 pm
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      Kind words indeed. Many thanks, Gayatri.

      Reply
  • Ravindra Gandhi January 6, 2020 at 11:01 am
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    Excellent articlr

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 4:59 pm
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      Many thanks, Ravindra.

      Reply
  • Dr Bharati Panandikar January 6, 2020 at 11:24 am
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    Very insightful and perhaps the need of the hour.

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    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:00 pm
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      Much appreciated, Dr Bharati.

      Reply
  • Prashanth January 6, 2020 at 11:57 am
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    Wow, that’s an amazing post Doc.
    Surely comes from a person who has in-depth knowledge of the significance of AA and benefits it can reap.
    Very well written, deep yet concise.

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:02 pm
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      Glad you liked the article, Prashanth. Many thanks.

      Reply
  • Murdeshwar January 6, 2020 at 11:59 am
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    Wow, that’s an amazing post Doc.
    Surely comes from a person who has in-depth knowledge of the significance of AA and benefits it can reap.
    Very well written, deep yet concise.

    Reply
  • Ramadana Krishnayya January 6, 2020 at 12:57 pm
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    A wonderful writeup Arshad. Suorised to know that the Priceton Alumni give almost 50% financial support to their institution. R&D is certainly an area where the Alumni settled abroad in reserach positions can help their Alma mater because India ranks pretty poor on R&D funding.

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:08 pm
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      For India’s leap into the future, we need original thinkers, researchers and innovators. And that can happen only if we accord greater importance to R&D.
      Many thanks, Ramadana.

      Reply
  • Dr Mamta Jain January 6, 2020 at 1:04 pm
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    Rightly highlighted, and the value that Alumni associations can create. Some institutes like IIM and IITs have this but for rest it is just meet and greet alumni meets. As rightly pointed out a legacy can be created for upcoming young needy students, networking, teachers welfare, institute development. Small steps in right direction do matter

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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      Honestly, medical schools in India have a long way to go in harnessing alumni resources. The scene is changing, though, in right direction.

      Reply
  • Dr Claudette Vora January 6, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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    Dr Arshad your Article was really an Eye Opener to the Thousands of Students who have graduated and some who have forgotten the Roots of their Identity as Important People in Society after getting so much from their Alma Mater.

    Especially those who have left their Motherland and gone to serve another country of course for their own benefit need to realise that India needs them at least by way of Contributing to the Education of the Next Gen n Improve the facilities of their Mother Institute.

    We too as part of the Alumini should give back to our Alma Mater.You have so lucidly and forthrightly put forward this very important aspect of Pay back time to our Alma Mater.

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:15 pm
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      Wise words, Dr Claudette. Many thanks.

      Reply
  • Claudette Vora January 6, 2020 at 4:01 pm
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    Dr Arshad your Article was really an Eye Opener to the Thousands of Students who have graduated and some who have forgotten the Roots of their Identity as Important People in Society after getting so much from their Alma Mater.

    Especially those who have left their Motherland and gone to serve another country of course for their own benefit need to realise that India needs them at least by way of Contributing to the Education of the Next Gen n Improve the facilities of their Mother Institute.

    We too as part of the Alumini should give back to our Alma Mater.You have so lucidly and forthrightly put forward this very important aspect of Pay back time to our Alma Mater.

    Reply
  • Shekhar Hemmadi January 7, 2020 at 11:57 am
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    What a noble idea Sir!!
    As a student when you enter the campus for the first time it’s an alien environment!By absvolving some students you can payback to alma mater!!

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:16 pm
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      Many thanks, Shekhar.

      Reply
  • Dr Nilima Vaidya January 8, 2020 at 3:59 am
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    Nobody is bothered about an institution more than its alumni…….Superb write up !!
    Excellent !!!!!

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    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:17 pm
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      Kind words, Dr Nilima. Many thanks.

      Reply
  • Kalpana Anand Deshpande January 10, 2020 at 3:43 am
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    So well written,expressed article Sir.Alumni play a vital role in shaping the present n future of the Alma mater. It’s activities help in giving back at least a fraction of what you earn in name of money as well as services to a place which mould you not only professionally but make you a better human being.

    Reply
    • arshadgm January 12, 2020 at 5:19 pm
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      Many thanks, Kalpana, for your kind words. Much appreciated.

      Reply

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