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Dream fellowship for those with dreams

Don’t chase dream jobs, chase dreams.

In a country where percentile points are the doorway to premier academic institutes, the International Foundation for Research and Education, a not-for-profit organisation, is launching a fellowship in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania for students who want to pursue their dreams rather than a dream career.

“We are launching this one-year postgraduate fellowships with the objective of nurturing the dreams of future leaders. Though our country has several world-class academic institutes, there is little option for students who need multi-disciplinary exposure before they start chasing their dreams,” said Anunaya Chaubey, a faculty member.

The Young India Fellowship — inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship — aims to foster holistic education and expose students to concepts of philosophy, economics, political science, art appreciation, literature and life sciences. The list of faculty members includes Kaushik Basu, chief economic adviser to the government, historian Ramachandra Guha and sociologist Andre Béteille, among others.

During the one-year programme, faculty members and mentors (see list) will try to impart entrepreneurial, leadership and communication skills among the 50 chosen ones.

Chaubey was in Calcutta to introduce the fellowship to students. He met students of Jadavpur University on Wednesday and has lined up a session at Presidency University on Thursday.

The response from students across the country made Chaubey and his team realise the “breadth of dreams”. An IIT student shared his dream of developing a world-class sports facility while a Jadavpur University student said he aspired to make films on social issues.

“Some students were hesitant in voicing their aspirations at the beginning because often people scoff at dreams. But I was impressed by the scale of what these young people want to do,” said Chaubey after the session at Jadavpur.

Unlike academic institutes that churn out students trained to succeed in the job market, the Young India Fellowship will help students achieve their dreams under the tutelage of some of the best brains from the world of academics and business, he promised.

“I wish there were such programmes when I was a student; I would have loved to be a part of it. Both my children did their undergraduate and graduate studies in the US because there was no such programme in India,” said Infosys founder chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy, one of the mentors.

The foundation has already designed a rigorous three-tier screening process to select the first batch. Candidates need to first make it to a shortlist drawn up on the basis of their dreams, academic record, extra-curricular activities and recommendation letters. The next stage will be telephonic interviews and background checks. The final list will be drawn up after personal interviews.

“It is going to be a tough selection process because we want the best. We will look at creating diversity in the batch in terms of disciplines, gender and socio-economic and cultural factors,” said founder member Ashish Dhawan.

“From what we have seen, the education system in India is lopsided. It produces individuals who have depth but not breadth. Through the programme we want to add that breadth as well as encourage inquisitive and curious minds,” he added.

More than 2,500 students have already applied for the Rs 8 lakh fellowship.

MADE TO MENTOR

• N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder chairman, Infosys
• Sanjeev Aga, MD, Idea Cellular Ltd
• Robert Greenhill, MD and chief business officer, World Economic Forum
• Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC
• Analjit Singh, founder & chairman, Max India Ltd
• Adil Zainulbhai, MD of the Indian Practice, McKinsey & Company Inc.
• Dipak C. Jain, dean, Insead
• Rajendra Pawar, chairman and co-founder, NIIT

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