While the year 2020 presented the challenge to rethink initiatives, processes and adapt them to a completely online setting, 2021 offered space to expand the reach and continue levelling the playing field by working towards an evolved and holistic admissions process.
Special focus was made on expanding the selection panel -- around 10 alumni were trained and appointed to serve as interviewers from a pool of over 150 alumni applicants.
The eleventh cohort of 198 Fellows comprises of individuals from 126 academic institutions, 85 locations and 28 Indian states/UTs, with 52 per cent on need-based financial aid, about 65 per cent identifying as female and 17 per cent having postgraduate credentials.
"The mission, simply put, has always been to form a very diverse class. Our constant endeavour to evolve with time and expand our horizon has led to the Outreach programme not only generating more impact nationally through our innovative initiatives, but also transgressing national borders as a first step towards making the fellowship global," contended Anuja Sinha, Deputy Manager, Outreach and Admissions.
The biggest highlight has been a significant improvement in the enrolment ratio - a key indicator of cohort quality. This was achieved through several special efforts to instil a sense of belonging amidst selected candidates and to ease the onboarding process. The tradition of sending hard copies of offer and family letters along with merchandise and congratulatory calls, was resumed.
For the first time, an all-stakeholder video welcoming admitted candidates was also curated and well-received. Customized payment plans were also made for several candidates to ease financial burden on their families. Before handing over the cohort to the Programme Team, a workshop on 'Public Narrative' by coaches from Harvard Kennedy School was organized for enrolled candidates.
The team got to meet each other in person in October 2021 for the first time since March 2020. Having commenced a new cycle to admit the twelfth cohort, a heavy focus continues to be made towards the ongoing digital-first and shelf-life-content outreach strategy, which also involves curating short and engaging videos that would add to the pool of resources for candidates.
The team has recently collaborated with alumni across several batches to produce an animated explainer video about the YIF, and more are underway. A focused approach to building presence across key platforms such as LinkedIn, in addition to Facebook and Instagram is also being undertaken.
New properties such as The YIF Podcast, The Professor Will See You Now and A Day At YIF continue to thrive as they reach newer audiences. In early December, after almost two years, in-person coffee chats were held across 5 key Indian metro cities, which saw good participation. These will be resumed now in 2022 with a focus on engaging with audiences across smaller cities and towns in India.
"Kudos to the seamless collaboration and ownership demonstrated by my colleagues across all our work streams. That we have had a 'good' year is a testament to the spirit of adaptability and innovation in everything we do - from conceptualizing an outreach initiative to enrolling an outstanding class. We have had some long-term members leave the office, paving way for young team members (incidentally Ashoka alumni) to contribute to the work. We constantly push ourselves to advance the mission of the YIF, and thereby, Ashoka University," said Karan Bhola (YIF '14), Director, Outreach and Admissions.
Through the support of alumni overseas, awareness about Liberal Education and the YIF is being made across South Asian countries and other developing nations in Africa - as a stepping stone towards further diversifying the YIF classroom.