Ashoka University Founders emphasize the need for community development awareness in universities

Published July 27, 2023

Universities have always been regarded as institutions meant to impart higher learning, fostering intellectual growth, and preparing students for successful careers. However, in recent years, there is a growing emphasis on community development efforts in higher education institutions, shifting the focus from individual accomplishments to a broader societal impact.

Value of Community Development Efforts

In today’s interconnected world, universities must recognize that their impact extends far beyond their campuses. From fostering social responsibility, and bridging theory and practice to building inclusive societies and strengthening community partnerships, universities play a crucial role in teaching students universal human values and developing them into holistic individuals. Vineet Gupta, one of the Ashoka University Founders highlights, “Emphasizing community development benefits society and enhances the overall university experience. Universities with a strong focus on community development become magnets for students passionate about making a difference.”

Community development initiatives instil in students a sense of responsibility toward the welfare of others. This ethical perspective encourages graduates to prioritize societal welfare in their personal and professional lives. Engaging in community development projects allows students to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios. This hands-on experience enriches their education and prepares them to address complex challenges. Such significant efforts promote inclusivity by breaking down social barriers and addressing inequalities. Universities play a crucial role in nurturing a culture of understanding and empathy among future leaders. They can identify pressing needs and contribute valuable resources by collaborating with local communities. This partnership creates reciprocal benefits and enriches both parties involved.

Initiatives by Renowned Institutes

Yale University’s Dwight Hall is the university’s Center for Public Service and Social Justice. Founded by undergrads in 1886, it has a rich history of community service and provides a platform for students to collaborate on social justice initiatives. Through volunteer programs, internships, and partnerships with local organizations, students actively contribute to the New Haven community. Similarly, Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service offers a diverse range of community engagement programs.

Through service-learning courses, fellowships, and community-based research, students address societal challenges both locally and globally. In India, one institution leading the charge in this is Ashoka University. The university is trying to empower the community by creating a campus-wide care system. As an example, the Ashoka Centre for Well-Being (ACWB) is committed to caring for students, staff, and faculty as well as creating a culture of well-being for the community. Ashoka students also engage with the neighbouring villages and engage in community service there.

Ashoka University Founders’ visionary approach sets an inspiring example as they envision a place where knowledge transcends boundaries and is rooted in the values of empathy, compassion, and social responsibility. “Our dream for Ashoka is to create not just scholars but well-rounded individuals with a sense of duty towards their communities. Our goal was to build a university where students actively engage in real-world challenges and contribute to the betterment of society,” states Vineet Gupta.

Nurturing Empowerment and Holistic Approach

Universities have the responsibility to actively encourage students to engage in community service programmes, volunteer work, and social entrepreneurship projects. Ashoka University’s interdisciplinary approach to education breaks down traditional barriers between academic disciplines, enabling students to understand complex problems from multiple perspectives. This holistic education equips students with the resources needed to address real issues effectively.

An eminent education policymaker and administrator, A.K Jalaluddin in his book ‘From Mindless to Mindful Classrooms: Reflections on India’s Struggle for Culture Shift in Education’ focuses on the need for community participation in education at all levels. The author stated, “Without community involvement, sustainability becomes elusive. For any remedial intervention to achieve long-term success, it is essential to ensure that the community actively engages in and takes responsibility for their learning.”

Graduates who get actively involved in community development during their university years are more likely to continue supporting social causes as alumni. Ashoka University Founders set a compelling example, showing that education can be a powerful tool for social change. By integrating community development into their ethos, universities can cultivate a new generation of leaders committed to building a more inclusive and equitable world.

CDN Newswire