Published: 04th December 2021
BITSoM's new Student Assistance Programme to help them navigate through mental health issues
The programme has been launched in partnership with an organisation called Santulan to offer support to students
Big businesses are run by business savvy professionals who are obviously adept at working under pressure. That is something that is taught in B-schools all across the country and the world as well. But in the end, they are just human beings themselves. They, just like any of us, are prone to the same pressures and mental health concerns that could derail their work life as well as personal life. At this point, it becomes necessary to gauge if the leading B-schools in the country are capable of providing the right assistance to students in order to find their way through such real-life issues. Thankfully, one institute that is on the right side of this perennial question is the BITS School of Management. They have set up a Student Assistance Programme in partnership with an organisation called Santulan, which seeks to assist students in a manner more comprehensive than the everyday counselling support that one sees almost everywhere.
We caught up with Dr Leena Chatterjee, who is at the helm of the Student Assistance Programme, while also being a professor of Organisational Behaviour at the institute. She took us through the various facets of this new initiative and how it will cater to the students’ needs. Excerpts:
What's the story behind the Student Assistance Programme (SAP)?
When the offline classes began and the students started coming back to the institute, we felt that it is important to put in place a student assistance programme that would allow students to talk to someone if they thought they were going through a problem. One of the things that we, at BITSoM, strongly believe in is that we need to be student-centric and we need to provide psychological safety for students to be able to raise any issues or problems they are facing while they navigate through their academic programme.
Was there any precursor to the programme already existing at BITSoM?
When I joined BITSoM this year, I thought about how I could bring an initiative that would be unique and worthwhile to the institution. So we started with what was called the Personal Development Plan in which I got students to take psychometric tests, got them to think about their life and career goals and how they can use the two years at the programme to come up with professional and personal goals.
What would be the exact structure that would be put in place for the programme?
SAP would function besides the PDP, which is mandatory for all students. SAP is meant for specific students who feel that they require special assistance to navigate through a particular difficulty or crisis. It is a need-based service. We would also look to organise workshops on wellness and how to be more positive.
Where do you see the programme going?
One thing I would like is to have more discussions, workshops and talks. I feel the topic of mental well-being and mental health issues is something that we should make a normal process so that people do not feel uncomfortable thinking and talking about it. Many of these things often go undiagnosed. We should be comfortable enough to acknowledge the lows and be confident if working on them. The message needs to be put out there that there is nothing wrong in feeling low.
We want to create students who are learners for life. I think one of the reasons we are doing this is so that we can make 'learnability' a part of the students’ repertoire, so that they will always be in the habit of learning. I do hope that this makes them capable of adapting to the environment they are in. Also, I hope that the programme makes them more empathetic to others who might face challenges along the way.
How easy is it for BITSoM to stand out?
For us, because we are a young institute, I feel it is easier to work one-on-one with our students. We have also appointed about 45 mentors for the students. Each mentor works with about three students and they have the opportunity to discuss their learning goals with them as well. The initiative would have to be taken by the mentee.