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Student fests: Where future leaders are grown and citizenry informed: Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula

Student fests: Where future leaders are grown and citizenry informed: Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula

By India Today Education Desk: We are in the season when all colleges and universities manifest the essence of student-hood through student-run cultural and tech festivals. Whether it is IIT-Madras’ tech festival ‘Shaastra’, its cultural festival ‘Saarang’, or IIT Bombay’s Tech Fest or Mood Indigo, they all play a crucial role in the life of a student.

When I reminisce with alumni – some who go back as far as the 1970s – about their time on campus, their first memories and the ones most relatable to the current generation surround the on-campus student life. Whether they are about the time spent in hostels or the fun they had during student-run festivals, the indelible set of memories keep them connected to their alma mater long after they have graduated. I became curious to see why.


Student-run festivals serve a few crucial purposes in a student’s life on campus. First, they are usually the first instances when they gather together and organise themselves into hierarchical teams for a greater purpose – running a large and successful festival.

This activity teaches them the value of professionalism, marketing, the need and modus to work in a team and finally, the value of aligning to a broader mission.

These learnings are certainly not a serious part of most curricula, but form the core of what a recruiter may desire in a future employee. This desire of employers has evolved to the point where students who are part of the core leadership teams of student festivals are snapped up early in the recruitment process, to no one’s surprise.

Student festivals serve a second purpose – to serve a greater good for society at large. They serve as great platforms for youngsters to have serious conversations, albeit in a fun setting, on topics of current interest — on issues they would be responsible to evolve solutions for.

Almost every problem that is staring at us in the eye requires an informed solution to be developed by today’s students working together. These problems, ranging from plastic waste management, and water bodies rejuvenation, to even debating the role of sports in a country, require solutions that will leverage technology, evolve policy and eventually become movements to change behavioural patterns of citizens.

This process often begins in the minds of the young at these student festivals where they get a chance to interact with luminaries in various disciplines and become informed stakeholders in the search for solutions.

Student festivals are also important for a third and an intangible reason – informing the society at large. Educational institutions have a main mission – to educate the students who walk into its portals after securing admission. An auxiliary mission is to inform the public at large.

Student festivals offer these institutions an opportunity to open up and to let a large cross-section of individuals through its gates. This offers a great opportunity for a rank outsider –potentially a future student or a parent or just an interested citizen – to come in and see first-hand what these taxpayer-funded institutions have to offer.

This intangible benefit goes a long way to keep the citizenry interested to continue supporting these institutions; after all, the loop back to the taxpayer needs to be closed.

As someone who has seen these students organise festivals here at IIT Madras up close, I know how hard they work to take care of every detail meticulously. I am sure they will carry those lessons with them into their academic life as well. I wish all the student festivals, all over the country, a grand success and hope they continue to thrive into the future.

I urge each and every one of you to find a festival at your nearest educational institution and attend a few of the events. I am sure you will come out informed and will find the time well-spent.

I also urge corporate India to step up to sponsor these festivals. After all, there can be no better investment than to invest in a festival where future leaders are grown. It takes a village to run a festival – corporate India, students, faculty and society at large.

Let us all step up to make this festival season a grand success.

Here is a list of a few student festivals to choose from:

-Shaastra.org – IIT Madras (January 26-29, 2023)

-Techkriti.org – IIT Kanpur

-Techfest.org – IIT Bombay

-Ktj.in Kshitij – IIT Kharagpur

-Elan and nVision – IIT Hyderabad

– Article by Professor Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT Madras

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