Wednesday, 24 February 2016

K. J SIMSR 3rd International HR Conference on Employee Engagement 2016

The HR faculty of K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research (K. J. SIMSR) organized the 3rd International HR conference on Employee Engagement on February 4-5, 2016. This event was organized in collaboration with their academic partner California State University, sponsored by BPCL and supported by Humanist – the HR club of the institute.

“Employee Engagement” the theme for the conference has been attracting the attention of industry and the academia and gaining relevance in a multitude of contexts and human settings beyond the conventional workplace, such as the class room, sports, NGOs, health care amongst others. The conference sought to dwell on this ever evolving construct extensively.

The conference compendium comprising of 36 research contributions from 79 received was released in the inauguration ceremony by our honourable Provost Dr. Rajan Welukar. The two day conference had overwhelming response from across the country and elicited international participation from South Africa, Canada, Hungary, Nepal and Bahrain. Contributions included Research Papers, Conceptual Papers, Case Studies, View Points, Literature Reviews, and other genres from academics and industry practitioners. The conference successfully turned out to be congregation of academicians, research scholars, consultants, practitioners from the industry and students.

Leading Management Consultant and Executive Coach Mr. Vivek Patwardhan set the tone of the conference was followed by an engrossing panel discussion on sectoral practices by senior practitioners from the Industry. Mr. Ramesh Mitragotri CHRO, Chemical Sector, Aditya Birla Group, Mr. Rajesh Manik, Head HR, Deloitte and Ms. Sujata Chogle, GM – HR BPCL came up with illuminating insights on engagement scenario. Deliberations by Mr. Prasenjit Bhattacharya, CEO, Great Places to Work came up with glimpse of “future of work”. One of the leading academicians in Engagement Research, Prof. (Dr.) Jyotsna Bhatnagar, MDI, Gurgaon helped provide valuable insights on different dimensions of Employee Engagement. This conference served as a platform to blend the research and practice paradigms in Employee Engagement.

Research papers, after a rigorous review process  were selected for presentation in track sessions chaired by senior and acclaimed academicians drawn from reputed institutions such as Mumbai University and NITIE. Awards were given away to best papers.

The conference participants expressed their satisfaction from two days of learning experience that had unraveled issues and challenges that organizations will need to address to build engaging workplaces in future.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Sameerwadi students out & about!!!

A Site-based Learning Program specially designed for the K. J. Somaiya English Medium School at Sameerwadi of Mudhol district, Karnataka designed by Prachi Dalal, museum educator and heritage & sustainable tourism professional based in New York, USA. The program, implemented in partnership with Somaiya Vidyavihar Trust, aimed to help implement experiential, object-based and site-based learning approaches with the local teachers that can enhance the learning experience for children. The program helped teachers use local historic sites and natural resources to teach their children and then lead discussions going beyond their curriculum to develop among their students skills like planning, critical thinking, leadership, civic responsibility, creativity, and much more. By using built, natural and intangible heritage as a focal point, this program raised awareness and inspired students and the local community to become stewards and advocates for heritage conservation and sustainable development. 

Project Goals
  • Introduce experiential, object-based and site-based learning pedagogies to teachers to empower them to enhance the learning experience for children.
  • Create an enhanced exploratory experience with heritage resources.
  • Provide experiential & interactive learning to ignite a passion for our shared heritage.
  • Encourage civic engagement towards sustainability, conservation & social change.
  • Empower youth to become change makers.
  • Encourage critical thinking, observation, creativity and leadership qualities.
  • Equip educators with resources to use heritage to make curricular connections.

Teacher Training
The program included three-day training for teachers to encourage and empower teachers to free themselves of the confining limits of the classroom and infuse curiosity, sense of discovery, creativity, hands-on and interactive activities and games to enhance the learning experience for their students. This approach aims to prepare the students not just for exams but with critical thinking and leadership skills to meet the challenges in the 21st century. The vital introductory session was co-designed and co-led by Prachi and Parveen Shaikh, head of the Pre-Primary School at Vidyavihar, Mumbai. The following day the teachers were taken on an excursion to Bijapur to inspire them to create lesson plans using a historic site, which was then implemented during the pilot project with the 8th grade class. The final day was spent on working in groups reviewing, refining the lesson plans and creating materials for implementation. This approach could then be used by teachers to design experiences for students at sites far and near including using the beautiful school campus or the local community and farms as a site.

Vikram Sir engaging the students on the life of Mohammad Adil Shah

Student Program 
The program was piloted with the Class VIII and started with an orientation session on Monday, 21st October 2013 and ended with a Town Hall Meeting and Parent Open House on Sunday, 27th October, 2013.The Orientation session prepared the students through thought-provoking activities like ‘Body Mapping’ and ‘Itinerary Planning’ and were introduced to the concept of Heritage and why the understanding of heritage is important. They engaged in creating ground rules for the program, stating their expectations for the program and team building activities. After the orientation students packed their bags with excitement for a fun-filled 3-day out-of-the-box learning experience in Pattadakal and Bijapur, followed by a visit to an organic farm. 

At Pattadakal, a complex of 7th century Early Chalukyan temples near Badami, the students learnt about sculpted stories (their symbolism, iconography, and connection to dance and literature), styles of architecture and layout of Early Chalukyan temple architecture. The students became detectives equipped with torches exploring stories carved on the pillars of the Virupaksha temple. Students experienced stories in dance by Mr. Pavitra Bhatt, an eloquent and expressive Bharatnatyam dancer who specially came down from Mumbai for the dance demonstration and workshop. Pavitra demonstrated Bho Shambho, Gajendra-Moksha and Ardhanareeshwara in the Virupaksha temple. Students also experienced what it meant to express an abstract concept with their bodies as they created themed freezes during a movement workshop. The visual sketching workshop resulted in beautiful copper- embossed manuscript covers. That evening the group proceeded to the next destination – Bijapur, the erstwhile capital of the medieval Adil Shahi Dynasty.

(Left) Describing the story of Gajendra Moksha in the panel above through dance; (Center) Story detectives at the Virupaksha temple; (Right) Bharatanatyam demonstration by Pavitra Bhatt

The theme of the next day at Bijapur was ‘Conflict and Confluence’ and the morning started with an introduction to the historical and socio-cultural context of Bijapur and the Adil Shahi dynasty by Prof. Imaratwale in the Gol Gumbaz premises. Students explored the confluence and influence of many cultures in Bijapur during the Adil Shahi period through an interactive museum exploration activity conducted by Prachi at the Archeological Museum of Bijapur.

(Left) Prof. Imaratwale and Dr. Sujeet Nayan outside the Archeological Museum of Bijapur (Right) Museum exploration

At the Ibrahim Rauza, a tomb and mosque complex built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II, the students examined the beautiful stucco ornamentation and sketched motifs that inspired them. These motifs would have had deeper symbolic meaning, unknown to us, still provided ample inspiration for the students to design their manuscript covers. A brief activity introduced the concept of mathematics of symmetry at Ibrahim Rauza. This helped the students make connections between geometry, architecture, design and aesthetic. It made the concept of symmetry relevant to our day to day lives, where we can see symmetry all around us in nature, architecture and design.

Students sketching at Ibrahim Rauza

Later that afternoon, students were divided into four groups – each group engaging in a unique experience which was shared with their peers at the end of the day in a Sharing and Reflection session. 

Group 1: They visited an Adil Shahi period dam and water system at Kumatgi (outside Bijapur) headed by Mr. Klous Rotzer, a French scholar and researcher who has been studying the fortification and water systems in Bijapur for many years, to discover the technological achievement of the Adil Shahi sultans in creating an effective water & irrigation system which was sustainable and helped with providing a natural fertilizer to the farmers but was also dotted with beautiful pleasure pavilions for the royal ladies – combining pleasure and work – a unique feature in Deccani architecture of those times. 

Group 2: went to a village on the outskirts of Bijapur, which is a home to the Lambanis, a nomadic community now settled in Karnataka. This experience was researched and conducted by Ms. Smitha Kumar, Assistant Archeologist at the ASI, Bijapur. The students got a rare insight into the culture, lifestyle and beliefs of the Lambanis. A teacher and a student got an amazing opportunity to dress in the traditional attire and the entire group enjoyed their hospitality and loved dancing to Lambani tunes. 

(Left) Kumatgi water pavilion and water lifting tower; (Center) Mr. Klous Rotzer showing students the bath and toilet in the pavilions; (Right) Lambani women and Sujata Teacher matching steps

Group 3 & 4: The workshop on Stucco by Mr. Ameen Pullar exposed students to building materials used during medieval times and the advantage of those techniques with respect to weather conditions, geology and aesthetics of that period as well as the challenges to using these materials today. Due to weather conditions the workshop on Secularism and Tolerance was altered to a workshop on Dakhani Literature, where professor of Deccani Urdu – Prof. Daulatkoti shared jewels from his treasure trove of Deccani literature that brought out the confluence of various cultures as well as languages like Urdu, Sanskrit, Marathi and Kannada. This session revealed the sophistication, culture, tolerance and love of literature & arts of the Adil Shahi rulers and also led to a discussion on the importance of tolerance in contemporary times. 

(Left) Detail of stucco ornamentation on the Gol Gumbaz; (Right) The entire group with Mr. Ameen Hullur, Prof. Dawlatkoti and Dr. Sujeet Nayan

The wonderful officers at ASI, Bijapur generously helped arrange for a visit to the Gol Gumbaz and the underground tombs at 6 a.m. the next day to provide the students an experience of the resounding quality of the “Whispering dome” of the Gol Gumbaz. In complete silence, students observed the incredible echo of their voices. The serene experience on top of the Gol Gumbaz and in the underground tomb was one of the highlights of the group’s experience. This experience also left them with a lasting impression of the threat of continuous and irresponsible shouting on the longevity of the Gol Gumbaz, and our responsibility as visitors in conserving our collective heritage. 

(Left) Setting ground rules before entering the Gol Gumbaz; (Center) Paying respect at the underground tombs of Mohammaed Adil Shah; (Right) Taj Baodi
The students were taken to the Taj Baodi (one of the water bodies that originally supplied water to Bijapur) and the Narsimha temple (one of the oldest temples in the city) where they witnessed the impact of litter and trash on city’s infrastructure. They also realized how our past can teach us valuable lessons that can improve our current quality of life, if managed well. Mr. Anand Teertha and Dr. Sujeet Nayan of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), Bijapur made insightful presentations on the ‘Challenges of conserving heritage’ and ‘Excavations in Nalanda’ respectively.

(Left) Mr. Anand Teertha addressing the students; (Center) Demonstration of a conservation exercise; (Right) Dr. Sujeet Nayan presenting his work on Excavations in Nalanda, Bihar

After lunch, each groups selected an issue for visitor awareness that had bothered them during their trip. The groups selected the following issues: littering in the premises of a monument, scribbling on monument walls, spitting and shouting in the Gol Gumbaz. After creating a strategy for this awareness campaign and refining it as a team, the students set out to change visitor behavior in the Gol Gumbaz premises. Their spirits were not dampened by a few ‘nay-sayers’ but they were definitely moved when visitors not just obliged to their requests but appreciated their initiative. This exercise may not change the everyday challenges of heritage management at Gol Gumbaz, but it converted the students into future advocates of civic responsibility through and may have created a change of heart in a few visitors. 


Vistior awareness in the Gol Gumbaz

The day concluded with the teachers leading a site-based session at the Gol Gumbaz. The groups returned with a bag full of experience to share with their friends and family.

The following day was spent in reflecting on their experience and in feverishly preparing their group presentations for the Parent Open House. Each group put in their best to create a wonderful presentation with guidance from their teacher-guides given the limited time and resources.

This day brought to them a different perspective on understanding heritage – the natural heritage and how our day-to-day actions can leave an irreversible impact on the environment. An environmentalist based in Delhi, Mr. Prashant Mahajan started the day with an introduction to the ecosystem and to ecosystem services which brought out the vital understanding of how even the survival of a tiny bee could be so vital to the sustainability of an entire ecosystem. The students visited an organic farm where they toured the farm and observed drip irrigation, use of natural fertilizer and pesticides, vermin-composting, algae in The group came back and discussed their observations, and sustainable processes that were applicable on some of their own farms. A green quiz helped them think about how they could take personal responsibility in making their school green. This experience made the concept of environmental sustainability more relevant to their lives.


The program concluded with a Parent Open House and Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, October 27 2013. A range of activities were organized for the parents to also engage in a fun, interactive ad thought provoking manner. A value wall, snake and ladder game, an oral history documentation kiosk, and a parent-child collage activity introduced parents to the idea of heritage, sustainability and the interconnections between cultural and natural heritage.

Each of the four groups was responsible for planning their presentations with their teachers guiding them. They presented their projects in a separate room dedicated to their project: 

Tolerance: This group set up a circle of peace with jute strings and had people make paper peace flags in poetry or pictures and to create a circle of peace

Stucco: They presented how stucco is used in a very engaging way through pictures, and a stucco demonstration, and even giving a stucco motif to each visitor as a parting gift!

Water Systems: They created 3D model of the Kumatgi water pavilions and presented the site through a Powerpoint presentation prepared by Mr. Klous Rotzer with great confidence.

Lambani: This group surprised everyone by procuring a Lambani dress and a boy and a girl dressed as a Lambani and welcomed visitors with a traditional Lambani hospitality! Once inside visitors were given a powerpoint presentation of their experience at the Lambani village. 

The afternoon ended with a Town Hall meeting which was attended by a panel of experts: Mr. Klous Rotzer and Mr. Ameen Hullur from Bijapur, Mr. Debashish Nayak (leading heritage management expert and Director, Centre for Heritage Management of Ahmedabad University), Prajakta Panshikar (a young and passionate consultant for Heritage Conservation and Promotion, Janwani, Pune), Prashant Mahajan (Environmentalist and Learning Manager, Earthwatch) and was facilitated by Prachi Dalal. In a Town Hall meeting style this was a forum to share the project, create awareness about heritage, the role of community in conserving heritage and why heritage is relevant today, it turned out to be a lively discussion between parents and the panelist. 

The impact of the program was measured through evaluations collected from students and teachers. Students said that this program… 

According to the students’ feedback, this program helped them develop the following skills 

Site-based, experiential and interactive learning methods provide opportunities for integrated learning among students without dividing up learning into water-tight compartments. After the 6-day experience, students were asked which subjects the experience touched upon. Below is a diagram plotting their responses that the experience went across curricula, and also highlighted how these subjects are interconnected: 


Project Team
Prachi Dalal, Project Leader
Prashant Mahajan, Collaborating Environmentalist and Educator
Urmi Somaiya, Logistics & School Coordinator, CBSE School (Sameerwadi)
Ami Mehta, Program Assistant 

Content Experts Anand Tirtha, Sr. C.A. ASI, Bijapur
Dr. Sujeet Nayan, Assistant Archeologist, Bijapur
Smitha Kumar, Assistant Archeologist, Bijapur
Klous Rotzer, Architectural Historian
Dr. Abdul Gani Imaratwale, Historian, Professor and Researcher, Anjuman College (Bijapur)
Prof. S. S. Dawalatkoti, Professor of Urdu literature, Anjuman College (Bijapur)
Ameen Hullur, Stucco Conservationist and architect
Pavithra Bhatt, Bharatanatyam dancer
Chandru Katigiri, Senior guide (Badami)
Parveen Shaikh, Guest co-facilitator for Teacher Training and Pre-primary Head, Somaiya Vidyavihar campus
Tim Reber, Intern, sustainable development, Godavari Biorefineries 

Other Support Teachers, Staff and Parents of K. J. Somaiya English Medium School, Sameerwadi
Mr. Bakshi and Mr. Bableshwar for their organizational support in making the program possible
Mr. Goudar, Kiran Digital, Photographer & Videographer
Mr. Anand Kumar, Logistical Support, Godavari Biorefineries
Mr. Rajeev Rathod and Mr. Mohan for travel arrangements
Haveli & Guesthouse Staff
Drivers Mallu, Mehboob, Gangappa

Special Thanks 
Archeological Survey of India, Dharwad Circle - Mr. Mahadevaiah, Mr. Nagnoor and Mr. Ranganath
Archeological Survey of India, Bijapur - Mr. Anand Teertha, Dr. Sujeet Nayan, Ms. Smitha Kumar, and the entire staff
Archeological Survey of India, Badami and Pattadakal staff
Godavari Bio Refineries Ltd for their logistical, organizational and financial support
Mr. Samir Somaiya for his vision, conviction and leadership