Atman (India, Class of ’17) interviews Usha Sundaram, now an integral part of the Office of Advancement. She has been with UWCMC since its inception. Find out how UWCMC has changed since 1996, when Usha first became a part of the UWC family.
Could you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I have become a part of the Advancement Office and Admissions recently. I used to be assistant to the Head of College. I was also part of the Triveni Office and before that, the UWC Committee of India.
How did you choose to be associated with UWC Mahindra College?
I was associated with the college right from the beginning. I was working with Captain Mahindra, who was keen to set up a UWC in India. His son had been to UWC Atlantic College. At first, I worked with him on a part time basis, and later he offered me a job here and told me how he could see it become a huge movement. I slowly realised how the initiative was very different from an orthodox Indian school, especially in terms of the choices students have and what they wish to pursue after their time here. Additionally, the difference also lies in the diversity we have at the college and the opportunities students get to make friendships that are meaningful and lasting.
Could you talk about the initial setup and how factors like social acceptance came into play?
I have been here since the initial days so I know the struggle involved in convincing the bureaucratic departments of India – staying late, large amounts of paperwork. Even after getting the permission, we had to find land to build the college, find a contractor, find a financer. It was a lot of hard work, but I think it was worth it. We had to inform people about the UWC movement and the IB programme. Parents needed to be convinced about how UWC is positively different and not a place where children just learn by rote and get coaching by their teachers. It was only when we finally got the approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs by the end of 1996 that I thought this would work.
After this what made you decide that you want to stay here?
Before UWC Mahindra College, I was worked in a 9 to 5 job where you just go in the morning, work and come back. This was something different. So every day as the project moved forward, we felt like we were achieving something.
How do you feel the college is now? How is it different from what it was then?
I feel the students now are becoming more concerned about academic achievement. Eight years ago, students really enjoyed themselves here, loved interacting with the local community and engaging in service, something I don’t see often these days…sadly. The number of students who engage that way isn’t the same. So that’s a big change.
Where do you think the UWC movement is going?
Things are changing – hopefully for the better. Globally, we are a small world, but I think we are contributing significantly.
What do you think maintains that dynamic vibe at UWC Mahindra College?
It has to be the students mainly and then maybe the staff. The identity of UWC Mahindra College is entirely because of its students. They keep it alive.
What is your best experience in UWCMC?
I think I have to say I enjoyed and loved my time the most at the Triveni Office. It was made that special because of my daily interactions with the students.
Thank you for speaking with us.
-Atman (Class of ’17)