Rashmi Singh: Director of Office of Student Life

The Director, Office of Student Life at Ashoka University, Ms. Rashmi Singh, talks about the campus life experience of students here. Ms. Singh shares her thoughts on women at Ashoka and inclusivity among other things: 


Sakshi: How long have you been working at Ashoka University?

Ms. Singh: I’ve been here since the very beginning. I joined Ashoka on the 1st of July, 2014. But even before this, I was involved in conceptualizing and conceiving the Student Life and what it would envision.

Sakshi: Ashoka has a lot of programs which provide leadership opportunities for women such as the Resident Assistant and Teaching Assistant positions. How do you think this helps empower women?

Ms. Singh: As women, stepping out of our internalised and lived comfort zone is very important and hence leadership becomes all the more crucial. While some women have had the opportunity of being in leadership roles from an early age, whether public or private domains of their lives, not everyone comes with that experience and background. So creating these leadership roles is instrumental in bridging that gap. We try to do that through RA’s, TA’s or our other centers. Our centers are doing such a phenomenal job in the gender space and discourse. All these opportunities mentioned above help take our students into the experiential space where they encounter and understand real life dynamics.


Sakshi: Does the student women to men ratio surprise you?

Ms. Singh: I’m not surprised but I’m really happy about this. It fits into Ashoka’s vision and intentions of building an inclusive campus. I’m really delighted about it.


Sakshi: How does it feel to see so many women around you driven by passions?

Ms. Singh: Women are doing an outstanding job at Ashoka University. But I have also witnessed women who do not open up in conversational spaces, feel inhibited. I often urge women to share their views and opinions. For instance, when we hold town halls to share our views and opinions, it bothers me to see the same set of people come forward and engage in a conversation. This is great but I want to urge more women to come and participate in such a free space. A safe and comfortable space is crucial towards empowering students, especially women to come forward and share their lived experiences without inhibitions or feeling judged.


Sakshi: How does Ashoka University accommodate students from different cultures?

Ms. Singh: The answer to this goes back to the discourse and narrative of inclusivity. Inclusivity, for me and I am sure for a lot of other intellectuals, is not just about creating an infrastructure of a certain kind or writing down a policy; it is also something that should take into account diverse sensibilities. It also has to be empathetic to multiple perspectives and ways of life. So liberal and inclusive for me is when we accept multiple perspectives and ways of life without weighing one against the other. One such instance is the provision for self-selective non-access floors in the residence halls. This is one of our many ways of making an inclusive space for all.


Sakshi: How does Ashoka tackle homesickness?

Ms. Singh: Homesickness is something you can’t do away with. Whether it's from your school to an institution, or from one institution to another, there will always be a teething phase. For Ashoka, I find it great to see how accommodating our residences are and I feel so proud to see it growing into a community. Whether it is cooking meals with your friends in the pantry or the floor events held by the Residence Assistants, Ashoka is becoming like a close-knit family. To that end, the Resident Assistant programme has taken off so well! It feels exhilarating to see our students take charge and bring in so much enthusiasm on their floors. Eventually, people do find their comfort spaces. I won’t say that you won’t miss your home but that you will outgrow it.

Rashmi Ma'am in her office at Ashoka University

Sakshi: Why has Ashoka given open door access?

Ms. Singh: This was definitely a difficult decision. A university is about its students first, before anything else. However, I must admit, it has been very tough to strike that fine balance between very diverse points of view and sensibilities around this matter. I am glad we have been able to achieve that. It’s important to realise that there will come a point in the lives of young adults to be where the transition will have to happen, where you will need to think like a responsible adult. A university is that one safe space, where you can take the freedom and act in your own stride, responsibly.


Sakshi: How does Ashoka University cope with a student’s mental health?

Ms. Singh: Mental health concerns are real. We have a center for well-being and the work that it is doing is truly extraordinary. It is an open space that students can reach out to. The fact that we have thought about this right from the inception of Ashoka speaks for how concerned Ashoka University is about mental health. To accept that reality and to have an open space justifies how important it is to us for students to seek the right advice and support without having to compromise their own privacy.


Sakshi: What do you find most exciting about Ashoka as a workspace?

Ms. Singh: I am somebody who always needs challenging situations to work on and that keeps me going. I have been able to hone and nurture my passion to work with young adults at Ashoka University.


Sakshi: What is your solace spot on Campus?

Ms. Singh: My office corner, with the plants. I also have birds who visit me on my window. I love being around plants and I have decorated my own personal space. I also enjoy cooking and listening to music. I love reading Urdu and Hindustani, even though I am not an expert at it but these are some of my getaways.

Sakshi: What is your favorite eatery on Campus?

Ms. Singh: It has to be the Dhaba. All the paranthas loaded with butter is my comfort food.


Sakshi: Lastly, do you have anything to say to the women at Ashoka?

Ms. Singh: Open up, speak up. Find your niche and interact. Being trained in Sociology, I know it’s not just about women but also about men joining that conversational space. As long as that remains we are going in the right direction.

We love Rashmi Ma'am's advice. Time to act like a responsible adult, eh? But, then again, there is still a few years of college left. Let us enjoy it while it lasts.

Edited by Priyanka Shankar