The Culture of MICA from a student perspective

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Every institution or organization has its own unique culture. This characterizes the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of the individuals in the organization.

In an educational institution, culture impacts organizational growth, students' learning and the attainment of organizational excellence and individual academic excellence.

Where and how does culture manifest itself?

While some aspects such as the attitude towards academics, enforcement of rules set down by the administration, comportment of people in pivotal roles, behavioral standards expected from the students are the main facets of culture that are relevant to an academic institution- they view the organization at a macro level- and before culture manifests at a macro level it is in the behavior of the individuals of that organization, in their interactions, in the attitudes they display and the values they hold, mostly by virtue of being a part of the organization, that organizational culture is both cultivated and exhibited- culture therefore begins at a micro level.

It is therefore important to examine the individual to understand the culture of an organization.

MICulture

Applying this to MICA... the key aspects of the culture of MICA are:

Creativity and Innovation

Tolerance

Flat Organizational Hierarchy

High emphasis on individual freedom

Adapting to change and keeping up with trends

Constantly evolving

A holistic view encouraging overall development of the individual

A laid- back attitude

A blend of management and communication

Management Communication... Communication Management

The culture of MICA derives mostly from its positioning as a school of communication management and from the emphasis on creativity and innovation. The other dimensions of Mican culture are offshoots of these two central aspects.

The positioning of Mica has simultaneously provided students here with an advantage as well as a disadvantage. While the study of subjects such as Advertising management, Communication Theory and Film Studies alongside traditional B-school subjects like Management Financial Accountancy and Economics attracts students, with a certain bent of mind and provides students with more of an inclination towards studying the subjective aspects of management and management in fields that require decision making based on subjective input or that require outputs in successful formats, the option to go beyond skimming the surface in the communication centric subjects... it also does exactly that- skim the surface, when it comes to many traditional management subjects.

This leads to the positioning of mica within the minds of its students being in constant flux. It also leads to a certain degree of volatility in the subjects offered, who will teach what and how much time must be devoted to the study of each of these subjects. In some students' opinion, the onus is often on the students to ensure that certain essential subjects are part of the curriculum. This indicates a mismatch between the direction desired by the students and the direction being taken by the administration. This might also stem from the fact that each batch of students is unique and therefore come with a unique set of expectations and academic or professional leanings.

But mica also has a comparatively flat organizational structure that ensures that students concerns do not go unheard. It also leads to more productive interaction between students, faculty and administration.

Out of the box

Another aspect of mica that warrants discussion is the emphasis on creativity. Students are constantly encouraged to think out of the box, to come up with fresh ideas and innovative solutions. The subjects offered and the pedagogy employed facilitates creativity. Students are encouraged to come up with creative solutions both individually as well as working in teams.

Creativity in presentation is also greatly appreciated and is more the norm than the exception.Communication through the internet, considering that it's the most employed mode of communication for most students at mica, also plays a major role- Right from the admission stage to the conduct of the courses mica communicates with the students through Pagalguy, facebook and later micamail. This along with frequent lectures from people from within the industry and inclusion of faculty members with vast relevant experience in their respective fields is indicative of a culture that strives to keep up with changes both in the industry as well as in the fabric of society.

Individual Freedom

At Mica, everyone is an individual first. This individuality is not so much a product of conscious cultivation as it is of the admission process and the kind of students mica attracts. The emphasis on creativity leads to a lot of different perspectives in any situation.

This respect for individual choice is apparent in everything from the students' being in a position to request subjects they wish to study, to the student involvement in what gets served at the mess to the minimal supervision in the hostels. Strict dress codes are not enforced, students are given the freedom to choose who they work with in many group assignments and presentation guidelines for submissions are not very rigid.

In an environment that is as volatile, variegated and with as few restrictions as at mica, tolerance is encouraged, cultivated and is, in fact, absolutely necessary.

Holistic view of development

The committees on campus stand testimony to the fact that it is not only academic excellence that is encouraged at mica. The degree of activity of these committees further corroborates this. There are committees for theatre, Micanvas (marketing fest), sports, literature, communication, student concerns... everything. These committees are student run and consist of members elected from amongst the students themselves and are a great way to hone managerial skills as well. Most of them are active throughout the year.

Students are also encouraged to adopt healthy practices. There is a football field, a well- equipped gym, a badminton court, tennis court, basketball court as well as a cricket field- which are put to good use by the students- post classes they are all usually occupied. Cycles are provided for the students. Golf, yoga and aerobics lessons are made available to them on campus.

Foreign language classes and student exchange programs encourage students to look beyond the national perspective.

Laid back

There is a certain relaxed attitude towards work at mica. Many students tend to complete assignments in the last minute while faculties often give plans and announce assignments at the last minute. Students often neglect their pre-reads or give them a cursory reading.

While this does not affective the students' performance or take-away from practical courses to a great extent... it does take its toll on the reading- intense subjects.

To develop innovative professionals in the practice, development and management of communications, to serve the needs of the industry and society through education, research and advocacy.

Functional and Dysfunctional aspects of culture of MICA

MICA, as an institution that is two decades old, has formed a distinct identity for itself. A fundamental aspect of this identity is its culture which has been defined and created over the years. However, as the institute is still young, the visible dimensions of the culture are constantly changing and evolving. The core culture remains constant and unchanged, and the reason that differentiates MICAns from all other B-schools.

Functional aspects:

The functional aspects of the MICAn culture go to the root of the core mission and vision of MICA. Some aspects of the culture have been consciously cultivated by way of the pedagogy, systems and mission adopted. Some other aspects have evolved along with the consciously cultivated ones, and have blended together to become a part of quintessential MICAn culture.

Innovation and creativity

Facilitating and encouraging innovation - in ideas, methods and practices - has been a conscious part of the MICA culture. The case study pedagogy of learning that encourages innovation in applied communication, the exercises that build capacity for innovation in thinking and interactions, and the entire infrastructure inculcates a culture of innovation. Initiative is rewarded, innovation is regarded highly, supported and encouraged by superiors and peers alike.

In an attempt to encourage innovation at all levels, faculty and staff are also encouraged to adopt innovation in every activity. Use of newer teaching tools, incorporation of newer topics and subjects in the course curriculum, incorporation of newer teaching pedagogy are actively encouraged at MICA, and students are also trained to be receptive to the new methods. There is an attempt to also train the students to receive the newer innovations in the right manner, helping them evaluate it and utilize it effectively.

A heavy impact of innovation can be observed in case of use of Information and Communications Technology in MICA. In a physical reflection of the use of innovation in day-to-day life, ICT is used by students, faculty and administration alike to work smarter and better.

This culture of innovation helps MICAns excel in whichever endeavor they take up - from entrepreneurship to regular jobs, because innovation helps them stand out in a highly competitive world, and adds value to their work.

Tolerance

Active cultivation of tolerance for differences - in opinion, lifestyle, thinking, belief, values - has been one of the hallmarks of MICA through the years. The ease with which students of different ages, in different stages of life, with different perspectives and objectives of life intermingle and work together for two years is a way of manifestation of tolerance among students.

Likewise, religious tolerance is reflected in the equal treatment given to all religions. Id and Gokulashtami are celebrated with equal enthusiasm, and all students participate in all events. There is no discrimination of the basis of gender, race, caste, religion, at any stage of admission to MICA, or life thereafter.

Similarly, there is an in-built tolerance for regional diversities, too. Regional accents in English language are accepted quite casually, and there is a marked respect for every individual for their talent and intelligence. Differences are understood as inherited facts, or in the light of choices made by every individual, and are left aside in case of day-to-day interactions.

This culture of tolerance makes MICAns excel in professions that require high levels of team work, especially with teams comprising disparate groups comprising people of different regions.

Flat organizational hierarchy and transparency

The approachability of everyone, and respect shown by faculty and other superiors to their subordinates has been another defining culture that MICAns carry with them into the outside world, making them excellent team players.

Students are included in all decision making stages of the institute - from the syllabus and course contents, to the placements. Their suggestions are valued and often incorporated into the day-to-day workings of the institution. In addition, they are given due credit for their suggestions and contribution to the improvements.

Everyone is encouraged to approach the right persons for help without red-tape beauracracy and be honest about their feedback, thus helping everyone keep up the forward momentum.

Freedom

Students are made responsible for their choices by giving them the freedom to actively be a part of every decision. Thus, there is freedom in the culture of the institution at every level. It reflects in physical terms in the way the student accommodation blocks are unsupervised, the way students are encouraged to utilize their time in academic and other activities, and the opportunities given to students along with the freedom to make their choices.

There is also freedom of lifestyle, freedom to explore the avenues that interest each individual, and there is freedom to excel in the dimension that is the forte of each student. It is this freedom of choice that helps each individual discover themselves in the course of two years, and leave MICA as a more aware individual. It also makes him/her more tolerant of cultures that encourage freedom and creativity, and equips him/her with the arsenal to make the most of these cultures and look upon them as opportunities, rather than threats. It helps them deal better with unstructured and semi-structured situations that they may often encounter in real-life conditions.

Dysfunctional aspects:

Lack of direction

There is a lack of direction and guidance to students, and often this lack of direction results into the full potential of MICA in various domains not being realized. This is manifested in terms of students not being given adequate guidance about the variety and options available for them to exploit in the course of the two year stay at MICA.

The students are often not aware about a lot of avenues for them to explore their talent, and 'chance' upon those avenues, rather than follow a structured plan to exploit various opportunities and learn the most of it.

Confused approach

The culture of MICA is in-flux, often conveying to the students, and even the faculty, contradictory information. One the one hand there is advocacy and support to extreme freedom and approachability, on the other hand there is red-tapism and bureaucracy with regard to approaching MICA members.

Similarly, there is great confusion about the overall mission of the school, and a lack of communication between the school and current and prospective students. The question of whether the 'culture' is more 'business-school like' or 'communication-school like' leads to contradictory facts at various points in time.

A part of the culture is very result oriented - focused on securing maximum return-on-investment for students by helping them get the best jobs; while the other part is very process oriented - focused on helping each student identify his/her niche and excel in that, regardless of the pay-off and the result.

The confused approach reflects in tangible changes on the ground level that often affect the quality of learning and education that the students are exposed to. The choice of subjects, choice of faculty, teaching pedagogy, assessment and feedback methods are all aspects that are directly related to this confusion, and need to be resolved for adequate satisfaction of both students and other MICAns.

'Last-minute' approach to everything

MICAn students and faculty alike take a last-minute approach to all tasks. This translates into students completing assignments at the last minute, or requesting for extensions of deadlines, or resorting to plagiarism. It also translates into the faculty planning at the eleventh hour for the assignments to be given to the students, resulting in excess workload for students towards the end of the term, rather than evenly spread out throughout the term.

As a result, the full potential of students is not realized in whatever they do, and it becomes just another task to be completed, rather than a tool to learn more. For faculty, too, this often results in poorly-designed and articulated assignments being handed out to the students, impacting the input received from the students.

Action plan by which dysfunctional aspects of the culture can be changed in order to achieve the mission

The basic flaw which needs to be refined in order to set straight many dysfunctional aspects of the culture at MICA is its confused positioning- whether it is a progressive B school which focuses on all aspects of communication- branding and planning included or a C school training people in the production and management of content and medium.

As a school which used the Common Admission Test scores (used by many premiere Management Schools) for its intake till a couple of years ago, it is inevitable that MICA positioned itself as a cutting edge B school which focused on Communications Management. But with a change in the institute's policies, there seems to be a shift from the managerial aspect of the course to the communications sphere which results in widespread anxiety amongst students who are stakeholders in the institute. The current set of students perceived MICA as a B school and decided to join the course and the shift to the C school culture in terms of management/marketing courses getting reduced causes dissonance. In order to address this issue, the institute needs to carefully reposition itself to the next aspiring batches while catering to the expectations of the incumbent batches.

Traditionally, MICA has looked for creatively inclined but strategically sound individuals. It seeks to strike a balance between the conventional and unconventional business sense and hence the confused approach towards choosing careers based on interest/expertise or return-on-investment alone. What is needed is a balanced approach towards creating a culture which encourages healthy competition without compromising on individual interest and inclination. Getting more and more companies whose requirements match the interest and skill of MICAns will help achieve this goal.

As an institute which values individual freedom and expression- it is important for the administration to guide this free will towards larger objectives of providing learning and benefit to the students. Charting out a systematic schedule for assignments at the start of a course and creating an atmosphere where no violation of the deadlines is necessary will help in better time management for the students. As is the case with visiting faculty, rest of the professors should assign tasks well in advance in order to make sure that the students achieve maximum benefit without getting harrowed.

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