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The Azim Premji University held its fourth convocation ceremony on August 17, 2016 at Bengaluru. The Governor of Karnataka, Shri Vajubhai Vala and Mr. Azim Premji, Chancellor of the University conferred degrees on the graduating students.

Established in 2010, the Azim Premji University is sponsored by the Azim Premji Foundation. The University is a philanthropic, not- for-profit institution with a clear social purpose, of contributing towards a just, humane, equitable and sustainable society.

The University is focused on offering programmes and conducting research in Education and related areas of Human Development. The University currently offers Masters Programmes in Education, Development, Public Policy & Governance and Law & Development (LLM). In 2015, the University commenced its Undergraduate programme (B.A/B.Sc.). These programmes offer students a variety of specializations and are guided by the core social purpose of the University and their need and relevance in higher education.

Nearly all the students from the fourth batch, who were conferred with the degrees today, are working in the social sector across the country, having completed the programme in May 2016. The University has so far enrolled 1580 students in six batches and built a dedicated team of 220 faculty and staff engaged in teaching, research, continuing education and field practice. The University is deeply committed to diversity and to offering equal opportunity to students from disadvantaged backgrounds: around 50% of students at the university come from rural areas and small towns of India and over 50% of the students are women. Around 50% of the students are also offered financial support.

Chancellor Mr. Azim Premji in his address, after congratulating all the graduating students, shared with them five simple nuggets of practical wisdom.

First, it is most important to understand the people you are working with and working for. This requires not only empathy, but a willingness to speak their language and share their lives. It requires a conscious effort to move out of one’s comfort zone.

Second, we must have the greatest respect for the context and people we work with. In almost all cases, they will have a different wisdom and understanding, often it will be greater than ours. That’s because not only have they lived and experienced the reality that we are trying to tackle, but they also represent community wisdom that has been accumulated over generations.

Third, while it is very important to be questioning and critical, it is equally important to be constructive and contributing. Unless we question with courage change can’t begin, but unless we are constructive, change cannot happen. I have a simple principle that I have seen succeed – ask questions and suggest practical alternatives.

Fourth, the frontline worker is the most important person in really making change happen in this country. We have to develop conditions that empower them. This includes the people that I have referred to earlier – teachers, panchayat members, anganwadi workers….. In my experience, there is a surprising number of people in such roles who would like to see change happen to contribute, and if we bring them together, we can take big strides forward.

Fifth, we must bring a mindset of hope and positivism. As it is, there is enough darkness and difficulty that everyone faces.

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