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Les Roches established the role of Dean of Students less than two years ago. We spoke to the present Dean, Andrea Chakravartti, to discover what the role involves and why it’s so important to support – and empower – students throughout their higher education journey.
The main lobby at Bluche campus truly is the beating heart of Les Roches. In the mornings before classes get underway it crackles with the buzz of conversation, laughter and the tell-tale sound of espresso coffee being freshly made.
The lobby also happens to be the perfect place to connect with the school community. Little wonder, then, that one of the faculty offices strategically placed close-by belongs to Andrea Chakravartti, Dean of Students.
Andrea joined Les Roches in July 2017, having previously worked at sister school Glion, and before that in a variety of higher education institutions and business schools. She also spent more than four years at the Geneva School of Diplomacy & International Relations. Its motto translates as “To govern is to serve”, something that correlates well with Andrea’s personal philosophy, as well as to one of the essential qualities in a hospitality leader.
We caught up with Andrea to find out more about her role, and to listen to her thoughts on the changing needs of the modern student.
Q: Andrea, what attracted you to the idea of working in hospitality education?
Andrea Chakravartti (AC): Throughout my career, a common thread has been a passion to accompany students throughout their learning journeys, and to set them up for success. Also, from a broader societal perspective, we are preparing future leaders here in Les Roches. You only have to look through the ranks of our alumni to see this is true – so whether our students are going to be leaders in this industry, or contributing to society in the larger sense, it brings a real sense of purpose to what we do.
Q: How does Les Roches compare with other institutions you’ve experienced?
AC: There are three things which I think make Les Roches quite unique. The first is our community aspect. The bonds that are forged here really do remain strong for life. It’s much more than a purely utilitarian network; more of a family. This is partly explained by our second unique characteristic, which is our incredible setting. We’re perched on a mountainside, surrounded by beautiful nature and incredible vistas. This reinforces the sense of endless opportunity, of open horizons, among our students. Last but not least, our students are the creators and innovators of their own journeys. We give them a blank canvas, plus support and encouragement, and they come up with idea after idea to enhance student life.
Q: No wonder so many Les Roches alumni go on to become entrepreneurs?
AC: Exactly! I feel this approach is different to other institutions, which can be more prescriptive in their pedagogy. Here entrepreneurship is in our DNA. So it’s natural to let the students take the lead if they want to create a new club or society, set up an event or manage their own café space, as they are doing today with The Warehouse.
It also means we have fewer boundaries between our staff and the student body. Of course, we are blessed by our campus setting, which naturally fosters a tight-knit community. But it also comes down to the way we teach, with the high staff to student ratio being something we will not compromise on. We maintain the personal touch, whether that’s making ourselves available in the lobby area or at any of the regular forums where students can approach staff.
Q: We recently spoke with Diana Xing Wang, President of the Student Governance Association(SGA). How important a role does that body play?
AC: It’s really important. One of the things I noted when I arrived was that the school had no formal student organization. We’ve now put that right, and since the SGA launched in January 2018 we’ve built a very fruitful, constructive working relationship between the students and the school management team.
Again it comes back to the students being a great support network for each other. We encourage them to engage in peer-to-peer support and networking, and I’m pleased to say that this goes across programs and semester groups. For example, we see our more experienced MBA students coaching BBA1 students on how to make the most of their first internship. And we also find our wonderful alumni are extremely eager to support current students, whether it’s through offering work placements or by giving access to their own professional networks.
Q: It’s worth pointing out, though, that not everything is left to the students.
AC: Indeed, we have a large team that sits under the Dean of Students pillar and they are all dedicated to ensuring we have a campus community that enables our students to be successful; where their wellbeing is prioritized and where their experience as a Les Roches student is made as rich as possible.
Q: Can you tell us about some of these teams and departments?
AC: All our student-centric services follow the vision of the student journey from pre-arrival up to the moment they graduate and become alumni. These are really challenging life transitions. Most of our students will be living abroad on their own for the first time; they will be learning in English and not their own language; undertaking professional internships… just making the transition from high school to a university-level institution alone is a significant challenge for many.
It’s really important for us to acknowledge this. It is not an easy ride to come to Les Roches. We need to support their wellbeing, give them the confidence to tackle these challenges, but also build their resilience. Some of this support we provide ourselves, for example through our team of full time nurses. Other specialised services are delivered through external partners.
Q: This student journey is also about future employability, isn’t it?
AC: The high employability of our students – and well over 90% have at least one job offer upon graduation – is what gives our programs their return on investment for the students and their sponsors. As a hospitality school we are in the very top tier when it comes to employer reputation, and this is an area of our student offering we take extremely seriously. I believe our career services team is one of our greatest assets. We see their work not just in flagship events such as our Career Day, but also in the high levels of hands-on support they give students preparing for internships, as well as those working through their internship.
At the end of the day, the degree needs to be obtained, but it’s how the student has developed confidence and built his or her personal and professional brand that makes them stand out to future employers. And of course, it is also about having direct access to these employers through our industry partner networks.
Q: Finally, for any prospective students reading this interview, what would be your recommendations on preparing for life at Les Roches?
AC: Prime yourself now by getting into the right mind-set to become a member of this community. This means developing your sense of entrepreneurship; of taking your destiny into your own hands. Also, prepare yourself for the challenges ahead, because this is not always going to be an easy journey. On a practical level, use our social media channels to connect with the school, our Student Ambassadors and with individual students. Ask us as many questions as you like, because this will help to make your transition that much easier.
Last, but by no means least, be excited, embrace the unknown and rest assured that you will receive the warmest of welcomes when you arrive here.
· If you want to know more about preparing for life in Les Roches, check out this blog article on 34 questions new Les Roches students always ask
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