ESSEC Asia-Pacific’s Senior Manager of Campus Experience, Thanneermalai Lakshmanan, shares how the intimate size of the ESSEC Asia-Pacific community has afforded students the flexibility to try a wide range of activities so they may, in the process, develop connections to last a lifetime.

To Thanneermalai Lakshmanan, one’s campus experience is not limited to the size of any single location. Instead, it is better defined in terms of the richness of the memories made and the depth of the friendships forged.

By this measure, his personal campus experience was a good one. Decades after leaving school, the bonds he built have transcended time and space, and although his cohort is scattered across the globe, they remain in close contact as they journey together through life’s milestones.

As Senior Manager of Campus Experience at ESSEC Business School, his goal today is to offer the students at the Asia-Pacific campus an opportunity to have the same.

Giving Students a Platform to Develop Their Interests

“I believe it’s meaningful to help students discover their potential as they run activities,” Lakshmanan says. Besides helping students bond, these activities are a chance to pick up new hobbies and to exercise their organizational or leadership abilities, he explains.

Each year, ESSEC offers a few staples: a team-building activity for each program to get the ball rolling, community service opportunities, and celebrations for Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Haji, Deepavali, and the Mid-Autumn Festival so that students can learn more about Singaporean culture.

The intimate size of each cohort allows for flexibility, and, for a large part, students decide on and plan things that interest them. Besides a range of sports, arts, and cultural activities, this freedom has led to the start of the ESSEC Merchandising Club, the ESSEC Finance Club, and the ESSEC Marketing Club, just to name a few.

Supporting Students Through Their Stay-Home-Notice

Although Lakshmanan believes that giving students autonomy is the best way to create meaningful experiences, he supports them throughout the process, helping them overcome initial challenges and adjust to new lives in Singapore.

In 2020, this saw him organize Stay-Home Notice Daily Coffee Chats over Zoom to support new students through the 14 days.

“Each day, I would briefly introduce Singapore through a different video. I’d also get someone to share a different five-minute video about their country,” Lakshmanan recalls, adding that there were also online workout classes, yoga sessions, and daily competitions.

Testament to his thoughtfulness, winners of these contests would be able to have a particular food or drink order—a small treat but a huge reprieve from the catered food they were surviving on.

Confidently Taking on the New Normal

But has the pandemic affected the campus experience? Yes and no, Lakshmanan says. To accommodate regulations, students have shifted activities outside of campus and now do them in smaller groups. For example, as a team bonding exercise, students from all programs split up to try local cuisine and visit tourist attractions like Universal Studios Singapore.

Within each cohort, students organized many outdoor activities like rock climbing, hiking, bowling, paintball, and sailing, and even set up an ESSEC Futsal team to compete in a league.

Community service also continued across 2020. Over 110 students from the Global Bachelor in Business Administration (GBBA) and Master in Management (MiM) cohorts volunteered to pack food for Willing Hearts, Singapore’s most enormous soup kitchen.

Lakshmanan says the list of activities only goes on, so although things are different, he has found no reason for the experience to be diminished.

With him at the helm, pouring his time and effort into supporting each student’s needs, the hope is that the ESSEC campus experience will continue to thrive, inspiring ideas and building bonds that will carry each student into the future.