#MASJAN15 In Retrospect: Part 3- Stay Strong Team!

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I’ve got the most ridiculous job imagined, and I’ve did what I could with a week of personal preparation, and a meager three days to prepare the team. Early spoiler: we succeeded! But there’s a few points that I like to share on what made #MASJAN15 a memorable event that should be remembered not just by those involved directly, but indirectly as well.

For that, this last part will be conveyed in a dialogue fashion between. you, loyal readers, and me. Appreciated that you have reached this far, so I will entertain what I presumed to be several questions you may have wondered this far into the story.

Read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

So how does this new format you talk of works?

The best way to describe it is sort of like an interview, with you asking the questions, though the questions are not designed by you, but most likely to be asked by now.

Okay, so can I ask something before we start?

Sure.

What’s the deal with these long blabberings about yourself? You seemed self-centered, narcissistic, and just want to glorify yourself on works nobody noticed?

Indeed, I do realised that the previous two parts only focused on my personal struggle on dealing with the responsibility to carry a large change to an otherwise by-the-book traditional university orientation programme, which to my knowledge has seen little to no changes over the years.

Which is why the last part is only about how the team as a whole worked, and the interesting events and challenges happen during the MAS itself.

The first two parts are crucial, first was to set up the story. A good story needs a character the audience can relate- or at least understand, so their actions mean something more.

The second one focused on the build-up. Like a good training montage in an action flick, it gives the audience the sense of struggle and work that has been done to prepare for that big thing that’s going to happen.

“GONNA FLYYY NOOWWW”

And the real reason why I do this write-up will become clear by the end of this part.

OK,fine. So, what’s with the silly hashtag?

I’ve realised the power of hashtags being implemented on events in UTP while in MAS May13. I talked to some of the facees, which most of them were hesitant of it, concerning more if it provides bad feedback.

Throughout that MAS, ironically we did scour the twitter search for bad feedback and there were a few. Even without a hashtag the negative feedback will be there, if the person do so believes it. Instead, I did my own search, and realised that these people are all tech-savvy, hashtags are not a weird thing for them, unlike us who were not exposed to social media that early in life. I made my own personal research and there were a few who are vocal on social media. More were actually giving good feedback.

So, why not embrace it? At least we can centralise the comments and quips, and hey, help everyone to meet and get to know each other. And that lead to another facilitator to create a facebook group for all the students and facilitators to share info or updates.

And yes, by research, I mean ‘search my own name’. Yeah, it’s surprising to know I had a few fangirls at the time.

Fangirls?

Next question, please.

OK. So, you keep telling us about your team..

The Dream Team? Oh yeah, best team I ever been. Never wished to be this good, mighty proud of them.

So what made you say this team is the best? Compared to what exactly?

Well, we shouldn’t straight-away comparing teams from other MAS now. Each MAS has its own uniqueness based on the team of facilitators, and the students coming in.

But I was not expecting much from them. Again, it was the exam week, we don’t have the luxury of ample time to just focus on MAS. Some had to deal with other issues as well, such as securing a room they like to be with their pals. Attendance was never full during the Training of Trainers (TOT).

Yet never I had to go search for them, as most of the time, I was well informed of any missing facilitator- either during TOT or MAS. Everyone took their commitment as facilitators seriously. Not coming for a session? They either went personally and talk to me or the Assistant Head to explain why, or send us a private message to inform, or a colleague will explain to us about their absence, or will be apologizing profusely the day after to explain.

I even had a facilitator apologizing profusely personally AND via personal message, regretting missing the whole TOT since the final papers were all held on the three days of training. A bit of overkill? Kinda, but forgiveness was granted, with a condition: prove commitment on the following days of MAS, and contribute. She did.

In terms of commitment, they should be made an exemplary for any other event-based team. Replacing those who have commitment issues early on really paid off.

So, commitment, is that it?

Nope, there’s more. The second one is surprising: professionalism.

Usually, this term would be applied to the awesome people working in shadows, the men and women in black, the MEDTECH  media facilitators. (Thank you media facee!)

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We're the man and woman in black 😊 #MASJAN15 #MEDTECH

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Despite having a diverse cast in terms of age, the team gelled together rather well. Age was not a gap for us. Granted, the team lacked experience, yet the new guys caught up and adapted quickly.

It was surprising to receive compliments from the students that the facilitators performed professionally, from their point of views.

At first I wasn’t sure it was a compliment or sarcasm. “Most of them are new, some of them are pretty young, take it easy”, I said. But to that particular group of students, that made them more impressed. “Seriously, they know how to do their work”.

I take that as a compliment, then.

Any others?

Sure, one more is how everyone is eager to contribute to something.

Some of us have a natural talent on something, and I let them shine. For instance, our programme Director and SRC Vice President have a way with dealing with people, and comfortable with being in front- as expected from someone elected as a student leader. Sure, he may not be mostly involved with the High Commitees’ backroom discussion (more on that later), but he serves best at the frontline rather than hide behind the scenes.

And there many others who contributed behind the scenes. They may not take the spotlight, or well-known among the students, but I know they have done something meaningful to help the team, even if was just buying a packet of Strepsils for me, or the one that handed me a Panadol, and other jobs that don’t involve helping me- like going cafe to cafe persuading the owners to accept the food coupons issued for us and gave immediate, live updates on the results for each meeting. By foot.

Sure, some efforts may seem a bit tryhard in retrospect. (FASSTEERR!!) But everyone in the team had something to prove, and wanted to make this MAS an enjoyable experience in any way they can. Even the slight annoyance of some facee yelling FASSTEERR!! over and over again had grown to be an inside joke among us, both students and facilitators. I count that as a contribution.

And props to the facilitators who managed to sort out the timetables, even if we were given limited copies that are not enough for all students, and having no prior knowledge to the new courses’ lists of subjects. We always wanted a better timetable sheet provided in every MAS before this, but since that won’t happen anytime soon (I like to be proven wrong on this), we mad do what we have. Congrats team, I was hiding behind the curtains at the hall- was pretty sick that night.

Oh, did I mention that they did a swell of a good job and impressed our advisor that he offered everyone of us an “extended contract”- or directly selected- to be facilitators for MAS March15? This is a huge privilege, considering even top performers of any MAS will still have to go through the selection process, with no guarantee whatsoever for another call-up.

Moving on, so what’s your personal contribution during MAS?

Actually, not much.

Really? You wrote two posts for preparation of you doing not much work at all?

Well, if you put it that way, yes, yes I did.

Here’s something interesting I learned while writing this post. It’s a concept I knew before, but never realised that it fits snugly in this context as well:

Pareto’s Golden Rule. The 20/80 ratio.

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The simplest way to explain is this: 20% of things can make the 80% happen. In its original context: 20% of people have 80% of overall wealth.

Another application of this rule of thumb is in software engineering. Fixing the top 20% of problems will help solve 80% of all problems reported.

Doesn’t make sense? Let’s explain this with the context of MAS.

They are bound to be problems in any sort of event. The question is: how prepared are we to face them?

If the problems involved the students directly, the facilitators would do what they can to assist on thier part. Best case is the problem ends there. (Need to find LAN cable? Point to the facees in Welfare department. Done)

If problems persist, then it goes to another layer. Another facilitator would be involved, The department Heads and Assistants join in. Worst, High Comittee steps in, and it would be a long postmortem night.

(We don’t have long postmortems until 4am anymore. Alhamdulillah.)

All tired. And this is the start of the postmortem. Imagined staying up till 4am  bickering about everything happened during the day.

All tired. And this is the start of the postmortem. Imagined staying up till 4am bickering about everything happened during the day.

In order to increase the chance to quell problems from the facilitator layer only, we need competent facilitators.

Just knowing would not be enough, they need to feel like helping out. They need to want to help out.

That’s where the 20% comes in.

The platform to build facilitators is TOT, and the time we have, although not much, was spent mostly on ARP training (so each facee can demonstrate in public, and understand all the modules beforehand), and the pep talk I gave. There are many other parts not covered for all facillitaotrs to be involved in. Specific departent works, for example. But those are actually the bulk of MAS is about.

But building a solid foundation, that 20% is important, especially if you plan to build a skyscraper.

That’s why I did mostly nothing throughout MAS. The foundation is set, I just watched the tower constructed by itself.

What do you mean nothing? Don’t you have specific departments you supervised?

Yeah,I was just exaggerating. I indeed had to supervise a few. I called dibs for ARP, and reluctantly help Religous and Morale (RNM) too.No one in High Comittee wanted to pick that, and I had the last pick. But it was pretty much a hands-off job.

Care to explain?

I never gave a full input on any of thier plans. I never explained the idea of reenacting Monty Python sketches to ARP, as they already have a fairly solid plan of thier own. Sure, the head department sometimes share with me his concerns, a personal one rather than technical matters, but I gave full trust in him and the rest of the department to run as planned. He just needed to believe in himself just a little bit, and feedbacks of reassurance were the things that neeeded for him to push to do the tremendous job that the students, and facees, had experienced.

In retrospect, the ARP head also did the same thing I did to his colleagues: building a solid foundation. On the last days of MAS, he was not able to join with the sessions, so the rest of team, all of them had little experience with the department, handled the sessions pretty well, like a natural. I didn’t need to step and meddle too much.

On RNM, the religous part, I had no input whatsoever. I just trust our tok imam, the Department Head, had made the right arrangements with An-Nur Islamic Centre to plan the slots. Everyhing went well, aside from some attendance issues (more on that later).

On the moral side, at first they were a bit unsure, as none have any experience as facees, but have strong memories of how enjoyable those are during thier own MAS. I vounteered to help find the old documentation form previous MAS, but never promised anything- I might caught up with other tasks at hand (like creating a brand new activity- more on this later). I did got too busy, before I knew it, they have all the modules at hand and ready to discuss with me.

Is it just plain lazy and unconcerned of me to let them find for themselves, and then just listen to all the explanations of the modules to only give small inputs? Not so. Take it as a sign of trust. I heard the explanations, and all of them are compelling, and shows signs of understanding and passion on the subject at hand. With that sort of mood, any drastic change would be hurtful, so I let all the ideas ran as planned, with emphasis to relate them to moral values, not just for fun sakes. I also had no ideas of my own to add, so I let them run the modules as is.

Any other ‘small’ contributions?

Well, I did designed the intro to facilitators to be gimmick free. Why? These students have already experienced a university orientation programme, so they already have some expectations, like gimmicks. So why not divert the expectations and not present a gimmick? But we did have an introduction rehearsal, and let some facees to mingle with the students and blend in with them, like previous MAS before.

Or to put it in another way, the gimmick was to not have a gimmick.

Turns out, it paid off. When we actually did a gimmick, it worked like a charm.

Oh, and I personally picked the theme song that played out during the whole thing. The media facilitators approved of my taste of music.

Theme song? What was it?

Heavy As a Feather from the game The Crew. I was hyped for the game at the time, and just recently got the chance to play it, and that particular song just strikes the right balance of epic and smooth-sounding, not-dubstep music.

Ok, enough of that, I had a few more small contributions.

Alright, please continue.

I gave the name for MAS Discovery Quest.

MAS Discovery Quest?

In order to fulfill the expectations of the management on self-discovery learning and to cater the impact on lower amounts of briefings, we designed a task for the students- in their respective buddy groups (formerly know as platoon groups) to find information on a selection, or a particular department in UTP. Find as much info on what they do, what they are to students, services provided, and any relevant info to be presented to help the rest of the students understand as well. To up the stakes, we had a VIP, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Students Affairs and Alumni, present during the presentation. We also promised loot- prizes for the best presentation.

Now the students get to meet with the staffs and personnel in person, and establish a personal connection. Hopefully less hateful, insensitive comments about the management, but more constructive criticisms.

Now the students get to meet with the staffs and personnel in person, and establish a personal connection. Hopefully less hateful, insensitive comments about the management, but more constructive criticisms.

I was playing Dragon Age Inquisition at the time, so that explains why it’s a quest.

The rest of technicalities? All designed by the rest of the High Committee, during those many backroom meetings. I was pretty hands-off, despite the Assistant Head insisted for more input form me.

They also arranged the talk with student leaders. Hats off to them.

Assistant Head? You were going to talk about it on last part, wasn’t it? Anything interesting?

Oh yeah it is. I honestly have no prior work relationship with her, despite us being part of the team for MAS Jan12 before this. I had no expectations except on what other people’s opinion.

“She’s kinda a queen control”.

While people saying this in a cautionary tone, it’s actually a blessing in disguise for me. Turns out her set of skills and personality complemented mine.

I was rather hands-off and let the team do their work, but she’s more hands-on and work closely to the departments she supervised. I was focused on having the team with good morale, motivated and the bigger picture, she focused on technical details, preparing specific instructions and any other minor detail that I just glanced over. She had strong ties with the management due to her prior experience as one of SRC’s Excos, I had no reputation or existing ties with the management.

Sure, at some point we don’t see eye to eye on certain things, but the rest of the facees understand it’s not a big clash among us, just small disputes, and we always agreed on something afterwards.

Besides, I was on the wrong most of the time, like neglecting to send that awesome theme song to the media facilitators early as she insisted.

Plus, her attention to detail actually helped us counter a major issue regarding a breach of the Ground Rules of MAS.

Wait, ground what?

Ground Rules of MAS.

Ground Rules of MAS?

Not many are in the know on this one, there’s a set of unwritten law that we have in MAS, to protect the students and facilitators from any sort of unwanted disputes. That can be conflict of interests, problems students in MAS facing caused by other students, invasion of privacy, among others.

Since this is an unwritten law, not all of them are adhered to strictly (there’s no proper documentation) and may be a bit gray in terms of execution, but these are made for specific reasons. So here’s a list of what we tried to follow:

No specific promotions of specific student clubs are allowed to be made by faciliators, especially if said facilitator is a member of said club. Student clubs already have their fair share of promotion opportunity: Minggu Mesra Kampus, where all clubs and societies in campus can promote themselves to garner interests of students, and recruit new members on fair grounds. This is also to avoid any conflict of interest among the facees. SRC does not want to have student clubs sending their people for a slot so they can grab a marketing opportunity. In MAS, we are facees first, and set aside all the other titles we have in clubs or societies for the week.

A special clause here are for student societies. They play a prominent role in campus and there is no way to avoid any such mentions. However, no major promotions for recruitment is allowed, just share about their duties and jobs is fine.

No students are allowed to participate in MAS except the students of the new intake, its designated facilitators, and specific students invited by MAS committee.

Why? Before this, they were reports on senior students diretly selling to new students lecture notes that was outdated or not used anymore. Problem is, theses seniors took advantage of camping outside the hall MAS is held, and some reports before this said some was able to enter as well, and when problems related to it- the outdated notes- was raised to the facees, facees cannot help much because the senior in question had no ties to the facees, and to involve in problems caused by another party is a hassle for us, given the amount of things we need to cater already.

Another point why this is a thing is to acknowledge the hand-selected people that is part of the team of facilitators. Not many are able to receive such responsibility, and allowing some random dude or dudette join in with the facees and do dungga together and participate in the event is utter disrespect to the rest of the failed applicants who wished for such opportunity. A bit too much? Well, if you consider that hundreds of students applied for the job every semester, then it’s something to consider.

Also, we don’t want any opportunists taking a chance coming in MAS and distribute some forms to students, especially if we don’t know what the form is for, and who is actually doing the survey, especially if the forms require students to give out their personal details. We had cases like these before, where students suddenly being bothered by some seniors who apparently knew their phone number or where their room are.It’s a breach of privacy.

So any forms that requires the students to disclose personal information has to go through the Head Facilitator first. That included the survey form from SRC and the Co-Curricular Unit. I had prior knowledge of those forms, and green-lighted its distribution.

I wish I can write more on this, but it’s really sketchy, and only those involved in MAS can appreciate it. I can assure you there’s a good answer for all of this, but not appropriate to be written here.

Which leads nicely to another problem..

Which is..?

The death of the dreaded discipline department. Sure, many complaints were given about them, which culminated in the department being axed for Jan15, for the first time ever.

But how many of those that complaint were part of any MAS facilitator team?

I don’t know. Do you know?

Me neither, but that’s not the point.

To my experience, all of the facilitators I worked with for all the MAS I joined, even in Jan15, are in support of their existence.

Those that argue that discipline department are too harsh? True, that’s why by May12, MAS had a different approach for discipline slots. Discpline department only steps in certain nights only, and would end by 12 midnight, not more. They used less harsh words and different approaches. Heck in MAS May13, we had a dscipline facilitator opened up, went to tears along with the rest of us in the hall, as he recalled his inspiring personal story!

And every time when the discipline department stepped in, we noticed a sharp improvement of mannerisms among the students. They became more manageable. We facees has seen this, and this is why we stand by it. Is their improvement just for the sake to appease the facees? Well, that depends on how the students take it. If they took those comments seriously, they will improve to be better. If they are just faking it? Well, you can always fake it until you make it.

But of course you lots (or you, the vocal minority) wanted it to be removed, you got it, and we had to deal with it. Thanks.

What I imagined the feeling of those who complained about the discipline department as I had to bear the burden of their undertakings. Thanks.

What I imagined the feeling of those who complained about the discipline department as I had to bear the burden of their undertakings. Thanks.

We all had strong opinions that we need a discipline department. Sure, #MASJAN15 was a rare case where we take everything lenient as an experiment, but we all agreed that students coming from SPM would not fare well with a lenient environment. We struggled in certain days on how to improve attendance, and the first thing we lamented is the demise of Discipline department.

So?

In order to maintain order, ARP became less of a department of silly people, but more serious and mature, just so everyone can folllow through the activities. Which was the target of improving ARP in the first place.

And that’s why the real gimmick on the last night of MAS did so well.

See? Everything’s ok, we don’t need discipline department!

As I say, this MAS is a special one, made entirely of undergraduates. Some are not of the best of moods- and may still facing emotional baggage of past events, so going strict on them is not the best approach.

But for those just finished SPM and finally got the taste of freedom and adulthood? Better not to give them too much freedom. We petitioned for the Discipline department to be reinstated for the March intake, and it passed.

Even if the attendance was way better than I initially expected (then again, I put my expectations pretty low), we still argue on how to convince more students to attend the slots, especially RNM sessions, which was a challenge as it was raining almost everyday at maghrib time.

So what’s with the gimmick you keep hinting at?

The last two days was a teambuilding session at Felda Residence, Trolak.

On the last night of MAS, which was held there, we planned a gimmick. The original plan didn’t worked out.

We had details of all the students whose birthday was the month of January (Disclosure: we referred this from the database received by the registration department, which they had when assisting on registration day.) But we had no idea if all of them are there for teambuilding (Some students couldn’t make it due to various reasons, all are informed to us thankfully). The few of us involved with planning the prank agreed to ask the facees to check if he listed students are there. Not many responded, unfortunately. So our initial plan was scrapped, and had to improvise a new one. They suggested me to just straightaway call them in front, but we needed a setup, to make it the situation dramatic.

I realised I never outright got mad or scold any of the facees, there were just too good at performing their task for that. Now I had the ammo to do so.

The guys also asked me to cover a part of a lesson in teambuilding, explaining the values of….of.. OK I had troubles recalling what was it, I was improvising, but here were some points of it, though.

Somehow I convinced the students I was pretty serious about it, and able to relate the values to the wrongdoings of the facees not reporting in the students as mentioned earlier. The look on the faces of those being called upon was priceless, some were extremely worried. At least one of the ladies called to the front figured out why they were called, maybe birthday pranks like this is normal, but everyone was either A) took seriously on my on-the-spot lecture and B) enjoyed the prank and agreed it was well thought out.

Heh, at least my Role-Playing skills paid off. I credit that for being in ARP for so long before this, not Dragon Age Inquisition.

What was your personal highlight of this MAS?

The aftermath of the gimmick, everyone enjoyed themselves with cake, and took time to group up, take selfies together, and just mingle about- including the facees.

Some took time and personally thanked me for the explanation of the values, they really took heart of the advice, even if seems like a part of the elaborate prank. Frankly, it wasn’t, so those points stands true. As said earlier during the discipline rant, it depends on how students take the advice.

Some were pretty convinced with my acting, it was pretty much a discipline slot I’ll say.

I appreciated all those compliments, thanks guys!

But the best moment was to just stand, my back to the wall, and watch from afar, watching everyone enjoying themselves, and just bask in the feeling. No one noticed, they were busy with sefies.

I once had a dream where I wished to heralded as a hero by the end of the programme, people chanting my name and such.

But I put that aside, for the thought there’s another powerful feeling that I can achieve: make everyone happy without them noticing, and walk away silently from it, like what Simon did when he saved the universe, like an unsung hero, like a badass.

It was worth every minute of the moment.

Any hard decisions you made?

There’s an instance where one of the facilitators asked to see me personally, regarding Christian students. So we met. It was a matter on collecting information of the Christians students, if I recalled correctly.

This used to be a bit of an issue, since it involves personal information (a running theme here, eh?). So I had to tread this issue with care.

In the end, we agreed that MAS do not directly help on this- but if they wanted to collect such data, they have to do their own work- with the consent of the students, of course. On matters of students who wished to go to church on Sunday during MAS, it is advised to just stick to the schedule of MAS- the issue here would be safety, if anything ever happened, the facilitators will be blamed.

However, this did not mean I disallow Christians to go to church. One case, there’s a student who could not make it for the teambuilding since he really needed to attend church, he missed the week before already. Is it a trick or ploy just not to attend the teambuilding? Nah, I just trust them, and treat them as adults, like they are. The facilitator who reported this to me allowed him to go, and I endorsed his decision.

(This would make a great point if the Taman Medan church protest was still hot in the news)

I also brought the team out for late-night dinner at a mamak restaurant, which is weird, but was needed. I had to keep the team strong and on high spirits, and they deserved some RnR together.

Another decision, was during the teambuliding. During this time, everyone got to see how the faciliatators are in full force, motivated and have thightly-bonded.

Perhaps, too tight.

I got feedback from some students who felt like the facilitators just care among themselves during the teambuilding. This is a direct contradiction of the idea of the teambuilding, where everyone, even the facees, were participants.

Before the start of the raft-building session, I discussed with the instructor- who happens to be a UTP alumni, and somehow remembered me having been here for team buliding which was 5 years ago- about splitting the facee team. Before this, the facees are a team of thier own.

All of them were pretty pumped up to crush the students team and prove the power of team facee. When I had to bring he news of we splitting up into the students group, not many listened. It was not until the instructor- who talks exclusively in Malay apparently, joined and gave it as a direct order.

They don’t looked as pumped as before, but after a while, everyone went full force, and had a great time.

I really appreciated the instructor’s help on this one- he even backed me up on the decision and clarified to everyone, and they eventually understood why. Thanks for helping a bojan out. Also: bojan is a terrible nickname, I’m sticking with meon.

A decision holds no weight if no one is onboard with it. In retrospect, I should talk about it with other facees beforehand, so the decision did not appear as abrupt. No one likes abrupt, on-the-spot changes, especially if it was not as expcted.

Remember the policy I had explain: the students won’t do it unless the facees can do it it. And to an extent, the facees won’t do it unless the Head Facee would do it.

What’s the greatest regret you had after the end of MAS?

I still posed awkwardly in front of cameras, despite the efforts of reading and watching tips to pose. My nametag picture says it all.

Other from that, there’s one specific thing: At the last night of postmortem- the night before teambuilding (we don’t have formal postmortems afterwards), I asked one question to the team:

What’s the lesson you have learnt throughout your experience in this MAS?

Of course, not many was ready to prepare an answer, so most of the answers that I remembered listening to was just generic stuff, nothing interesting.

What I meant to do afterwards was to ask each of them to produce something: a post, doesn’t need to be long, on what valuable insights, interesting experiences, and knowledge gained after participating in MAS.

I believe it would be wasteful if any of us just do our tasks but took no time to ponder back. Wise muslims always advised on the act of muhasabah– recounting the days before, reflecting on what we have done, and have a view in retrospect.

Thus, why I took time to write all of this.

But why take four months after the event to do such recount? And did the team did what you told them?

Actually, I never did gave the order! Forgot all about it and went straight back home and play more videogames. So, the facees should blame/thank Dragon Age Inquisition for that.

But why now?

Because now is the perfect time to share this story, just before MAS May15, and when I heard an unfortunate news.

What news?

An unfortunate one. Before that can you ask me one question?

Sure what is it?

Ask me about my catchphrase for the team.

Catchphrase? For the team?

Just ask.

Hold on, I don’t get what-

Just ask the bloody question, already!

Now, for something completely different.

Now, for something completely different.

Erk- OK, so what’s the catchphrase for the team?

Stay Strong Team!

Oh, well, I was expecting something catchier.

Did I ask for your opinion on that?

No, I was just giving an opini-

Could you ask another bloody question?! I want to explain something.

..Are you..OK?

Sure I am, fit as a fiddle.

You sure? you seemed like..

Please, no more personal questions. Straight to the topic.

If you say so.. So what’s interesting about it?

You might realised that throughout this story, most of the things are written with a positive outlook. We have boatloads of initial challenges and conflicts to deal with.

And it is not just us facilitators that faced it either.

The students are a strong lot. They may had a colorful past, whether it’s full of rainbows or stark full of griminess, yet they managed to handle the hurdles of adapting to UTP life, with all its quirks and nuance, bravely.

Most of them had no financial support. We were hoping the financial briefing will shed some light to a handful of them who were previously sponsored by MARA, and looking to find a way to continue receiving it for their undergrad studies. In truth, the financial briefing we promised to them that will help them out was so lacklustre, us facilitators had to arise the issue to management, and was then given a more prepared briefing.

Some of these students, less than 20 of them, are the pioneers of a new course- applied physics and applied chemistry. And that less than 20 count is for both courses. It must be tough when the first class of the week the lecturers insisted them to just change course due to their low number. I can relate- my batch had less than 20 of us sharing the same course, and when it came to major electives, I was one of two who did not took Software Engineering.

Speaking of changing courses, most of these students wanted to change courses, since they courses they were offered were not in line with what they wanted, or had anything to do with their previous qualification. A diploma in mechatronics engineering might do well in Electrical & Electronics Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering. But those who had a diploma in Mechanical Engineering jumping to Civil Engineering? There were many cases as such, yet not many of them were entertained, citing quotas problem- a faculty having too much students taking the course for that particular batch.

A typical MAS session for #MASJAN15

A typical MAS session for #MASJAN15

In truth, the whole situation was dire and dreadful. If compared to any other MAS, it lacked the grandeur, the spectacle that we always associated with the programme. Small number of students, only used the Multi-Purpose Hall for the whole event, many changes in the way MAS was supposed to be conducted.

But we kept smiling. We kept going with the programme.

Almost everyday, I kept reminding the team with the wisdom of those three words: Stay Strong Team!

Deep in those three words, there’s a metaphor of all the hardship we were facing. We kept getting problems day by day, but we will face them head-on together, for together we are strong.

I feared that if we kept talking on the problems as problems, we will falter in morale, we stopped pushing ourselves to deliver the job as best as we can.

Most importantly, I was afraid that any of them had to face too many bad encounters until they became depressed, as I once did.

Depression-depression-33252772-800-707

Depression is a serious thing, but it never usually comes from just one source of problem. It could be a cumulative count of different, difficult events, and the person has lost all willpower to muster any strength to fight it.

Based on this fascinating article, willpower is limited. In game terms, willpower is like hitpoints. Any challenge you have to face, or doing some self-control, exhaust some parts of the pool of hitpoints, and require time to regenerate back. It’s not like a stat check, where if you have a higher willpower, smaller problems can easily be ignored.

And sometimes, this small problems add on to each other, and when you just couldn’t regenerate enough willpower to compensate, then problems ensued.

You might fall into depression, being all closed up, all alone and lament over and over of your failures.

Or worse, your sanity check is gone, and you started to do improper things that just everyone around to berate.

Sure, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and diamonds are formed from carbons treated with really high pressure.

But then, here’s another quote I found at the back of a (pirated) box of Twisted Metal Black:

they say that the mind bends and twists to deal with the horrors of life….
sometimes it bends so much it snaps in two

(more accurately, the quote in-game goes like this: “they say that the mind bends and twists in order to deal with the horrors of life…. I think my mind bends so much it snaps in two” – mr grimm)

I was proud of the whole team able to do tremendous good job, despite the odds. It’s why I insisted them to go for a steamboat dinner as a second round of MAS Appreciation Dinner (the first would be the trip to Trolak). It was originally meant for me, to mark my last deeds as a student of UTP. I declined. It was good to know our Advisor sponsored the dinner for the rest of the team instead.

But then again, the struggles of studying in UTP have worryingly increased day by day. Everyday there’s a problem. It’s not that UTP only have keyboard warriors who just like to complain and complain but refrain from taking any action or responsibility. Sure,they are there, but the things being complained are not due to just the feeling of entitlement (“I paid good money, so I expect best service”).

There has been many glaring problems on the site of the management. I refrain to disclose it here for the sake of the university’s reputation, but I wished more efforts are to be done on this.

Sure, in the public’s eye we are well-renowned, with great achievements, records and such, but you are forgetting something you did really, really well that gives you your good name: the quality of graduates.

Yes, these challenges and problems we faced day by day is what eventually makes us the well-rounded students you wished for, but the amount of those have only kept increasing, and students are not happy.

We used to not need any sort of adverts or PR to justify the graduates: the oil and gas industry instantly recognize the quality of UTP graduates, even if they don’t have a colorful score academically. Not so much anymore, as I heard.

And more and more students are getting stressed,and fall into depression. It was sad to see a fellow facilitator had fallen from grace, and acting way out of character all of a sudden, and even went viral for all the wrong reasons. At first I did not approve of his acts myself: too obnoxious, arrogant and insensitive.

But after doing some digging, he’s not like that, and it turned out he was suffering from a mental condition. Some say schizophrenic, I just assumed it was depression and stress.

When the whole thing broke lose, I had to do the responsible thing, as his ex-boss, and white-knighting him on social media. It was shocking to see my whole twitter timeline was talking about the same guy.

He should not be remembered as some arrogant guy with lofty ambitions who is bold to sue anyone against him. That’s not him.

He is part of the Dream Team. He is better than this.

Stay strong, brother.

Some argued why the sudden increase of white knights out to defend him. Why haven’t the situation catered earlier? Where were all his close friends?

In reality, it’s hard to detect, or even noticed someone who suddenly falls into depression. Personally, it took a good month or so before close friends noticed what was going on.

depression-in-her-eyes

Even more problematic is just how many people knew how to handle a depressed person. Once my close friends noticed, their ac of helping just resorted to throwing oil into an open flame. It just got worse.

But they did not know better. I had long forgave them. Eventually, I had found my way again. I assured myself constantly, “Don’t lose your waaaaaay!”

And another inspirational quote to keep you going, kick logic to the curb and do the impossible.

And another inspirational quote to keep you going, kicking logic to the curb and do the impossible.

And I know I am not the only one who had been down. I knew a few friends who stopped their studies in the final years due to low motivation. I have a friend who’s still depressed, and couldn’t find his way yet.

But this is not to say everyone is getting mentally weak, no! They are still strong students who have faced their own share of problems, but still working to finish the fight. There’s one senior who suffered a freak accident, warded for years, and now finally able to continue his final years, even though he is not as physically capable as before. That’s not a reason for him to stop. He still consistently appears in the surau for daily prayers, and occasionally the masjid by taking a ride from some of his friends.

And who knows how many others who had prevail from difficult odds stacked against them, and how many are still continuing the struggle.

That’s what makes UTP students who they are: They are strong. Resilient.

But such strength should not be reduced to nothing if being kept pounded by more and more problems. It’s unfortunate that such difficulties are the resort of the competence on the management side of things. Based on my experience as a veteran MAS facilitator,I do see that there are many visible cracks within the management, and I hope the situation improves.

But until that time comes, UTP students should not just complain and hoping for a miracle to happen. Create your own miracle. Do something about it, game the system, think creatively to solve the problems. And I do see it happening, unofficial online forms to handle accommodation problems? Good idea and initiative there!

Which is the reason why I wrote this article in the first place, it was not just highlight personal glories, but to celebrate the huge efforts these wonderful people had made, and as a testament that UTP students are strong, resilient, and ready to face anything head-on. This is a small event of the numerous ones held in campus every semester, and each has their own special story to tell.

We have a lot negativity being posted everyday, it’s why I took the time to post something that you may feel inspired, or grateful. We need some positivity!

To any UTPians reading, including all of you facilitators: I implore you to share your side of the story: the story of how you faced and did the impossible, and what lessons you have learned that you wish everyone would too. We need more stories of glory, to inspire ourselves through this dark and gloomy times.

Stay Strong, everyone.

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