When it came to developing an app catering to Sheridan’s international student community, Andrew Ness, Director of International Centre, found the perfect resource: Ganesh Neelanjanmath, a 2011 graduate of Sheridan’s Project Management program, and a former international student himself. Not only did Neelanjanmath live the international student experience, but he had also counselled many other students from India who were seeking information about how to study in Canada.
Neelanjanmath arrived at Sheridan in 2010 after first completing a bachelor of computer science engineering in India in 2005, and accumulating several years of varied work experience as a programmer, business analyst and project manager, first in India and later in Spain. “Most of my Spanish experience involved working for educational institutes – that’s when I realized how many students go abroad to study, and I became interested in having a similar experience.”
“I came to understand that Canada is truly multicultural, and nowhere more so than in the Toronto area” – Ganesh Neelanjanmath
Already possessing a global outlook, Neelanjanmath drew on his experience working for a U.S.-based immigration company when researching his options. “I came to understand that Canada is truly multicultural, and nowhere more so than in the Toronto area.” He chose Sheridan, at least in part, because the staff was so helpful and responsive to his inquiries: “I was handheld throughout the process.”
Given the increasing numbers of international students applying to and enrolling at Sheridan (over 1500 new students in September 2014 alone), Ness decided that a specialized app would help to streamline the process for students embarking on their studies here, and that’s when he turned to Neelanjanmath . After graduating, Neelanjanmath had launched his own company, Neel-Tech Inc, and did consulting work on the side while working full-time for Pulse Services, Rogers and Bell Canada. After a year of development, the Sheridan iCent app was ready to launch in May, 2015.
In its initial launch, the app is geared to new international students. It guides them through every step of the process – uploading their study permits, providing a pre-departure checklist, airport arrival assistance, providing a registration checklist, and collecting emergency contact information. Other features are geared at assisting students to settle, helping with needs such as residency, grocery shopping, banking, telecom and places of worship once they arrive in Canada. The app also provides students with details about campus maps, security info, health insurance, immigration compliance, driver’s licenses, parking rules, and much more. Given that students from around the world come to study in Canada, the app caters to serving international students with information in their preferred choice of language. The International Centre team promoted the app during pre-departure orientations held in India and China in July, and to date, the app has been downloaded over 1,100 times from the Apple app store and the Google Play store.
Ness says: “We have been extremely pleased with the improvements we’ve seen in student responsiveness and communication, and it’s directly attributable to the use of the app. As the start of term draws closer, more and more students are using it. It’s a key part of our strategy to integrate and acclimatize our new students and is working beautifully.”
“It’s a key part of our strategy to integrate and acclimatize our new students and is working beautifully” – Andrew Ness
The beauty of the app, from Ness’ perspective, is the ease with which information can be added and updated quickly and easily, using the interface created by Neel-Tech Inc. In the longer term, he sees it as a key part of Sheridan’s internationalization initiative. “We plan to customize it so that students from Sheridan who are going on international exchanges will be able to access the information they need as soon as they arrive at their destination.”
Neelanjanmath, who developed the app on spec, has already seen interest from other colleges in acquiring a similar tool. And his relationship with Sheridan is continuing as he grows his business – he’s already hired two co-op students from Sheridan, and recently offered one of them a full-time position. “I want to do something that connects the globe, and in terms of business, providing services to and being connected with youth is the best way to do this.”
Pictured at top of page: Sheridan alumnus Ganesh Neelanjanmath
Written by: Susan Atkinson, Manager of Media Relations and Communications at Sheridan.