Dr. Sushma Kulkarni is the Director of (Rajarambapu Institute of Technology, Rajaramnagar) RIT, Sangli, Maharashtra. She has been the key person to make RIT the first autonomous college in Western Maharashtra to get NAAC ‘A’ grade. The academician has published 6 H-Index papers, 33 papers in International Journal, 26 papers in International Conferences, 20 Papers in National Journals, 18 papers in National Conferences With this, she was awarded, with “Best Women Engineering Educators National Award 2017”, by Indian Engineering Educator and Administrators Conference (IEEAC –2017) and more.
In conversation with Pranav, Dr. Kulkarni talks about her institute, collaboration with Asia University and highlights the importance of research in today’s life and told us the secret mantra for the students to be successful. Let us see what she has for the youngsters. Edited excerpts -
Dr. Kulkarni’s definition of education and reasons for its greatness
“Education is the ability to listen to everything without losing your temper or self-confidence” believes Sushma Kulkarni. I have been in the education sector for the last 32 years. For the first 17 years, I taught the students, and then got promoted to the role of a Principal. It is said that “nothing comes easy and without consequences to us”, that is what happened to me too. Being the woman principal of a college, situated in a village was pretty difficult. However, I overcame this hurdle and moved towards shaping a better future for our stakeholders.
What makes the education sector the best you ask me? Ok, so let me start my answer with a question. Have you ever heard of a particular sector where the growth of others is appreciated? None, right? But, teaching is one profession which makes efforts for the growth of others. Teachers are the only professionals who remain happy in the growth of their students. This is what makes the education sector the best of all.
Curriculum and global tie ups of RIT
I am a member of the Global Engineering Dean Council (GEDC) and Indo Universal Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE), Boston. As an active member, it keeps me updated with the happenings around the world in the educational sector. I visited almost ten universities, and want my students to have that global exposure too. I strongly believe that this will give our students confidence and the guidance they need. For this, we have signed an MoU with Asia University, having the tuition fees should be waived and all accommodations arrangements of are taken care by the University itself for student internship.
We have a global curriculum. We are an autonomous college, and hence, this allows us to design our curriculum. Each program’s syllabi is directed more towards practical knowledge and not bookish knowledge. That is why in the first year we provide our students with a course called engineering exploration. I believe every student should be able to explore engineering through design concept and start building prototype right from first year. We also have specially designed multidisciplinary projects under NETRA TBI wherein students participate from 7 programs to build Autonomous Electric Vehicle (AEV) and smart campus through IOT based projects. This develops interdisciplinary skill sets in students; we have special streams, i.e. IoT, AI or ML as well which is embedded in the curriculum.
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We promote practical based learning
I believe in our PM Modi’s thought “Make in India”. In our college, we promote young minds to think extraordinarily. I pursue them to make projects that can be used in household as well as commercial building. To support this fact, I would like to tell you about our ‘Smart water level system’ which is based on concept of monitoring the water level in multiple tanks through sensors and sending the information of the percentage of the available water in the tanks on registered mobile number. We have 6 start-ups already started in RIT by our students and alumni, 5 more are lined up in incubation stage. The Maharashtra Government has provided us with a funding of INR 5 crores to set up Innovation and Entrepreneurship development centre.
Leadership is accepting failure and progressing towards success
Well, according to me, leadership is all about nurturing people, faculty, and students. I believe, a good leader is someone who has the support of his team. Only human resource can take you ahead in the competition.
I always tell my staff as well as students; that failure is okay. This is something I want to teach everyone because failure is what guides us not to make the same mistake again. Also, failure teaches us a lot more than success ever can. Therefore, in my opinion, a leader should imbibe in the peers that failure is part of any new task you take up and it is essential that you learn from it. It is important that the fear of Failure should not keep you away from taking up challenges.
Research is to see what everybody has seen, and to think what nobody has thought
I believe that Research is losing its essence. I truly promote research. I tell people that for teaching, only PG is not sufficient, you need to have a PhD. Therefore, we have 11 postgraduate programs, and because of our global connect, there are a lot of universities in Taiwan, China and Malaysia who want candidates for Ph.D. programs.
Three students from our college are pursuing their PhD from Tshing hua University, Taiwan.
Never limit your vision based on your current resources
We are trying to imbibe new programs in our curriculum. One of the programs that we are trying to include is agriculture-related. As we are situated near an agricultural surrounding, I thought, why not include an Agricultural Engineering program in our Institute. Also, I am looking forward to including Robotics and Automation program, as we all know that Industry revolution 4 has set in and Automation is a key factor in it.
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Passion is the not-so-secret to success
A suggestion that I would like to give the young generation is “Be passionate about what you do. Explore yourself and decide your career. Do not choose a path because somebody else is asking you to choose. Be wise and careful while choosing your career path. Do the right thing and you being successful is just a matter of time”.