Professor Sadagopan, Director of IIIT Bangalore is a graduate of Madras University, India and Purdue University, USA. He taught for 25+ years at IIT Kanpur, IIM Bangalore, IIT Madras and IIIT Bangalore in addition to short teaching assignments at RUTGERS, USA and AIT, Bangkok. He is a visionary who takes calculated risks to implement and bring in new innovative ideas. He encourages the new ideology and helps them provide a launchpad to prosper. Read here what he has to say in his interview.
What is your philosophy of leadership? How would you describe your leadership style?
“An essential element of leadership is to keep trying and motivating others to move forward”
Stay behind every member and mildly push them so that the organization moves steadily forward. Taking decisions by consensus be bold, and take measured risks in newer areas. Fear of failure can stop people from trying; the leadership team needs to support younger colleagues in exploring new avenues even if it meets with losses; at IIITB, we stand behind the younger colleagues in such circumstances.
How does the curriculum of IIIT-Bangalore ensure the best practice of industry?
“Our faculty are senior industry professionals who bring with them practical learning atmosphere”
Many of our faculty members have spent 3-15 years in the industrial workplace at senior R&D positions. Practically, all of them have industry-funded projects that are again in cutting-edge technology areas. Many advise the industry leaders about "what next. We also ensure that each program's curriculum review happens every three years with a Committee consisting of external experts both from academia and industry. Industry-funded consulting projects are prevalent for many of the IIITB faculty; that automatically ensures that the industry's best practices are part of the curriculum at IIITB.
“IIITB gives fee exemption (25% to 100%) to a small percentage of students. Our campus is disabled-friendly; we have graduated two fully blind students; with Microsoft Research. We have recently set up a Center for Disability Studies. In 2021 we will be hosting a Disability Research Conference.”
What do you think should be the IIIT-Bangalore’s top priority over the next 10 years?
“We are aiming for international faculty and student participation for us to become a premier institute”
- We want to accelerate our research output; our faculty members present their research work in some of the best conferences and journals. Many premier conferences are held outside the country, and fund requirements to support faculty for multiple conference travels have been a limitation. With buoyancy in project funding in recent years, we should get over this limitation. We also plan to have sufficient funding to support many of our students to attend premier International conferences and present their high-quality research output. We expect the e-participation continues after Covid-19 behind us, which has helped our students to international exposure.
- Our alumni presence in international Universities & Corporate R&D (in addition to corporations) is another area of focus. We want our Alumni to take up tenure-track faculty positions in leading global universities abroad as a benchmark for our research quality. Additionally, we want our Ph.D. students to be taking up Academic positions in leading global universities.
When you first came to IIIT-Bangalore, what was your vision for the institute? Has it evolved over time, and how far along in implementing that vision are you?
“Our students have helped us raised the flag on the cliff and we have evolved over time with technology”
Our vision was to build an Institute that addresses all aspects of IT (science, technology, policy, and societal impact) and create an entrepreneurial mindset among the students. It has evolved considerably over the past two decades, and we have been successful in implementing a significant part of our vision.
Courses co-taught by a Computer Science Professor and a Sociology Professor in AI & Ethics or a class taught by a Computer Science Professor and a Geographer in Smart Cities are not rare in IIITB. Thanks to the entrepreneurial mindset among the students that IIITB instills in the students, our Alumni have founded 60+ Start-ups (big and small, in India and outside)
“Curiosity is the most crucial quality of a student. One should explore as much as possible; it need not necessarily be the most popular subject”
What are some of the biggest challenges you see, both for higher education in general and for IIIT-Bangalore specifically?
“Cost to acquire exceptional educational with the quality professors teaching courses is a challenge”
- Higher education costs are rising, and the sources of funding (Government, Corporate, and Alumni) are limited. Higher education Institutes in India will find it increasingly difficult to manage finances.
- Recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty and getting the best out of them will continue to be the challenge in the years to come.
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