Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. Jitendra Singh is the Dean Faculty of Architecture and Planning and Director at Amity School of Architecture and Planning (ASAP), Amity University, Jaipur. His qualifications include D. Sc, M.U.R.P, and B.Arch. He has a rich experience of nearly 50 years. To his credit, he has 126 research publications and 400 projects under his belt. He has Professional Affiliations from FIIA; FITP; FIE. He is the recipient of Madhava Achwal Gold Medal by Indian Institute of Architecture (IIA) & Design Research Award by Institution of Engineers (India).
An enriching experience in the education industry
I have been educating for nearly 50 years. After five years of professional experience, I started my teaching journey as a lecturer (Now Asstt Prof) at the University of Roorkee, my Alma matter (now IIT Roorkee) where later I was selected for the position Reader (now Associate Professor). Later I joined Bihar College of Engineering as Professor of Architecture, Patna University Patna (now NIT Patna). I had a chance to serve in every academic and non-academic position in technical higher education. I was the first Architect of the country to rise to the level of Vice-Chancellor, that too three times for different Universities of Bihar State. This journey from a humble beginning to the top position had really been very tough and demanding. You have to really put in yours best in every field and prove your worth in professiona (I have many architecture-related projects, large and small, at various parts of Bihar and Uttarakhand), in academics as well as in administration to achieve such coveted positions.
Education has been a very enriching experience for me. Firstly, it allowed me to keep me updated every day which is very essential for any professional, especially in architecture where dramatic changes have taken place that too in very short time. Secondly, education keeps you in touch with the younger generation that is full of enthusiasm and innovative ideas. This contact helps you to explore and experiment your innovative ideas and share them with the younger generation. Education is also a very satisfying experience as it helps in career building of the younger generation. The biggest pleasure is to see your students achieving new heights.
Education only of late has really become an ‘Industry’ though I have never taken it that way. I feel it is the noblest of the professions in the world.
Education provides the biggest pleasure to the educator
And Architecture is only next to it. It provides the greatest pleasure and satisfaction not only to its occupant but also to the visitors, viewers and its designer alike.
Tackling the challenges of being the Dean and Director of Amity School of Architecture and Planning
I am used to facing the challenges and win them. Shift from profession to teaching while joining the UOR and then leaving hometown Roorkee and Alma matter to run a professional office in Patna, Bihar were some of the challenges taken when my family needed a lot of my attention as the children were very young. I have been successfully faced at all these challenges. Similar was the challenge when I joined back teaching as Professor after being an academic administrator as Vice Chancellor for a long time.
Throughout my career, I had the opportunity of working in Public institutions of repute. Amity is the first private University that I am working for past nearly five years. The University belongs to one of the reputed groups of the Country. As per the directions of the Founder President of the Group Dr. Ashok Chauhan and that of the Chairperson Dr. Aseem Chauhan, this University also functions in a very transparent and democratic manner. In the University I faced many challenges that have really been very rewarding and satisfying. The first challenge was the emphasis of the University on quality research and its publication in the standard and reputed international journals. The research that I had been involved earlier was on entirely different lines. We never bothered about our presence in the world. Our research was limited to the presentations in conferences and conference publication, both national as well as international. The emphasis in Amity is on internationalization of the research done and its publication in international journals. This was a new experience that too for Architects who prefer not to write and explain through the drawings only. Today The ASAP is now full of research activity. We have many publications in the SCOPUS journals and 9 scholars are doing Ph.D. Level work.
The second challenge is in the quality of the students. The students here are the ones who could not be admitted to IIT or NIT. The quality and their background is entirely different from the students where I have been teaching earlier. It becomes very difficult to motivate these students to become competent professional. The students here need personal attention like Secondary School children. The ASAP has an excellent mentoring system but many a time it also fails. We have been able to see that the students that pass out are ready to face the national challenge and ready to face the world. This has amply been qualified by the passed-out students and is very satisfying.
The third Challenge is Faculty retention. In spite of the full support of the administration, faculty joins private institutes only as a stepping stone in their career. Amity brand is a big help for them and the University policy is very liberal. They take the best available faculty but permit the faculty to go if he/she is not willing to stay back. As a career maker, it really becomes difficult to come in way of someone’s way. It has been noted with pleasure that after fulfilling their career ambitions, the faculty returns to ASAP Jaipur.
Goals in mind for the Amity School of Architecture and Planning
I joined the Amity School of Architecture and Planning when it was in infancy and only three years old with meager facilities and faculty. The first goal was to bring all facilities to the standard level. The University extended all support. Today, we are in an independent block and all facilities available. We have an excellent infrastructure. For the first time in my career, I take classes in Air Conditioned Lecture Theatres and conduct practical in air-conditioned labs. We have the full support of the University to invite visiting faculty, guests for specialist lectures and support for the student tours and other activities. I am proud to say that three batches of our students have passed out from ASAP Amity Jaipur and fruitfully providing their professional services in the nation building.
I would like to see this institute as a center of innovation and research in architecture for Indian conditions and ready to compete the challenges of the world
The faculty and research Scholars are already working in their areas of interest and would certainly help the Institute in attaining this goal.
Opportunities available for students at ASAP, Jaipur
The students and research scholars at ASAP AUR have all the opportunities that one need in a professional course such as architecture. Most important is exposure to the world. Our students get this exposure through the frequent interaction with international and national experts visiting ASAP. The faculty at ASAP is also quite rich, drawn from best of the institutes of the country and with widest exposure of teaching and professional experience. Our curriculum is also developed with the help of top educationists and professionals so that they do not miss any aspect of their studies.
The ASAP has also set up an ‘Industry Advisory Cell’ to have frequent interaction with the professional and for incorporating their views into the curriculum. The profile of our alumni shows that they are profession-ready and are equally competent to take up higher studies in institutes of repute within and outside of the Country. With the help of industry experts and experts drawn from education, we will have to keep ourselves abreast with the fast changes taking place in the construction industry so that our students could design more environmentally friendly buildings and help the planet earth to sustain the increasing population.
A transparent and student-friendly leadership philosophy
I have been following a transparent and student-friendly policy for the leadership. I discuss every new thing that we intend to introduce and adopt positive changes. The students and the faculty are free to discuss any issue and to make positive suggestions. I really do not carry any bias against student, faculty or staff. My office doors remain open to all. I really work with open mind and heart and stay ready to modify my decisions. I had even returned the armed security guard provided to me as VC of JP University, Chapra as I was confident of my positive policies and student-friendly approach. I never had to regret and look back on my decision.
Take on the digitization of education
Digitization phenomenon is a reality. We need to take it positively and adapt it as an aid, not as a means.
We need to devise our education monitoring system in a way that the students do not just cut and paste answers, drawings or projects
They need to learn from the massive digital data available and write/draw their own, to become an innovator and good designer. Innovation is the key to the coming times. Innovation leads to innovation. The digital media provides full opportunities for the same. This media is really very fast to communicate and pass on the information. Today’s generation is really lucky to have so many software that help them in converting their ideas to drawings, create 3-D models and walkthrough to ensure functionality, aesthetics and the efficiency beforehand. They can even ensure environmental impacts on the buildings and on the surroundings. The supervision of the progress and quality of work is also now in real-time adding to the reduced cost and speed of work. This opportunity was never available before and needs to be fully utilized for the betterment of the mankind.
We need a caution not be ‘slaves’ of the software and machine but use it as an efficient tool to help and speed up the work and related processes.
Enhancing the student - industry interaction at ASAP
We take the students to industry for visits and invite experts for specialist lectures. Professionals of all fields keep visiting us very frequently to update the students and market developments. The Industry Advisory Cell of the School helps in overall improvement. This interaction is encouraged by the administration and students also take it very positively.
Suggestions for the youth and the aspiring students
The youth today is very intelligent but impatient in their personal life and work alike. This impatience is very damaging. Instant things do not happen in life and if these happen, they are accidents. To achieve heights, you need to give it time to mature like a tiny banyan seed has a long journey in becoming a fully grown tree providing pleasant shade to all for longer time. In any profession, you need time and patience to learn and mature to reap the fruits. Architecture is the best of the professions that adds satisfaction to the designer in seeing his design coming to reality but provides greater satisfaction to the client through his creations. It needs to be taken with full of seriousness. The sky is the limit and you have boundless freedom to explore and fly. Take your positive leap.