Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal
Mr. Pradeep is the Vice Chancellor of Mangalayatan University. He has completed Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Business Administration and Management from Osmania University and did his schooling from Sainik School Rewa (MP) from 1965 to 1970.
Before Mangalayatan University, Mr. Pradeep has worked in various esteemed Universities such as Shridhar University, JECRC University, Tapmi School of Business and ICICI Manipal Academy.
As VC of Shridhar University, Mr. Pradeep has increased intake of students by nearly 300%. He earlier raised School of Vocational Programs at JECRC University. He was a part of the team that prepared JECRC University for conduct of UGC inspection. He was also a part of raising team of Manipal University Jaipur at Director & Provost level.
Mr. Pradeep has mentored as Director ICICI Manipal Academy Hyderabad & Bangalore. He has also served in Army and retired as Brigadier. He had commanded an Infantry Brigade and a Regimental Training Centre. Apart from all this, he has also served as HOD of Strategic management and Dean equivalent at College of Defence Management, Secunderabad.
Mr. Pradeep’s experience in the education industry
I came from a military background. When I switched over to the academic world. The way of functioning in the academic world was very different from way of functioning in army. I realized soon that the way you handle faculty and students is different from the army. You cannot handle them like you handle Jawans. But I found that they are very amenable to good practices that we have in the army and it was very noble experience working here in the education industry. In fact, the good point about this industry is that it keeps you active, alive and makes you feel young.
Mr. Pradeep‘s philosophy of leadership and his leadership style
You can adopt any format of leadership style and people will follow you. What I advocate is servant leadership style that you are not a master but servant of the people. It works well for me. Yet, at times, when situations are different and demanding, probably a little change in leadership would help. For example, at times of crisis, a different style or format is required to handle the crisis and one should be amenable to change depending upon the change of situation. What people generally want is that a leader must be visible to them, must be a person of character and must be capable of taking decisions and responsibility of the institution. This is what I believe in and advocate.
Significant challenges faced by the Vice Chancellor of Mangalayatan University
Every day is a challenge. Basically, the greatest challenge I have found is extracting the best potential out of an individual, both from the faculty and the student. A large number of faculty and students are unaware of their potential and what they are capable of. So, this requires a bit of counselling, applauding and encouraging. It is one challenge. Secondly, increasing admissions is a challenge and certainly making the university a desired destination for students is a great challenge. Then comes the location. As we are located in a remote area, this location is also a great challenge.
Importance of time management in Mr. Pradeep’s life
Army has taught me a good thing-dedication. I have learned as a military commander that I have all the time in the world, but not as being a staff officer. As staff officer, I have no time at all. Similarly, here as a Vice Chancellor, I have all the time to do what I want to do. I learned delegation in army which I apply here as well. So, I believe in delegation. Let the juniors do their work, if they do their work well, half of your work is taken off you. In fact, I believe in letting subordinates do your work as well, groom them and the subordinates rise to the occasion and fulfill the given task. And if the things go wrong, you are there for taking the responsibility of the task. That is how I manage time.
Curriculum at Mangalayatan University
Curriculum is something that requires constant change because the environment and technologies keep changing. So, if your curriculum is not in tune with the environment, then obviously your product/your students will not be in tune with the industry. Hence, we need to involve industry in our curriculum development. For instance, B.Tech., is a four-year course. If you involve industry today, four years later the technology will be changed. Thus, such issues persist. In short, our curriculum is industry-friendly and the people from industry are involved in designing the curriculum.
Growth of students through placement opportunities available at Mangalayatan University
We carry out an in-house survey for how many people are looking for a job, how many of them are seeking jobs in private sector or public sector, what kind of jobs they are aspiring for, how many people are looking for higher education, how many of them will go in their own business etc. Having classified the students who are looking for jobs, we work with them to make them industry ready and prepare them for placements. We have a training and placement office and also a career advancement cell.
We try to build upon what the industry wants and what are they looking for. One is core knowledge of the subject, that they are hiring for. Second is communication, that whether students are able to communicate properly or not. It becomes a challenge as we are from the rural-based area and even most of the students are also from a rural background. For this, we conduct mock interviews and certain mock discussions as well. We try to prepare them before they are placed in front of the industry. We carry out these practices and we have been successful in it. But there are some students who come with a casual attitude and are not so serious about placements. Whereas, there are also students who are looking forward to IAS or CGS. We put them through guidance required in that domain, motivate them, provide information about application form, guide them how to pursue the examination and also prepare them for various competitive exams.
Mr. Pradeep’s relationship with the students as the Vice Chancellor of the university
My day starts early in the morning. I go for a walk and connect with all those students who are walking around or exercising. I keep checking the dress of students in the university. More than that I am looking for a face which requires counseling the student who is low. I call them to my office and I counsel them. Most of the students run away as I check them for their tie and shirt if it is hanging out. But this is the way of connecting. Some students come and touch my feet and take my blessings. I walk around the classroom and sometimes I sit behind in the class. If the class is free, I do not mind conducting a class. My office is also open every time for every student. I listen to students’ personal problems as well. Youth has a few problems which they cannot communicate with their parents. I try to solve such problems with ease.
Ideal school environment according to Mr. Pradeep
According to me, an ideal school environment should be a Gurukul environment. We have forgotten Gurukul environment in our country. According to me a teacher should turn into a Guru. A guru is a person who is a mentor for life, a teacher is not a mentor for life. A teacher comes to the class, takes the class and goes. It doesn’t matter if a student understands or not. Whereas with a Guru, a student can ask to explain the same again and he does that.
Secondly, a guru is one who does not impart knowledge alone, he imparts wisdom.
Next, a Guru transforms an individual, he gets the best out of his students, and shows them their weaknesses and their strengths. He also shows them a path to exploit their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. So that is the type of environment I want which we have forgotten and this is what I would like to implement. Guru is also that person who is very knowledgeable, he should be able to relate two different things to each other and can put across a very complex question in a very simple manner. That is a greatness of a Guru. I have been educating my teachers, but it takes time for a teacher to transform into a Guru.
Goals in mind for your university for the next few years
We have a 5-year strategic plan where each year has got its own goal. This 5-year plan has short-term, mid-term and long-term plans. Our immediate plan is to impart vocational training. Basically, in this area we find a large scope because the youth here is unemployed, is from the rural area and there are a lot of school dropouts around here. I would like to emphasize on research and development. Also, I’m looking to push students towards R&D.
I want to put emphasis on sports. I regret that sports have taken a backseat in our institutes. I also feel that a healthy mind always breeds in a healthy body. Volleyball and Kabaddi are the local sports here and we emphasize on them. I would like to move ahead with these sports first and slowly emphasize on sports like Cricket. I also want this University to move towards some residential courses. A long-term plan is to create a world class infrastructure with quality faculty and Mangalayatan University to become a global desire for every student.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
I would end it with a very simple sentence, “Dream Big and fulfill those dreams. You are only born once, Leave your footprints behind”.