Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. S. Jeyavelu is working as the Dean of VIT-AP School of Business at Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh. He is a Fellow of IIM Ahmedabad with specialization in Organizational Behavior and has a BE in Mechanical Engineering from College of Engineering Guindy. He is an expert on Process Facilitation, Organization Design, OD, Identity, Creativity and Leadership. He started his academic career in IIM Kozhikode as Assistant Professor in Organizational Behavior Area. Later, he taught in IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, IIM Amritsar, GLIM, LIBA, XIM, etc. as an Adjunct Professor. He works with start-ups and corporates on coaching, leadership development, organizational structure, and culture issues.
Dr. Jeyavelu has a vast experience in teaching Organizational Design & Theory, Creativity, Organizational Behavior, Leadership, etc. to students and executives. He has been teaching regularly in the PGP/MBA, ePGP/executive MBA, FPM / Ph.D. courses as well as Management Development Programs in IIM Kozhikode from 2004. He is a certified coach in Existential Universe Mapper (EUM) and Transformative Alignment Mapper (TAM). He spreads his time across teaching, coaching, process consulting, leadership development and startup mentoring.
Prof. Jeyavelu’s rich education sector experience
Some of my role models are teachers and professors who have shaped my life to what it is today. I decided to be a teacher/professor long time back and invested the prime time of my youth to complete a Ph.D. (Fellow IIM Ahmedabad) and other training to become a process facilitator. The best incentive in taking up a career in education is the joy of engaging in a dialogue with the youth with their high energy, inquisitiveness, and innocent brilliance. There are few careers where one can get the satisfaction of being part of the future in the present. I will always be a teacher at heart!
My best teaching experiences were in the IIMs and design institutes. IIMs for the sheer intelligence, processing of complex information, dialogue and no default acceptance of ‘Authority is right’. In design institutions, the few times when I had conducted workshops and courses, I always found the curiosity and uncommon approach to analyzing situations exciting and valuable. I have worked with model schools as a consultant and have found the teachers and staff were passionate and contented with life. To some extent, we have been able to recreate these with our first batch of BBA students at VSB.
Tackling the challenge of convincing parents and students
One significant challenge I faced was convincing parents and students that softer aspects of a business school are more important than hard aspects in terms of the quality of the program. I believe the quality of faculty depends on their philosophy of the teaching-learning process, the diversity of their experiences and expertise, and openness; and not just on a Ph.D.
Today, the internet has revolutionized access to information equalizing many socio-economic divides. Any average student can educate himself/herself with free resources on the internet spending a few thousands of rupees on a Jio connection and not miss going to college.
Experience is the only differentiator and this can be provided only by faculty and peers.
VIT has a long history of excellence in Engineering Education. It took us some time to design a BBA curriculum which leverages on this expertise along with Liberal education and come up with the idea of Liberal Education + STEM as the foundation for BBA. This combination might be the first time experimented in India. Faculty recruitment is also a challenge. We don’t have any shortage in applicants, but shifting through and identifying those who would embrace Liberal Education at foundation levels and Case Method in management subjects with high rigor is difficult. Luckily, my contacts in IIMs/ IITs provide me with quick access to the right people.
Making the curriculum relevant and ensuring best practices of the industry through it
In VIT-AP University, industry experts play a significant role in the curriculum development, course design and projects. VSB follows these principles and ensures all courses are relevant for work and industry by the following:
- We ensure top-notch Industry experts are members of our Board of Advisors and Board of Studies and design our curriculum and pedagogy according to their suggestions.
- Give real-life projects in the various subjects for hands-on experience.
- Students go through internships and bring their experience to the classroom discussions.
- We bring in Industry experts to share their experiences and knowledge on a monthly basis.
Future goals in mind for VIT School of Business
I want VIT-AP School of Business to become the destination of choice for students who want a UG degree which would prepare them for running a family business or startups or join top institutes like IIMs for doing MBA.
I see a future where VSB alumni have an impact through their entrepreneurship and/or professional brilliance in cutting-edge fields in management across industries.
Over time, VSB will evolve into an integrated B-School with BBA, MBA and Ph.D. programs; management practice through consulting and executive development programs; practice-oriented research and publications; and global relationships.
Ensuring the right quality of education for the students
Our curriculum is benchmarked against the best in the country and USA. As part of our 2 + 2 partnership agreement with the University of Michigan, Dearborn, USA (UMD), the majority of our foundation courses have been vetted and approved with equivalence. When our students transfer to UMD in the third year, they will be considered as if they have completed similar courses there. Faculty from UMD critically looked at our syllabi and course outlines and we have gone through and will be continuing with the rigorous process of feedback and revision to match their practices. I am also depending on my experience with various IIMs to institutionalize academic rigor, practice orientation, and relevance.
We are launching a new program BBA Business Analytics and we are in the process of finalizing a 2 + 2 program with a top US university. The degree from US university is designated as STEM and hence students can stay for an additional three years utilizing the Optional Practical Training extension. The students will get work experience in cutting edge technologies and practices and also try H1B visa lottery for longer stay. We will announce our partner shortly.
Building a positive school culture
Everything we do will have an impact on the culture. We have a sense of the culture we want and are focusing on that direction in all our actions. As I tell my clients regarding change management ‘What you do on the first day can’t be in disharmony with what you do after a year’. We are taking care to keep our focus and energy on the broad direction of the open, professional and learning culture that we want to establish in VSB. I have regular informal meetings with the students to be in touch with their learning progress and through the sharing of personal experiences and expectations shape the student culture.
Establishing a relationship with the students
I personally believe in treating all my students as adults. I prefer not to advise on what they should do and not do, but rather talk about the options and consequences of choices. All our faculty, take a personal interest in the students through mentorship program and interactions in and out of class. Every student has an assigned mentor, whom they meet every week and also acts as a single point of contact for parents. Our students work on many projects with faculty as advisors, building a strong relationship between the students and faculty. I hope to build an open, professional and learning culture through diverse experiences created through our unique curriculum, experiential pedagogy, and hands-on activities.
A well- established track record in placements
We are very clear about the paths students have after completing BBA. Our priority is the 2+2 program with our partner University of Michigan, Dearborn; higher studies (MBA at IIMs), family business or startups. Students who want to get placed will be provided with opportunities for placements along with the previously mentioned ones. VIT group of institutions has a well-established track record in placements. We will leverage our relationship with recruiters to provide the best career opportunities for the BBA students.
Prof. Jeyavelu’s leadership style
I believe no single leadership style would be effective today. A leader should be open to modifying his approach to people, processes, system and decision making based on the context. I think my style is predominantly professional, participative and people-centric, with varying degrees of importance depending on the people around and the situation.
I am most effective with a team of professionals with passion, who believe meaning and results are both important.
I am continuously learning on the job, every day as I face challenges of different kinds. The learning opportunities keep me motivated and energized.
Suggestions to choose the apt undergraduate before pursuing MBA
Historical evidence suggests students join engineering and top it up with an MBA. The vast majority of students in IIMs are engineers. This trend is changing with few lawyers, doctors and even IAS officers joining IIMs in the regular two-year PGP / MBA or ePGP / executive MBA programs. Since very few MBAs use their UG degree in their professional career, I would suggest students to join a UG program which prepares them for life in a holistic way – such as a liberal education program or rigorous humanities and social sciences program or program like ours – BBA from VSB, which has liberal education and STEM as foundation.
Some IIMs are taking initiatives to include more women and non engineers. For those students and parents who are clear they want to go to IIM for MBA, our BBA would be an ideal preparatory program.