Interview by Yash Panchal
Prof. Amit Sheth is currently working as a Professor at Anant National University. He is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer from BITS, Pilani and a postgraduate in Industrial Design from NID, Ahmedabad. He is pursuing a Ph. D. in inclusive wayfinding from IIT, Bombay, and is also a visiting faculty at IIT, Gandhinagar. Most recently, he was the Head of Department of Design at Nirma University, Ahmedabad. With more than three decades of experience in teaching and has worked on over 300 projects in various fields of design, Prof. Sheth is essentially a tinkerer, who loves problem-solving in multiple spheres and across diverse platforms is extremely passionate about design and design education.
Working in the Education sector has been a wonderful opportunity
As they say, “Been there, done that”. Yes, I have a fair amount of experience both as an independent design consultant as well as a design teacher and am still a learner, something I still enjoy. Education is not an industry, at least I would not define it that way. Education is a wonderful opportunity to give, connect and build something for our future generations, and given the right environment, it is definitely the best place to work.
A leadership style that allows the freedom to enjoy the work
I do not believe in a top-down approach or similar feudal practices which abound in most of our institutes and even offices. I believe in giving full freedom in a relaxed informal environment so that every person, be it a faculty or a staff member can grow, enjoy their work and give their best. If you encourage your working family to be independent, take decisions and experiment then you will grow into a fine, vibrant and exciting institute.
Work should be fun and fulfilling, not a burden or a chore to go through day after day till you retire.
Lack of good teaching faculty is the biggest change visible in the scenario
The two biggest changes which are very apparent are the acute shortage of good teaching faculty and this misplaced notion that education is an industry and a money-making tool. This needs to be corrected as you are responsible for the lives of hundreds of fresh young people who are depending on you to help shape their career and their life and this should not be trifled with under any circumstances with poor resources, scanty or very mediocre teaching faculty, outdated teaching methods or systems.
Providing students with real-life problems and projects to make them ready for the industries
My philosophy is that industry and education cannot be in isolation. The students at every stage must be given ample opportunities to work on live projects. At Anant, we will also be bringing real-life problems and projects from clients to the students through their design courses. This will ensure that they can learn in real time, see their contributions, improvise from the feedback and become better and more knowledgeable about how things work, even before they graduate. This would be a terrific help to the industry which they would join after graduating, and even more if they start on their own.
Students get placements throughout their course in the form of internships, design projects and full-time jobs after graduation
Placement is not only for that first job in their final year but also for the many internships and design projects that they would work on. We, at Anant, would be a catalyst for getting industry which not only includes the corporate world but also the development sector, small and medium scale industries, startups, the government and design studios to accept our students by giving them real-life projects to work on as students and full-time jobs upon graduation.
Our relevancy with the present and future needs makes us stand apart from the other institutes
With totally fresh look at our approach to the learning process, the pedagogy and the curriculum make us stand apart from the other institutes - right from the physical infrastructure which is vibrant and inspiring, to our core academic aspects like the ethos and the philosophy of AnantU. We are not just different but importantly, we are in tune with the requirement of an education relevant to the present and future needs of our society and industry.
The advanced technology has made the process of designing more accurate
The curriculum is not a static, written in lead, kind of format. It has to be in a state of dynamism, that can be adjusted, changed and even totally redone as time progresses and the world, the society and industry changes. Only then a relevant education can be transferred to the students. When we were students, a computer was this huge monstrous machine in a large hall and the only way you accessed it was through punched cards and a printout of your work given to you a few hours later.
Today each of us is walking around with at least one digital device in our pocket which is a thousand time more powerful and faster than the computers of the 70’s. New software has made the process of designing more accurate, more realistic and extremely fast. This has to show up in the new curriculum of our schools. Couple that with the need of the hour of sustainability and environment. We cannot afford to produce graduates who only believe in form for form's sake. Those days are gone and today's institutes need to be pro-active in this regard through their curriculum.
The goal is to become the powerhouse of design knowledge
In the next few years, Anant will grow into a powerhouse of design knowledge, best practices and a dynamic and vibrant academic experience for all the students as well as the faculty. With our transdisciplinary curriculum, advanced pedagogy and empowered faculty, staff and students, we would surely be a much sought after design school in the country.
Message for the students who are aspiring to join the Anant National University
I am reminded of the Scout’s motto “Be prepared”. If you want to join the Anant’s family, my advice to the students is to “be prepared” to give your very best.
“Be prepared” for a rich life and ever-changing environment. “Be prepared” to encounter wicked problem solving from the very first year. “Be prepared” for a demanding academic as well as co-curricular experience. “Be prepared” to the myriads of learning opportunities and exposure and finally “Be prepared” for an exciting, enriching and fun-filled journey on our campus!