Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Dr. BV Babu is the Former Vice Chancellor of Graphic Era University, Dehradun. He has 33 years of teaching, research, consultancy, and administrative experience. He did his Ph.D. from IIT Bombay. He was Vice Chancellor of Galgotias University-Greater Noida (2014-16), Pro Vice Chancellor of DIT University-Dehradun (2013-14) and founding Director of Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) at JK Lakshmipat University-Jaipur (2011-2013). Prior to that, Dr. Babu served at BITS Pilani for 15 years (1996-2011) and held various administrative positions as Dean-Student Welfare Division, Dean-Faculty Division 1, Dean-Educational Hardware Division and Head-Chemical Engineering Department, to name a few. Before that, he worked at Gujarat University for 11 years (1985-1996).
Professor Babu is a distinguished academician and an acknowledged researcher with an h-index of 39 & i10-index of 98 and over 6692 citations (as of January 2018). He is well known, internationally, for his algorithm, MODE (Multi-Objective Differential Evolution) and its improved variants. Besides several highly-cited publications in International journals, he also has three well-accepted textbooks (published by Springer, Germany; Apple Academic Press, USA; and Oxford University Press, India) to his credit. He supervised 10 Ph.D. candidates and currently guiding 2 Ph.D. candidates. He is Ph.D. Examiner for 21 students & M.Tech Thesis Examiner for 13 students of IITs, NITs, and Universities.
He is a member of various national and international academic and administrative committees. He is the Peer Team Member of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), a statutory body of UGC, New Delhi and served as Chairman, Member Coordinator and Member of various visiting Peer Teams for many Universities and Institutions across the country.
Dr. Babu is the recipient of CSIR's ‘National Technology Day Award’, obtained in recognition of the research work done. He received ‘Kuloor Memorial Award-2006’ awarded for the Best Technical Paper published in the Institute’s Journal “Indian Chemical Engineer” in its issues for 2005. He also received ‘MTC Global Award for Excellence -2015’ and felicitation for being one of the ‘Top 10 Thinkers-2015- Indian Ranking’. He is also the recipient of ‘Best Paper Awards’ in CHEMCON-2000 and CHEMCON-2001 for the papers he presented at the International Symposia & Annual Sessions of Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers (IIChE). He is the Life Member/Fellow of many professional bodies such as IIChE, IE (I), ISTE, ICCE, IEA, SOM, ISSMO, IIIS, IAENG, SPE, ISTD, etc. He is Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Board Member of several International and National Scientific Journals.
Overall, Dr. Babu has over 240 research publications to his credit. He completed three consultancy projects successfully. He organized several International and National Conferences, Workshops & Seminars and also chaired several Technical Sessions. He has been Invited Speaker and delivered Keynote Addresses at various International Conferences, Seminars, and Workshops. He has been invited Panelist in Panel Discussions on Higher Education at various National and International Summits, Conferences and Award Functions. He visited various countries across the world including USA, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Dubai, Bahrain, Bangladesh, etc. Dr. Babu’s hobbies include singing, music compositions, playing keyboard, reading spiritual books, walking, and practicing Yoga and Pranayama.
Dr. Babu’s experience in the education industry and what makes it the best industry to work in
I do not consider the education as an industry. The purpose of education is to prepare the students for life by transforming them through enabling in realizing their potential and purpose of life, and certainly not to prepare them for jobs. The objective is to create a learning ambiance which helps the students understand themselves (within) and find out that one thing they love the most & passionate about to enable them to build a career around that. This purpose gives utmost satisfaction to the teachers and the administration, and the noble cause of transforming the souls makes teaching a noble profession. The best and cream should take up the teaching profession to do justice in becoming a facilitator to help the students to understand themselves by being a friend, philosopher, and guide.
Dr. Babu on whether the efforts that universities are doing to ensure the non-academic support services are sufficiently well-resourced
Some of the best of the universities globally are focusing on providing a structured and systematic mentoring and counselling to the students. Students can be categorized into three groups: (1) Slow learners, (2) Normal learners and (3) Fast learners. Invariably, the teacher always focuses on normal learners with a result of neglecting both the slow learners and fast learners. Something more needs to be given to both slow and fast learners than that is given to normal learners. More inputs and counselling coupled mentoring for slow learners and challenging assignments and projects to fast learners to sustain their interest. This is possible only through the structured mentoring system. Also, in order to address some of the psychological problems faced by the students due to academic rigor and pressure, professional counsellors should be appointed.
Apart from the above, extra-curricular activities play an important role in the overall development of the students. Hence, equal importance should be given to these nonacademic support services. To provide these support services, enough budget needs to be allocated and required infrastructure needs to be created in the campus. Annually, there should be a cultural festival, a sports festival and a management conclave apart from Academic festival completely designed, managed and executed by the students and supported by the university administration with required financial support and by the teachers with required guidance. Apart from the university budget, students should also be trained to get the resources through sponsorships from the corporate.
Dr. Babu’s thoughts on how streamlined is the planning of Universities that he has worked in, for expansion in terms of placement drive, international projects and seminars
Education has two parts: learning and training. Though the overall objective is to prepare the students for life through learning, we also need to train them to prepare them for jobs. We need to strike the balance between these two aspects. To ensure the placement drive in some of the Universities I worked, I implemented by incorporating skill training as a part of the curriculum. The skill training includes the courses such as basic English communication, professional communication, soft skills, aptitude building and a smooth transition from campus-to-corporate apart from professional skill courses.
On the whole, 9 courses of 15 credits have been included in the curriculum to ensure the students are not only prepared for life through learning as an overall objective but also prepared for jobs with required skills through training. Also to ensure life-long learning, universal human values course has been included as a compulsory course in all the programs of study. Because it is not enough for the universities to produce competent technical professionals but important to produce technically competent professionals who are basically good human beings.
Teaching and research have to go hand in hand and hence project-based learning (PBL) and research-based learning (RBL) have been made a part of the learning process. This requires the teachers to be involved in collaborative projects with academia and industry across the globe. Also, to disseminate the knowledge obtained through these collaborative research projects, regular seminars, conferences, and workshops need to be organized by the university. Students should be involved by playing an active role in organizing these events so as to get trained in organizational skills, leadership qualities, and teamwork.
As faculties are the main backbone of any institution, Dr. Babu’s views on how to ensure that a growing proportion of the teaching staff of Universities have some form of teacher training
Teaching is altogether a different ball game. Those days have gone, where it used to be one-way monotonous, teacher-centric learning. Now it is two-way, participative, student-centric experiential learning. Hence, having knowledge (gained through higher qualifications) is not enough to be a good teacher. Also, teaching is no more an art. It is a fully developed science. By following certain rules of the game and tricks of the trade good teachers can be made through training. As generally perceived, teachers need not have to be born teachers, but good teachers can be prepared through proper training.
Conducting a semester-long Intensive Teaching Workshops (ITW) for the newly joined teachers and for the teachers whose feedback is not so good is a solution to this effect. There will be around 6-7 resource faculty who are known to be good teachers and 20-25 participative faculty who need to be trained should be a part of this intensive teaching workshop. I have successfully implemented ITW in some of the universities I worked.
Dr. Babu on whether colleges make as much effort to stay in touch with their international alumni as they do with their home students
Yes. It is very important to have a registered alumni association in the university. Alumni can contribute to their alma mater by giving their time, energy and financial support. In some of the universities I worked, they have a very strong alumni network who have been contributing a great deal in development and improvement of the universities. Regular reunions of the alumni need to be arranged within and outside the university to engage them and also to create the sense of belonging and emotional connect to their alma mater so that they can contribute by giving their time, energy and finances.
Steps taken to maintain positive environment and diversity in University
Diversity is a very important factor in creating an appropriate learning ambiance among the students and teachers. The diversity in terms of Urban vs Rural, Rich vs Poor, Male vs Female, different race and color, different religions, different communities need to be ensured in the selection of students and teachers. Each one of these diverse population brings in their own perspectives due to their upbringing, environment, and experiences. These wide-ranging perspectives would help the students to be in a position to look at an unknown situation from different possible perspectives and reach a logical conclusion. The learning ambiance is enhanced exceptionally well through the diversity. This also helps in bringing the spiritual enlightenment to understand unification which ensures leading a peaceful and harmonious life.
Measures to ensure the process of internships by the University
The internship should be a part of the learning process as it gives the practical exposure to the students to apply the theory to real and professional situations. A semester-long internship has been made mandatory with structured checks and balances with required coordination in a few of the universities I worked so far.
Some places it is called Practice School, and in other places, it is called internship, industrial training, etc. The measures that the university needs to take to ensure the process of internships is to have an institute-industry partnership. The student’s potential can be used to meet the human resources of the industry in finding out the solutions to the problems of the industry through these internships. When the industry is convinced that the students can be the required human resources to find solutions to the problems faced by them, the industry certainly comes forward to entertain the internships to the students with stipend/fellowship/facilities etc. This will be a win-win situation for both the academia and the industry.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
- As a part of the learning process through education, find out what is that one thing you love the most and build a career around that passion.
- Given a choice, always do what you love the most. In the absence of it, start loving what you do. Because there is no point in doing the things just for the sake of doing, but it is important that one gives 100% to whatever one does.
- Be a good human being, useful to the society by understanding within and outside.
- Have compassion, sensibility, and sensitivity towards other living beings.
- Understand the limitations within of senses and go beyond the senses to realize the absolute truth.
- Understand the limitations outside in a given situation either at personal or at the professional front and learn to excel within those limitations.
Dr. Babu’s philosophy of leadership
Leadership is all about having a vision and achieve that vision through stepwise missions. Leaders are different from managers. Managers only know how to manage the things. We need leaders to create a society wherein which diverse population lives in harmony and with peace. A leader always has a very clear understanding of decision making and delegation and knows precisely how to motivate to bring out the best from everyone working with him.
I always believed in motivating my colleagues in realizing their potential and put it to its 100% usage. I know for sure that nobody is bad in this world. Everybody is good at something and one needs to have a clear understanding of that one aspect in which one is good. The very fact that each one of us exists with flesh and blood is an indication that each one of us is here with a purpose. I create an ambiance where in which all the good qualities of each and every person in the organization is utilized for the growth of the organization and enabling a society which lives in harmony and peace.