Article by Sheetal Sohoni
During the IUCEE Annual Leadership Summit held in July 2020, I got a chance to interact with Dr. Shasi Anand Shridharan. I was very impressed by the Kalasalingam University’s journey and the institution’s commitment to providing high quality engineering education to students. When I asked Dr. Shridharan for a chance to conduct a formal interview for IUCEE newsletter, he agreed readily. This interview was a great learning experience for me, and I believe this will be a great experience for all of you too.
Kalasalingam University is one of the most active IUCEE consortium member institutions. Kalaslingam college of Engineering was founded in 1984 by T.Kalasalingam in a small rural village called Krishnankoil, TN near Madurai in India. Mr. Kalasalingam believed that education has a potential of uplifting society. Through this institution he transformed this thought into reality, by setting up a chain reaction by creating opportunities and providing access to quality education that enriched the whole community. Kalasalimgam College of Engineering became a Deemed University in 2006. The institution is NAAC accredited with a rank of “A” and CGPA of 3.11/4. Recently, it had 11 of its programs accredited by ABET. The institution lives by its motto “World class education in your reach.”
Kalasalingam University attracts talent from pan India, and around 65 % of the students studying at the institution are from various states of the country. To make sure that the students get accustomed with the new academic life, a three-week orientation program is designed for freshmen students. Since effective communication is an important aspect of the teaching and learning process, the institution has included communicative English in its curriculum to ensure improvement in students’ comprehension. To ensure maximum retention of knowledge, the institution uses lecture capture system. Every classroom is equipped with recording devices to record live lectures. The students can access these lectures by logging in to the repository. This provides students a chance to go through the lecture material at their own pace. This is just one example of the numerous innovations that Kalasalingam University has implemented.
Graduates are placed at premium organizations like IBM, Cognizant, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro and Amazon. 90% of the students studying at the institution get employment after completing their education. Around 150 companies visit the institution’s campus for recruiting students every year. Considering its rural location, this interest from companies is quite remarkable. The institute has also created an incubation center to help budding entrepreneurs and innovators to get a chance and opportunity to excel. This center not only supports the students but also helps the locals to explore new ideas. Additionally, the center helps in retaining talent within the community.
Dr. Shasi, after completing his undergraduate in Singapore, graduate, and PhD degrees in the USA, returned to India in 2015. He adapted some of the best practices of his alma maters to fit the needs of Kalaslingam University. Realizing that the rural location might deter faculty to come and teach at the institution, the institution made sure that it caters to the needs of not only the faculty, but faculty spouses and children too. Establishing CBSE school for children close to university campus, housing facility in nearby township, spousal working policy, providing competitive salaries, and autonomy in terms of teaching/learning and research are some of the initiatives taken by the institution. The institution has recruited professor from IIT, NIIT, and RECs, and hired fresh graduates from eminent institutions bringing in fresh perspectives and innovations. Currently, 500 faculty work at the university, and the faculty student ratio is 1:15.
Similarly, to rectify the skewed male to female ratio at the university, the institution took multiple steps. They estableshed scholarships (Aanandam Scholarship that includes fees waiver of 25 % across all majors) for girl students, academic scholarships based on merit, and an opportunity of completing degrees even after break of few years. This is especially important for girls from rural areas, who because of wedding or childbirth have to discontinue their education. A robust maternity leave policy (similar to what is provided for staff and faculty) is given to girl students as well.
When asked about future plans for the institution, Dr. Shasi said the institution should focus on quality rather than on quantity, and he would like the institution being named in the 1000 premium institution across the globe. He reinforced the idea that technology is everchanging, but our values and attitudes aren’t. The institute wants the students to be lifelong learners, to adapt to change, but keep their value system intact. The university will be opening its new campus in Chennai soon in order to cater to a larger audience.
When enquired about his favorite IUCEE offerings, Dr. Shasi selected weekly webinars offered through IUCEE Virtual Academy. He believes that it provides an opportunity and access to plethora of information. He feels that clusters provide a platform to learn from peer institutions and a chance to educate one about best practices followed by other institutions. Kalasalingam University is actively involved in the Teaching and Learning cluster and Entrepreneurship cluster. The institution is also part of the IUCEE-EPICS program. Creativity/innovation not necessarily means discovering new processes, but it is all about adapting and acclimatizing to old process in the new world. If you stick to your values and ethos you can wade through changes of the new world. Kalasalingam University is a great example of an organization that has followed this. The IUCEE team would like to extend our best wishes to the Kalsalingam University. We hope that you will continue to share and spread the mission and vision of IUCEE