Joining forces

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IIT Kharagpur had the rare honour of hosting four former directors who flagged off the opening ceremony of the 17th Annual Alumni Meet of the Institute on Friday, January 10, 2020. Prof. K.L. Chopra, Prof. Amitabha Ghosh, Prof. Damodar Acharya and Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti were special invitees of the incumbent Director of the Institute, Prof. V.K. Tewari, who intends to form an advisory committee with the former directors on matters ranging from global ranking and research collaboration to commercialization of technology and cultural exchange among students.

The inaugural function of the annual meet saw the former directors reminisce about their times at the Institute as also provide constructive suggestions on how IIT Kharagpur should steer the path towards its future. Prof. K.L. Chopra, who recalled that he had been a ‘reluctant Director’ initially, but went on to serve two consecutive terms as Director, said to the alumni, “You must contribute to the wealth of the institution and by that I mean intellectual wealth. Whatever you invest here, your professional confidence, your time, idea etc will be respected. You must consider yourself to be a part of the progress of the institution.”

Prof. Amitabha Ghosh believes that the “mixing of the life sciences and other sciences will pave the way for the next industrial revolution.” He pointed out that the spectrum of activities of IIT Kharagpur is far wider than any other IIT or NIT, whether in rural development or advanced technology. “This institution is an extremely suitable melting pot of these sciences and has the best facilities,” he added. He appealed to the Institute to develop expertise in synthetic biology and retain a strong focus on the teaching of the fundamentals without bothering too much about creating “specialized engineers”.

The brainstorming session that followed soon after the inaugural function, saw alumni members from South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia as also different alumni chapters in the country – from Napgur, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi – give their diverse opinion on the way ahead for the Institute. The Director, Prof. Tewari, who believes in enlisting the help of every stakeholder to help IIT Kharagpur make it to the Top 10 globally ranked institutions, heard out multiple voices on industry collaboration, curriculum, teaching, foreign engagement and so on.

“The world over, greater involvement of the alumni in the affairs of their alma mater has helped them drive up the excellence quotient, ramped up their internationalization efforts and thus improved their World rankings,” said Prof. Subrata Chattopadhyay, Dean, Alumni Affairs, at the inaugural function. He thanked the alumni for helping institute 6 student scholarships and 8 Faculty Chairs in the past two years alone.

At the brainstorming session, Prof. Damodar Acharya, former Director, suggested flipped classrooms and greater involvement of the students in the classroom. “Make students part of the learning process. Instead of teachers working hard, you have to reverse the process and make the students sweat.”

“One attribute of an institution at the top of the world is new knowledge. Second, innovation that reaches the last man. If we are to march on to come top of the world then we must forget about incremental innovation. We must do something which is completely new,” said Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, who provided the gathering with a complete plan to create what he called the “Landscape of Excellence”. He explained, “We must increase our knowledge levels, and create IP, institutional knowhow and measure it. We must measure our key performance parameters in terms of reputation, income and alumni performance and we must build new instruments of policy, rewards, and investment and we must attract the best people because it is the best people who will teach the best and we must measure everything continuously.”

The Institution function, which also saw the Deputy Director, Prof. Sriman Kumar Bhattacharyya, take the audience through the recent growth trajectory of the Institute, provided occasion for the award of the ‘Distinguished Service Award’ (DSA) to nine stalwart alumni who have facilitated not only greater alumni engagement but also international and industry collaboration.

Among the DSA awardees are Mr. Sayanta Basu, an investment expert and life member of the IIT Alumni Association Singapore, who was instrumental in helping the Vinod Gupta School of Management (VGSoM) launch its first ever overseas immersive program in collaboration with the Singapore Management University for Final Year MBA students. Another DSA awardee was Mr Shyamal Ghosh, who has funded several student scholarships and a Faculty Chair. Mr Vijay Kiyawat, DSA awardee this year, too has been a benefactor of the Institute, with his Endowment Fund providing financial support for the medical treatment of both teaching and non-teaching staff, and contribution to student welfare The other awardees are Binod Kumar Das, Kabindra Daga, Kirttan Bihari Behera, Nirmal Kumar Agarwala, Partha Pratim Mitra and Ramit Ghosh.

The 17th Annual Alumni Meet, which is hosting the batches of 1980 and 1995, has brought close to 200 alumni to IIT Kharagpur from all over the world and all corners of the country.

By Chirosree Basu

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