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Vedula Leads International Engineering Program

Organization Improves Higher Education for Engineers

Prof. Jan Helge, left, Virginia Tech University, and Dr. N. R. Shetty, president of the Indian Society for Technical Education, join Krishna Vedula in planning for engineering education. 

By Sandra Seitz

Krishna Vedula has a grand vision for the role of engineering education in creating a better world.

“Many problems are susceptible to technology solutions, to make the world a better place for human beings,” he says. “If we can make education available everywhere, motivated students can move forward on their own -- better talent leads to better development and problem solutions.”

Vedula, special assistant to the Provost for international programs, is not one to let a vision wither on the vine. He is the founder and executive director of the Indo-US Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE), a rapidly expanding program to improve engineering education in India.

“India is the world’s largest democracy and the U.S. is the world’s most advanced democracy,” Vedula says, in describing the educational collaboration between the two countries. “In the U.S., we have enormous capacity to produce engineering Ph.D. graduates -- most of them international students -- and the rest of the world has a great thirst for that education.”

India, with its 2,000 or more engineering colleges and more than 600,000 bachelor’s degrees awarded annually, has only 5,000 professors with Ph.D. degrees. Reaching those professors with advanced content and pedagogical training is key to improving engineering education broadly.

The first step of the IUCEE was to establish summer institutes for engineering faculty in India in a train-the-trainer model, using renowned U.S. faculty and industry experts. In two years, more than 45 intense, weeklong workshops in content and leadership have been offered, reaching more than 600 Indian engineering faculty. To follow up, IUCEE is establishing regional Centers of Excellence, where Indian faculty will train others.

Early funding has been provided by Desh Despande, entrepreneur and chairman of Sycamore Networks, and N. Narayana Murthy, industrialist and co-founder of Infosys Technologies.

The next step for IUCEE is to establish networks between Indian and U.S. universities for closer collaboration.

“Through articulation agreements, we can establish research mentoring for joint Ph.D. programs that will improve the quality and quantity of research,” says Vedula. “A top faculty researcher here can take on supervision of a Ph.D. candidate in India, who can spend some months on campus here as a visiting scholar.”

While Vedula shepherds the scale-up of IUCEE initiatives, he simultaneously is presenting the model to other interested groups. In September and October, he held discussions in Colombia, Brazil and China. He is also president-elect of the International Federation for Engineering Education Societies, an initiative by the American Society of Engineering Education to foster improved higher education globally.

“Engineering is a creative profession,” says Vedula. “We use our understanding of nature to create something new, within the constraints of society.”