Houston: On July 2nd 2021, the Odisha Society of the Americas (OSA) hosted the webinar on Higher Education in Odisha on “Taking a Quantum Leap on Higher Education for Universities of Odisha and how the OSA community can help.” during its 52nd annual convention held in Houston, Texas.
By welcoming the panelists and organizers President of OSA Kuku Das outlined the fivefold initiatives that OSA is working on. They are, (i) to create an international pool of faculty /researchers and facilitate placement of faculties and research scholars at various universities; (ii) Foster international students/visitors/research-scholar exchange programs; (iii) Strengthen and help build an alumni network at various Universities in Odisha; (iv) Recommend to OSHEC for formation of an External Advisory for long-term goal setting of the universities; and (v) Foster industry/ universities/Government collaboration by setting up innovation /incubation centers and assisting in funding programs.
OSA President-Elect Mr. Gyana Patnaik strongly supported the higher education initiatives of OSA and suggested that an exchange of ideas through continuous discussion is required for the advancement of Higher Education in Odisha and a mechanism should be developed so that the successful faculty members in OSA community can collaborate with faculties in Odisha universities to further advance the research and academic activities.
Prof. Durgamadhab Misra of New Jersey Institute of Technology emphasized the international exchange programs with US universities. He is working with his university administration to facilitate and subsidize the exchange programs. He also mentioned about the strong digital infrastructure for the universities and up to date university websites describing the research activities of faculty of universities of Odisha. Dr. Ajaya Mohanty of Deloitte & Touche mentioned a quote from Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” He also mentioned that the OSA community is genuinely interested to help the advancement of Odisha higher education system. Then he introduced the panelists, Prof. Prasant Mohapatra, University of California, Davis, Prof. Kishore Kumar Basa, Vice-Chancellor, Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanja Deo University, Prof. Sanjay K. Nayak, VC, Ravenshaw University, Prof. Sabita Acharya, Vice-Chancellor, Utkal University and Prof. Asoka Das, Vice-Chairman of Odisha State Higher Education Council and moderated the panel.
In his address Prof. Prasant Mohapatra talked about the OSA Higher Education and Research Team (OSA-HEART) and how a strong interaction is possible via the OSA website to facilitate research webinars and training programs for academic leaders of Odisha. By leveraging the experience, knowledge and expertise of OSA professionals in higher education from academics, national labs and industry to benefit Odisha universities through targeted workshops/symposiums on emerging areas of importance, exchange programs, remote mentoring of young faculty and students and advising in strategic planning for Odisha institutions (External Advisory Board). It must be a two-way street to create partnerships. Dr. Anil Patnaik demonstrated the website for interaction.
Prof. Basa mentioned that research in universities in Odisha should have global vision with local context and facilitate the individual excellence. Building a Center of Excellence in Tribal and Forest Studies will have global impact while helping the local needs. He recommended that OSA should assist in bringing the scientists and researchers for international collaboration and funding and help the students to find internship and research in the United States. Since hybrid learning will be the norm of the future a 20-year plan on teaching and learning along with institutional governance needs to be developed. He also suggested to develop joint courses using the local and international faculty.
Prof. Sanjay Nayak of Ravenshaw University (RU) welcomed the RU-OSA partnership and plans to have a RU-OSA Advanced Research Center to have joint interdisciplinary research and allow the public intellectuals and policy activists to foster strong collaboration with industry and with top international academic institutions. It will help in upscaling and rescaling of higher education and develop international exchange of faculty and students and start dual MS and PhD programs through MOUs. He also emphasized a strong collaboration with industry in various research areas and develop a startup culture at RU. A vibrant dynamic website will be lunched by July 31st, 2021, and campus-wide Wi-Fi will be available by the end of September 2021. Many new programs especially in skill development will be added.
Prof. Sabita Acharya of Utkal University outlined the recent developments in the university such as digital infrastructure for hybrid model of education and extension of WiFi facilities to all departments are being worked out. E-Pathasala for +3 programs and E-Governance has been implemented and a new website with all the information is being lunched. An industry-university interaction cell is being set up to go beyond the individual level contacts and student projects. Utkal Entrepreneur and Career hub is established under RUSA program to foster entrepreneurship. Eleven Centers of Excellence are recruiting national and international adjunct faculty and working on acquiring funds for sustainability. In the research front she mentioned that 20 post-docs are currently working and an external advisory board for research is being formed. She welcomed the collaboration with OSA by constituting a pool of visiting faculty, facilitating the post-doctoral and PhD level research and enhance the industry collaborations through the Center for Innovation and Incubation.
Prof. Asoka Das, Vice-Chairman of Odisha State Higher Education Council, mentioned that OSA can help in curricular reforms in post-graduate and pre-doctoral courses and foster industry collaborations which is not very strong now. The major collaboration should be research and OSA’s research community can mentor and interact with young faculty to take their research to a new height and get larger proposals funded. The OSA community can work with the mentors of the Centers of Excellence to come up with new projects and international level experiments. He also requested the OSA community to set up a memorial section in libraries and take advantage of the academic visitor programs.
Prof. Raja Kumar, Director of IIIT Bhubaneswar also participated and addressed the audience. He mentioned that high standard and sustainable growth is important. He suggested that a champion in various universities should be empowered take the leadership role to establishing and facilitating the international collaborations. Prof. Chakrapani, VC of Berhampur University also addressed the audience and suggested that the universities should take advantage of various central government schemes such as VAJRA to foster the international collaborations.
Dr. Ajaya Mohanty concluded the seminar in a positive note that OSA community is in standby to assist in anyway possible and gave a vote of thanks.