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Academics Is Supposed To Be Broader And Conceptual: Manoj D'Souza

Exclusive interaction of Dr Manoj D'Souza, SJ, Executive Director of St Joseph's Institute of Management, Banglore with BW.

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How is St. Joseph’s Institute of Management different from other universities? How is your pedagogy, techniques, curriculum design unique?

We differentiate ourselves by our strong commitment to quality. We spare no expense to ensure this. We have a new, state-of-the art campus right in the heart of Bangalore’s business district, off M.G. Road. Because we invest in quality, everything in our institute – our curriculum, our pedagogy, our research, our industry interface – reflects this. And we do all this while keeping our fees reasonable; in fact, a sizable number of our students receive merit cum means scholarships from our institute. 

Is the B-school scenario changing in India? What are some significant trends? How is St. Joseph’s Institute of Management contributing to this shift?

There have been two main changes in the B-school space. One is that jobs for management students are increasingly difficult to come by. I am happy to say, however, that St. Joseph’s Institute of Management successfully placed around 95% of our students last year, with an average salary of around six lakhs, which is commendable in the current scenario. We do this through careful mentoring of our students, so that they are matched to placements that suit each student’s needs. The second development is the increasing pressure from the AICTE and other bodies for management faculty to engage in good quality research, because Indian management schools are generally wanting in this area. I must say that, in our institute, many faculty members - including myself - are contributing to extant research in a number of good quality, peer reviewed international outlets.

What are your thoughts on ‘Design Thinking - a technique for unlocking innovations’? Is it a part of your curriculum or do you plan to do so?

Design thinking is simply keeping the user at the heart of the ideation process. The concept has been around since the late 1960s, so rather than being a separate part of our curriculum, it is interwoven into our entire curriculum and other activities. Obviously, students in the marketing specialization, or those opting for entrepreneurship-related electives, have greater exposure to design thinking than our other students.

What is your flagship course and how does it impact the industry? What are your plans on expanding this unique learning model further for targeted students?

We do not believe in emphasizing certain courses over others, as this stifles the development of expertise in all the domains that the institute offers. But there are two unique learning opportunities we give our students that I would like to mention. First, we have a compulsory rural immersion programme, in which all our first-year students volunteer for nearly a week in the state’s most backward districts, experiencing life there first hand. We ask them to think about how they can apply management principles in such situations. Second, for the last two years, we have offered our students the chance to work in virtual teams with students from Seattle University USA, collaborating on a pressing current issue facing the world. About a third of our students have participated in this venture, and this has helped them think about issues from a global perspective. We are continuously innovating such learning models for our students, and the feedback has been very good. The industry appreciates that our students have holistic and contemporary business education.

There is a gap between ‘what the academia trains’ and ‘how the industry expects to perform’, how are you working towards bridging this gap?

The feedback we have got from our industry interfaces suggest that our institute does not suffer from this gap. We regularly talk to the organizations we place, as well as have several guest lectures and conclaves in collaboration with the industry – this could be why the gap in our case is not much. But let me emphasize one more aspect. Academics is also supposed to be broader and conceptual. We equip our students with a broad range of management concepts, refined by scholars over years of research and practice, so that our students can apply these concepts to a wide range of situations and industries. So, sure, when students go into a specific industry – let’s say, pharma – they might need some industry-specific training. But that’s easily imparted, and after that, the same concepts and tools we have taught them apply.

Where do you think we are leading and lagging behind in education? What sort of support do we need from our government?

We, in India, are leading in the sheer number of young people who are eager to pursue an education, and are hungry for advancement and growth. However, Indian institutes are often sadly lacking in quality of teaching, research, and student outcomes. The government and its regulatory bodies have provided a valuable framework of minimum standards to be followed, such as with regard to infrastructure and faculty pay grades. Perhaps, beyond these minimum standards, private institutes should be allowed greater autonomy, similar to that given to the IIMs, so that we have the space to innovate and respond quickly to evolving curriculum and program necessities. 

What advice will you give to the young students/professionals for success in life?

Don’t take shortcuts. If you want to pursue a career in management, study to understand concepts and tools, and then apply them with diligence in the workplace. The people who have risen to the top of management, everywhere, in every country, are those who have blended a strong conceptual base with hard work.

As the executive director, what goals have you decided for the coming 3-5 years?

I am very happy that St. Joseph’s Institute of Management was in the top 100 management institutes in the NIRF rankings last year. My goals are to build on what we have already achieved. I want us to have a pedagogy and curriculum worthy of emulation by other business schools. I want to build our faculty strengths, so that we produce better research and management development programmes. I want to find newer ways in which we can ensure that our students continue to get good placements. And finally, I want our institute to find newer and more responsive ways in which we can create socially responsible managers. 



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