Undoubtedly, university leaders must have strong leadership skills to guide their institutions through crises related to shrinking enrollments, racial bias and discrimination, sexual harassment, financial solvency, admissions issues, and other serious challenges. Yet little has been written about the need for leadership skills among faculty and academic staff members. However, strong faculty and academic staff leadership are essential for institutions to thrive in the current higher education landscape truly. Faculty and staff members are, indeed, change agents in higher education.
For Dr CV Gopinath, Registrar, Centurion University of Technology and Management (CUTM), who brings 30 years of experience, out of which 16 years were as an academic administrator of various prestigious institutes across the country, the philosophy of leadership is to include every stakeholder into the teamwork and winning everyone by conscience. He opines, “Delegate the right work to the right person and give freedom in executing the assigned work. Trust any person till they deceive”.
A B.Tech (Mechanical Engineering) graduate from GITAM University, Dr Gopinath completed his M.Tech and PhD from Andhra University. A timid boy before starting his engineering, he changed into a bold and extroverted person from his engineering education and team learning, which ultimately shaped him as a leader. He reminisces, “I became principal of an engineering college at a very young age. Working in different states like Odisha, Telangana, and Karnataka with cosmopolitan, cross-cultural students and staff transformed me as a balanced leader with a cool attitude”.
Coming from a family of teachers, Dr Gopinath always feels proud to be a teacher. He enjoys every moment of being an academic administrator and transforming thousands of budding engineers into responsible citizens of the country. “My father was my first role model naturally. Professionally Prof R.P Ranganatha Rao (Popularly called RPR sir) made an impact as a principal in my mind during my tenure in GITAM. He was so strict and at the same time so friendly with all faculty and students”, says Dr Gopinath.
Encouraging Individual Growth and Development
Starting his journey in 2007 as the Principal at CUTM, Dr Gopinath rejoined as the Registrar of CUTM Vizag Campus after a gap of 10 years. During his tenure as principal at the Paralakhemundi Campus, Dr Gopinath started many innovative concepts and ideas to improve the teaching-learning process, eventually bringing the NBA Accreditation for all engineering disciplines. He adds, “We focused more on students’ all-around development, creating more facilities for sports and cultural activities”.
Giving importance to every team member and developing hidden talents is something Dr Gopinath strongly believes in and follows through. Making every team member feel it is their priority to make the team’s common goal as their goal. Starting with interacting with all faculty members, staff, and students, Dr Gopinath conducted regular meetings with all stakeholders, including parents and people from nearby villages. CUTM is a new skill-based university, and its concept reaches every person involved with the university. Taking a proactive role with the training and placement department, Dr Gopinath saw that each student got their choice of placement by discussing with them individually and achieved 100% placements this academic year despite the pandemic.
A tech-savvy professor, Dr Gopinath always gave importance to the use the technology in education, making it easy for him as soon as the lockdown was announced. He was ready with the technology for conducting classwork as well as examinations during this period. He adds, “I regularly attend and organize conferences, workshops, and leadership development programs conducted by reputed international organizations. I try my best to implement the same in the university”.
Technology-wise, CUTM never faced any problem with the lockdown during the first wave of the pandemic. They were well-equipped in such a way that they started the classes the very next day of the lockdown announced by the government. The university was way ahead in adopting the technology for practical purposes, and they have their classwork and assessment technology for conducting online classes and examinations of students. Dr Gopinath points out, “We never lost a single working day due to the lockdown. Even during the second wave also with proper forecasting and planning, we managed the situation without any inconvenience to the students, staff, and parents”.
A Pivotal Academic Administrator
Dr Gopinath was instrumental in NBA Accreditation of School of Engineering and Technology, Centurion University, Odisha and Chaitanya Engineering College, Visakhapatnam, A.P. He has undergone training at internationally acclaimed institutes like Deloitte leadership Center in India, Academic Staff College of India, Engineering Staff College of India, and Dale Carnegie Certified Academic Leadership Program by Wipro. “I was instrumental in achieving MOUs with foreign universities like University of Perpetual Help System, DALTA, Calamba, Molino and Binyan Campuses, Philippines and BRAC University, Dhaka. I became visiting professor for the University of Perpetual Help System, DALTA, Calamba campus”, adds Dr Gopinath.
Although Dr Gopinath’s work is predominantly an administrative-kind of job, he regularly handles one or two courses per semester to hone his skills up to date and to know the pulse of students with direct interaction. He opines, “At the end of the day, you will not find any tangible output, but there will be satisfaction once you see the change of working environment and ease of doing things in the right direction”.
Chalking out the future for the university, Dr Gopinath has set the goals for CUTM for the next ten years. He is making all skill programs fully functional and at par with the industry standards in the next two years. He aspires to achieve NAAC and NBA accreditations in the next five years and reach ‘Institute of Eminence’ status by Govt. of India in the next ten years. Currently ranked 3rd in skilled universities in India, Dr Gopinath aspires to bring CUTM to the 1st position. “We are pioneers in implementing skills as part of the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) Curriculum such that students have more choices in selecting interesting courses. However, it will take another one/two years to synchronize the skills with curriculum fully”, he concludes.