Dr. S. K. Ukarande, Principal, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Technology (KJSIT)

In the bustling city of Mumbai, where dreams take shape and aspirations soar high, there exists a luminary whose leadership has left an indelible mark on the landscape of engineering education. Meet Dr. S. K. Ukarande, an esteemed figure in the field, currently serving as the Principal of the esteemed   in Sion and the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science & Technology at the prestigious University of Mumbai (UoM).

“To shape young minds, ignite curiosity, and empower individuals to reach their full potential is what I cherish, and that is how my journey started,” reflects Dr. Ukarande. With an illustrious academic background, he obtained his undergraduate degree from the esteemed College of Engineering, Pune, before pursuing a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the renowned IIT Bombay. Armed with knowledge and a passion for imparting quality education, he embarked on a journey that would span over three decades, leaving an indelible impact on countless lives.

His unwavering dedication and expertise have earned him numerous accolades and positions of distinction within the education community. “To me, leadership means not only guiding an institution but also actively contributing to the growth and development of the engineering education ecosystem,” shares Dr. Ukarande. As the Principal of engineering colleges affiliated with the University of Mumbai for over 20 years, he has contributed significantly to the development and growth of these institutions. Moreover, his leadership roles as the Dean, Faculty of Technology and Dean, Faculty of Science & Technology at the University of Mumbai have further cemented his influence in shaping academic policies and institutional advancements.

“Awards and recognition serve as a testament to the collective efforts of the institution and the individuals who work tirelessly to achieve excellence,” humbly acknowledges Dr. Ukarande. Noteworthy among his accolades are the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan National Award for Best Engineering College Principal (2018-19) by ISTE, the Best Principal of the Year Award (2018-19) by the Computer Society of India (CSI) – Mumbai Chapter, and the Best Engineering College Principal Award (2016-17) by ISTE – Maharashtra and Goa Section.

At the helm of K. J. Somaiya Institute of Technology (KJSIT), Dr. Ukarande combines his visionary leadership with the institution’s commitment to delivering the highest standards of academic excellence. Guided by the motto “Knowledge alone Liberates” set by the founder, Padmabhushan (Late) Pujya Shri Karamshibhai J. Somaiya, he aims to shape young minds, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and inspire innovation.

“Together, we can create a significant change and empower individuals to make a positive impact on society,” opines Dr. Ukarande. His dedication to empowering individuals and driving societal progress through education shines as a beacon of hope and transformation in the ever-evolving field of engineering education. In the words of Dr. Ukarande, “The true essence of leadership lies in shaping the minds of the next generation, fostering innovation, and creating a positive impact on society.” With his visionary leadership, unwavering commitment, and remarkable achievements, Dr. S. K. Ukarande continues to inspire and elevate the field of engineering education, leaving an indelible legacy for generations to come.

Empowering Innovation and Holistic Development in Engineering Education

“For a leader, it is crucial to embrace and cater to the changing needs of today’s technological generation,” emphasizes Dr. Ukarande. “I am happy to have taken several initiatives for the holistic development of students, faculties, and contribution to society.”

One of the major initiatives Dr. Ukarande has spearheaded is the establishment of a vibrant “learning by doing” ecosystem through the implementation of Project-Based Learning (PBL). This approach addresses societal and industrial need-based problems, providing students with practical experience and real-world applications. Additionally, the institute has introduced Skill-Based Learning (SBL), Activity-Based Learning (ABL), and Technology-Based Learning (TBL) courses. These courses focus on developing graduate attributes such as work responsibilities towards society, problem-solving ability, communication skills, motivation for lifelong learning, leadership, and teamwork.

To foster innovation, startup culture, and entrepreneurship, he has taken several initiatives. “We have established the Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC) under the directions of the Ministry of Education’s Innovation Cell (MIC),” shares Dr. Ukarande. “We have also formulated the National Innovation & Start-up Policy (NISP) and established an extension center of SVV’s Research Innovation Incubation Design Lab (RiiDL).” These efforts provide a platform for students to explore their entrepreneurial spirit and transform innovative ideas into impactful ventures.

Furthermore, the institute has established various clubs and cells to promote technological development and extension activities. These include the Rethinking Engineering Designing and Execution – Artificial Intelligence Club (REDX-AI), Developer Students’ Club, New Leap Initiative club, and the Centre for University of Mumbai’s Department of Life Long Learning and Extension (DLLE). These platforms encourage students to enhance their technical skills, engage in cutting-edge research, and contribute to societal development.

Achievements and Recognition: Fostering Excellence in Engineering Education

Under Dr. Ukarande’s visionary leadership, KJSIT has received numerous awards and accolades at the state and national levels. “These recognitions are a testament to the collective efforts of the Somaiya management, faculties, staff, students, alumni, and all the stakeholders of KJSIT,” acknowledges Dr. Ukarande. Some notable awards include the Best College Award (2018-19) in the Urban Region by the University of Mumbai, Outstanding College Award (2020-21) by Somaiya Vidyavihar, Best Institute of the Year Award (2017-18) by the Computer Society of India (CSI) – Mumbai Chapter, and Best Engineering College Award (2017-18) by the ISTE Maharashtra & Goa Section.

His unwavering commitment to excellence and his collaborative approach has played a pivotal role in KJSIT’s achievements. With the support and contributions of the Somaiya management, faculties, staff, students, alumni, and all stakeholders, he continues to lead the institution towards its desired vision and mission, making a lasting impact in the field of engineering education.

“With my experience, I have been able to establish several platforms for collaboration between academia and industry,” says Dr. Ukarande. Recognizing the importance of understanding changing industry trends, he has created avenues that facilitate joint research projects, technology transfer, international conferences, internships, and student and faculty development programs conducted by industry experts.

To ensure a strong connection between academia and industry, Dr. Ukarande has formed an Industry Advisory Board comprising leaders, experts, and alumni from various industries. This board plays a crucial role in curriculum development, providing insights into industry trends and job market demands. Additionally, internships have been integrated into the curriculum, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared and industry-ready.

By fostering collaboration between academia and industry, he aims to promote research and innovation and meet the demands of the rapidly evolving job market. KJSIT’s strong industry interaction has been recognized, and the institute has achieved the prestigious Platinum Category ranking in the All India Council for Technical Education and Confederation of Indian Industries (AICTE-CII) Survey of Industry-Linked Technical Institutes.

One of the significant achievements of KJSIT under Dr. Ukarande’s leadership is the conferment of Autonomous Status for 10 years from A.Y. 2021-22 by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the University of Mumbai. This recognition highlights the institute’s commitment to academic excellence and administrative autonomy.

Furthermore, KJSIT has been awarded an ‘A’ grade with a 3.21 CGPA by the National Assessment & Accreditation Council (NAAC) for two cycles of accreditation from 2017 to 2026. The institute has also received accreditation from the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) for 04 programs, including two cycles of accreditation for Computer Engineering and Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering, as well as first cycle for Information Technology and Electronics Engineering.

The Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC) of KJSIT has consistently been recognized as a top-performing IIC in the Western Zone and has achieved national-level recognition in the Annual IIC Ratings conducted by the Ministry of Education’s Innovation Cell (MIC) since 2018-19.

In national rankings, KJSIT has made its mark. The institute was placed in the Rank Band 251-300 in the NIRF – India Rankings 2020 conducted by the Ministry of Education (MoE) among engineering institutes across the country. In NIRF – India Rankings 2023, KJSIT was positioned in the Rank Band 51-100 in the Innovation Category. Additionally, in the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) by the MoE and AICTE, KJSIT was placed in Rank Band ‘B’ for 2019-20 and recognized as a ‘Performer’ for 2020-21 in the category of Private/Self-Financed Institutes.

Dr. Ukarande acknowledges the support of the Somaiya management, forward-thinking leadership, and the inclusive approach to fostering innovation through education. These elements have been instrumental in the institute’s remarkable accomplishments and its commitment to creating a dynamic and impactful learning environment.

Driving Curriculum Reforms and Examination Excellence: Empowering Students for Success

“I am proud to have driven three revisions in the curriculum for Engineering, Pharmacy, MCA, and Architecture programs at the University of Mumbai as Rev. 2012, Rev. 2016, and Rev. 2019,” says Dr. Ukarande. His leadership has led to significant changes in the curriculum, starting with the introduction of the Credit and Grading System in the year 2012-13 for the first time in University of Mumbai, followed by the implementation of the Choice-based Credit and Grading System in the year 2016-17 with Project-Based Learning and increased elective courses at the institute as well as department levels.  Further, the recent revision in 2019-20 incorporates Project-Based Learning from Second Year of engineering, Skill-based Learning, incorporation of Online Contents from SWAYAM Platform, and more.

These curriculum revisions have embraced Outcome-based Education (OBE), emphasizing active engagement, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. He believes in empowering students to demonstrate mastery of the intended learning outcomes and promoting transparency in education. The OBE-based curriculum ensures that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies to succeed in their chosen fields and adapt to the rapidly changing world.

In addition, Dr. Ukarande has spearheaded the introduction of 18 Honours and Minor Degree Programs at the University of Mumbai in emerging areas of technology, recognized by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). These programs offer students additional credits, specialization in their chosen domains, job-ready skills, and multidisciplinary knowledge.

Dr. Ukarande’s contributions extend beyond curriculum revisions. He has served as a member of the committee appointed by the University of Mumbai to prepare the proposal for the School of Engineering and Sciences at the UoM Sub-Center located in Kalyan. He has also played a pivotal role in the inception of new courses at the School of Engineering and Sciences, including M.Tech. programs in Computer Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Transportation Engineering, and others in the Science discipline.

In his role as the Dean at the University of Mumbai, Dr. Ukarande is committed to keeping the curriculum relevant and adaptable. His aim is to ensure that graduates and postgraduates are well-prepared to tackle emerging challenges through research and innovation, making significant contributions to society.

“I strongly believe in ensuring precision and transparency in the evaluation process,” affirms Dr. Ukarande. At the University of Mumbai (UoM), he strongly supported the Vice-Chancellor for implementing examination reforms to enhance the credibility of the evaluation process and ensure the timely declaration of results to students. His aim has been to contribute to a fair, faster, and more accurate evaluation system.

During his tenure as the Dean, and under the able guidance of the then Vice-Chancellor Dr. Rajan Welukar, several examination reforms have been introduced at UoM. These reforms include the implementation of online assessment, moderation, and revaluation of answer sheets at the university level. This ensures a standardized and unbiased evaluation process. Additionally, the confidential e-delivery of university exam question papers has been implemented to maintain the integrity of the examination process during his tenure.

Promoting Research and Innovation: Cultivating a Culture of Excellence at the University of Mumbai

Dr. Ukarande has been instrumental in promoting research through the establishment of various research centers across affiliated colleges at the University of Mumbai (UoM). Initially, only two colleges had research centers, but during his tenure as the Dean, the number of research centers and the intake capacity has continued to grow to meet the evolving needs of the educational system. Currently, there are approximately 50+ research centers in 25 colleges affiliated with UoM, offering around 800 seats in various specializations. This expansion has led to the conferment of over 300+ doctorate degrees, highlighting the significant contribution of these research centers to the field of higher education and research.

In addition to research centers, Dr. Ukarande has also taken initiatives to promote robotics in the education domain. He organized several workshops for faculty and students of engineering colleges affiliated with UoM, focusing on robotics and leveraging the e-Yantra initiative. e-Yantra is a robotics-focused educational outreach initiative of IIT Bombay, funded by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT). The aim of these workshops was to share embedded systems domain knowledge and the hardware developed at IIT Bombay with faculties, empowering them to solve real-world problems related to robotics.

Through these efforts, Dr. Ukarande has fostered a research-oriented culture and promoted innovation in higher education, providing valuable opportunities for faculty and students to engage in cutting-edge research and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their respective fields.

Harnessing the Power of Technology and Collaboration

Dr. Ukarande has recognized the transformative benefits of integrating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education. During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, he successfully supervised the conduction of online examinations and evaluations using ICT across all engineering institutes affiliated with the University of Mumbai under the able guidance of the Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor, and Dr. Ajay Bhamare – Dean, Faculty of Commerce and Management at the University of Mumbai. This smooth and effective transition to online platforms demonstrated the institution’s adaptability and commitment to ensuring continuous learning for students.

At KJSIT, Dr. Ukarande has championed an ICT-integrated pedagogy, leveraging online teaching and learning through Learning Management Systems (LMS), Virtual Labs, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as SWAYAM. This integration of technology has enhanced the learning experience and provided students with access to a wide range of educational resources.

Recognizing the importance of efficient data management, Dr. Ukarande has mentored the development of various automation software within the institute. These in-house developed software, including Student Information Management System, Event Management System, E-Transcript portal, Examiner Appointment System, Placement Information Management System, and Faculty Profile Management System, have streamlined administrative processes and accelerated decision-making.

Dr. Ukarande has also fostered collaborations with various industries, government organizations, private companies, and NGOs, creating a symbiotic relationship that benefits both KJSIT and the collaborating organizations. These collaborations have facilitated software development, consultancy, joint educational activities, and research projects to address real-world challenges. Partnerships with organizations such as the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Godavari Biorefineries Ltd., Tata Power, IBM, and Michigan State University have provided a shared pool of expertise and contributed to high-quality research publications.

Notable collaborations include the development of the “Heatwave Watch System” in partnership with IMD, aimed at benefiting both the organization and society at large. KJSIT has also developed the “ISTE Membership Portal,” launched by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra State during the Indian Society for Technical Education’s 50th National Annual Convention Award Function.

Furthermore, KJSIT has established MoUs with over 40 companies for internships, placements, student and faculty development programs led by industry experts, as well as initiatives to promote innovation, entrepreneurship, and start-ups. The institution has even established an IBM Centre of Education (ICE) to offer value-added courses to students, combining academic expertise with industrial knowledge to enhance the relevance and applicability of research outcomes and promote high-quality research and development aligned with industry needs.

Unleashing the Power of Research, Education, and Innovation

KJSIT is committed to making significant contributions to research and innovation in emerging areas of technology. By focusing on scientific breakthroughs, technological advancements, and the development of new ideas, the institution aims to improve various sectors such as health services, agriculture, climate, and education. These efforts contribute to scientific progress, economic development, and the overall improvement of quality of life for individuals and society as a whole.

In addition to research and innovation, KJSIT places great importance on providing high-quality education and promoting lifelong learning. By imparting knowledge and skills to its students, the institution aims to create a skilled workforce that understands its social responsibility and actively contributes to society. Through community initiatives and efforts toward social change, KJSIT aims to foster a sense of social responsibility and engagement among its students.

Under the conferred autonomy, the curriculum offered by KJSIT is designed to meet the demands of the rapidly changing industry and equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in their chosen fields. The diverse exposures and practical experiences provided by KJSIT contribute to shaping the next generation of leaders and professionals.

As part of its future plans, KJSIT intends to establish Centers of Excellence in domains such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Cyber Security. These centers will concentrate expertise and facilitate the development of innovative solutions, exploration of cutting-edge technologies, and provision of specialized services. Additionally, the institution plans to establish an industry-mentored Idea Lab to promote research and innovation aligned with the requirements of Industry 4.0.

KJSIT also intends to undertake more major research projects aimed at developing sustainable solutions to real-world problems. Collaborations with national and international organizations will be sought for joint research endeavors, and the institution plans to apply for research grants from funding bodies such as the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and others.

Aligned with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, KJSIT has planned many more initiatives for its overall development and the development of the educational system in India. These initiatives are aimed at promoting excellence, fostering innovation, and contributing to the nation’s progress.

Nurturing Visionary Leadership and Ethical Values

Dr. Ukarande, a visionary leader in education, has always emphasized the importance of leading by example and embodying the values and ethics one seeks to promote. He firmly believes that leaders should demonstrate integrity, accountability, and ethical decision-making in their actions and interactions, stating, “Leaders should walk the talk and demonstrate integrity, accountability, and ethical decision-making.” With this philosophy in mind, he has played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape at KJSIT and beyond.

Under Dr. Ukarande’s guidance, KJSIT has fostered an inclusive and supportive environment, providing equal opportunities for growth and development to all team members. He understands that by creating an environment where everyone has a chance to thrive, the organization as a whole flourishes. Dr. Ukarande states, “When we foster an environment of inclusivity, the organization thrives and values and professionalism soar high.” This commitment to inclusivity has not only nurtured the talents of the team but has also instilled strong values and ethics in the younger generation.

Looking towards the future of higher technical education, Dr. Ukarande envisions a dynamic and interdisciplinary approach that integrates emerging fields such as AI, IoT, and Robotics. He believes that blending traditional and online learning, personalizing education, and emphasizing continuous skill development are essential to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving job market. He wisely states, “Interdisciplinary approaches and the integration of emerging fields will shape the future of education.”

Collaboration with industries and international organizations is another key aspect of Dr. Ukarande’s strategic approach. He understands that partnerships enrich the educational experience and foster innovation. He emphasizes, “Collaborating with industries and international organizations enriches the educational experience and fosters innovation.” By aligning programs with industry needs, providing applied learning opportunities, and nurturing entrepreneurship, KJSIT prepares students to thrive in a globalized world.

As KJSIT strives to become a role model for institutes across the nation, Dr. Ukarande believes in the efficient execution of neoteric educational practices with hi-tech wizardry. He emphasizes, “Efficient execution of neoteric educational practices with hi-tech wizardry sets us apart as a role model for institutes across the nation.” By staying at the forefront of technological advancements, facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations, and mentoring other institutions, KJSIT aims to shape the future of higher technical education and make a significant impact on society.

With Dr. Ukarande’s visionary leadership, KJSIT is committed to empowering individuals with skills, knowledge, and an innovative mindset. As he rightly puts it, “Education should empower individuals with skills, knowledge, and an innovative mindset.” Through strategic planning, the implementation of cutting-edge educational practices, and a strong emphasis on values and ethics, KJSIT is dedicated to preparing the next generation of leaders and professionals who will contribute positively to society and create a brighter future for all.

For More Info: https://kjsit.somaiya.edu.in/en

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