Dr. Sushma Kulkarni: Guiding Young Intellectuals towards Excellence
Dr. Sushma Kulkarni Director Rajarambapu Institute of Technology

The story that we are going to present is of pure support. The protagonist of this story received support from her mentors, family members, and colleagues. From this point on, you will learn what happens when a male-dominated country like India supports women and let them achieve their dreams beyond the household duties. We would like you to meet Dr. Sushma Kulkarni, Director at Rajarambapu Institute of Technology (RIT), who with her commitment to education aims to empower the nation’s young boys and girls to dream big and achieve them across all the fields.

Journey to RIT

Dr. Kulkarni was born in a family with a military background. Her father was an Air Force Officer and her brother was an engineer who introduced her to the discipline of engineering. In her early childhood, she met people from diverse positions such as Station Commanders and Officers, and an aunt based in Honk Kong who worked for the United Nations. In summary, Dr. Kulkarni looked up to some responsible authorities in her childhood.

After school, she enrolled at Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology for Civil Engineering. After graduating in 1987, her life took a major turn and she got a quite different opportunity – to become a lecturer at RIT. Dr. Kulkarni had never considered a career in teaching, however, she decided to go for an interview.

Dr. Kulkarni got into the position with ease, however with one condition in her appointment letter; to complete her doctorate within five years. The institute sponsored her, and she completed the same from Shivaji University.

Once again, at RIT, she met various supportive persons to look up to. One of such was her professor M. V. Joglekar. He encouraged her to take up PhD and assisted her in selecting the research subject.

During the time of her PhD, Dr. Kulkarni was married and a mother of two. This was the most challenging phase of her life. She had to manage her family’s needs, her job, and studying for PhD. Recalling the moment, she asserts, “That was one of my life’s greatest tests. However, whatever the odds are, it is your own determination that helps you to find a way through difficulties. And I must say that whatever I am today is because of good support from my husband and mother-in-law: thanks to family, I had no worries about my children.”

Thereafter, Dr. Kulkarni loved the academic world. She loved preparing for lectures, working on course material and innovating teaching methodologies and always taking feedback from students.

As a woman, she learned to earn students’ and fellow colleagues’ trust. She learned about a woman’s abilities of patience, a comfortable approachable personality, with a special focus on mentoring and counseling.

Exhibiting Excellence

RIT was incepted in 1983 in Rajaramnagar, a city south of Mumbai. It has emerged as a leading technological institute in Western Maharashtra, through its dedicated and disciplined approach to providing quality technical education over a period of more than 35 years.

Dr. Kulkarni took charge of the institute in 2005 and in 2011, the institute received autonomy by India’s University Grants Commission and Shivaji University in Kolhapur. With this autonomy, the institute was able to design its own curriculum. Hence, the focus shifted to moving beyond the traditional classroom and it started innovative teaching methods alongside polls and feedback systems to ensure student’s overall development.

Further, the institute emphasizes on engaging students in the subjects; to not only memorize subjects but practically understand the concepts. Alongside, faculties are also motivated and encouraged to include every pupil in the course. Moreover, the institute pays special attention to evaluation and assessment. It believes in following the correct order of knowledge, understanding, analytics, and application.

Under her leadership, the introduction of changes in the curriculum, focus on R&D, industry internship, the culture of entrepreneurship development and start-up, international exposure to students, and international admissions have brought remarkable results in satisfaction and enjoyment, both for students and teachers. Consequently, RIT has been ranked among India’s top 75 private self-financed institutes in various ranking surveys.

Supporting Each Other

Dr. Kulkarni is an executive member of the Global Engineering Dean’s Council, which has over 500 deans from all over the world. She travels across the globe, meets people from a diverse set of educational disciplines, and this is what motivates her.

In her advice to fellow women, Dr. Kulkarni asks them to dream bigger and start achieving their dreams by delegating household responsibilities. To manage the home front, it is important to take members of your family into your confidence and share that what you are doing is very important for you and your career, and you value it as much you value your family. Delegate the routine, day-to-day tasks at home with domestic support. Understanding the psychology of people is essential in a leadership role,” she says.

Forthcoming Years

Dr. Kulkarni and RIT, both are moving forward to the development of students via new infrastructure. She is planning an academic building with the involvement of Active Learning Classes including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

A major focus is also inclined towards Robotics as a part of Fourth Industrial Revolution. Thirdly, the plan is to develop a center for incubation and entrepreneurship at the intstitute. Dr. Kulkarni envisions a world where people support each other. According to her, this support is what will make sense for our socio-economic transformation.

You can know more about Dr. Kulkarni and the institution by visiting: https://www.ritindia.edu/

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