INTERVIEW – PART ONE – Pradeep Khosla on His Vision for UC San Diego

Pradeep Khosla, New Chancellor of the University of California at San Diego

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Washington DC – In the first of a two part interview, India America Today has a one-to-one conversation with Pradeep Khosla just a month before he begins his tenure as the new chancellor of the University of California at San Diego on August 1. In part two, Khosla talks about his early life at IIT Kharagpur and his take on the ongoing IIT dilution controversy.

Khosla, a former IIT Kharagpur alumnus and Dean of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, spoke about the appointment to Tejinder Singh, Editor of India America Today, saying, “It feels really good…I think it’s both an honor that I was offered the position and it’s also very humbling.”

Founded in 1960, UC San Diego is ranked #1 in biosciences and biomedical, #14 in engineering, and high in science in general, noted Khosla, outlining his goal for the university “to maintain this ranking, but more importantly to increase the rankings both nationally and internationally and be known as a leading place for great education and research.”

On the issues of skyrocketing tuition fees, diversity in the student population and faculty positions, Khosla said, “Within six months of being there we will have a plan. And the way to create this plan would be to work together with the faculty, students and staff, and create a strategic plan that’s going to move us ahead over the next decade or so.”

Students from Carnegie Mellon University describe him as “terrific,” “dynamic,” and “energetic,” and Khosla wants to keep this spirit of interaction with the student body active as chancellor.

“I think as chancellor it will be extremely important that I’m connected to the students,” said Khosla, but acknowledged the logistical issues he will face, saying, “It’s also clear that given the size of the University, which is about 30,000 students, it will be nearly impossible to be connected to everybody.”

Vowing “to work a lot with various student organizations to understand their needs, to understand their aspirations, and then formulate a plan that’s going to help us all achieve their aspirations,” Khosla detailed his belief in “quality of life for students.”

“And what this means is both the quality of the education and the quality of the overall experience of being at UC San Diego. I’m going to be focusing on that also. And that would, I think, help me keep connected with the students,” said the energetic academic leader.

Regarding the current situation in the globalized skilled market where jobs are rapidly moving to areas where labor is cheapest, Khosla felt this was “a national issue in terms of this country being competitive.”

“One of our great strengths, post World War II, has been not only creating new technologies, but using those technologies to create new industries. I’m not just talking about a company or two, I’m talking about a whole industry,” said Khosla.

“Like the silicon industry was created by this country, the whole IT industry was created by this country,” he explained, highlighting that “UC San Diego already is playing a very significant and influential role in creating the biotech industry, both in the San Diego region, California and also nationally.”

Predicting an increasingly important synergy between fields, Khosla said, “The future is going to be tying engineering to health and the bio sciences in a very strong way.”

Asked his opinion on the recently proposed teaching of innovative methods to undergraduates, rather than just master’s candidates, Khosla enthusiastically supported the idea saying, “Actually, I believe that very strongly; so much so that at Carnegie Mellon I put a team of faculty together to look at reforming the undergraduate curriculum and the whole theme, the vision of that committee, was innovation across the curriculum. And starting next month, we [Carnegie Mellon] are going to implement that program.”

The visionary developments will likely be coming to UC San Diego as well, predicted Khosla, saying he will “change our undergraduate general education requirements to imbed the notion of innovation across the whole curriculum. I can very well see something of this sort being newly created with the students and faculties out there and deployed at San Diego.” 

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