Engineering Change

(Please note: This article was first published in The Goan on Saturday. You can also read the story here.)

big_4336_Leadbombay“In this day and age when new technology is unfolding every month, there is a need to catch up with development. Our challenge as an institution will be to get students who can match that rate of change,” says the newly appointed Director of St Xavier’s Technical Institute and Xavier Institute of Engineering in Mahim.

Until now, Fr Francis de Melo was the Principal of St Xavier’s Technical Institute for the past 20 years and will be promoted to a higher level this June. Why was he chosen to occupy the director’s seat? “There are not many Jesuits who’ve done engineering,” he says, adding, “And I have completed my B.Tech from IIT Bombay and Masters from Loyola-Marymount University, Los Angeles. As a Jesuit engineer I had an opportunity to take up teaching in our colleges. And that’s precisely what I did.”

In June, Fr. Francis also completes 50 years as a Jesuit. This alumnus of St. Stanislaus High School was inspired by the work undertaken by Jesuit priests to improve education, and he wanted to be like one of them. “So after two years of college I joined the religious order of Jesuits and simultaneously took up engineering.” And he believes that engineering came naturally to him.

“My dad was the secretary of the then Engineering Association of India (now CII) and hence I was familiar with this industry. Engineering was something that came naturally to me. I like mathematics and physics.” Fr. Francis was born in Goa and lived with his grandmother till the age of four. He then relocated to Mumbai where he lived with his parents in Bandra until he joined the Jesuits.

As the director, Fr. Francis will have to enhance the creativity of these institutions. “The Principals of the respective colleges will take care of academics and will ensure everything is smooth between the teachers, government and the students. They will also have to ensure that the fees are not hiked. I will now work towards building up the self-esteem of these colleges. Most importantly, I will look after the vision of the place.”

With great responsibilities, come challenges. “My key challenges will be to obtain permission from the government to put up a new building. Second, India has reached a level where it’s getting world class technology. But are we capable of creating an education that can develop the intellectual capability of a student? We need to get India at the top of the world. So we need to create an education system that will match the demands of today’s world and make our students see that they are capable of it.”

Fr. Francis has travelled across India and the world, but he has had the pleasure to teach in Mumbai. According to him, his role demands to nurture his students. He doesn’t believe in pushing his students, but instead, guide them towards achieving their goal. “Our motto is ‘The joy of excellence in a world of high technology’. We want to be at the top of technology, but without killing ourselves. If there’s no time to enjoy life and nature, there’s no point of reaching the top. Hence, the ‘joy’ of excellence,” he concludes.

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