Osmania University, in its 106 chequered history, has witnessed many academic, social and political activities. However, the setting up of a Human Capital Development Centre (HCDC) to improve students’ soft skills and personality development has created a refreshing buzz on the campus. In this exclusive interview, the Dean of Social Studies and Head of the Journalism & Communication Department of the University College of Arts & Social Sciences and, until recently, the HCDC Director, Prof. K. Stevenson, explains the novel initiative.
What is the objective of forming HCDC?
This was one area where academic intervention was necessary. Vice-Chancellor D. Ravinder’s idea was to have a finishing school for our students to sharpen their skills to make them ready for the industry, guide them towards better careers, help them get admissions into international universities, train them in research work and in taking exams like IELTS – International English Language Testing System and the likes.
In general, what are skills being taught?
It starts with how to introduce oneself, prepare for interviews, write bio-data, and participate in a group discussion through mock sessions. We have also had popular sessions on using the internet, ChatGPT, planning a research project, dissertation, methodology, making footnotes, copyright violations, plagiarism, etc. There was an overwhelming response to the session on cracking the NET (National Eligibility Test) for teacher recruitment. We have been taking the help of professionals and non-governmental organisations for the sessions
How have the students taken to the concept?
It has been heartening. A majority of students in the campus colleges are first-generation graduates, and naturally, their focus is on competitive exams for government jobs. But there is a significant number even among them who have been enthusiastic about our programmes. At times, we have had to hold extra classroom sessions and put in more chairs to accommodate them. A few classes were also held in Nizam College. Most students, though, are not aware of the industry requirements.
Are the sessions open for all or is there a criteria?
Ideally, students should be evaluated for their competence and divided into groups so that the sessions can be tailored accordingly. But, again, due to various constraints, we are permitting anyone interested in learning new skills to join. We have had instances where those from affiliated colleges outside and faculty members, too, showed up to our pleasant surprise. The first job mela held last year was a huge hit with all science students getting placements.
How do you see HCDC developing in the years to come?
A beginning has been made, and it is clear students are ready to embrace meaningful programmes. We have been able to make a mark as it has caught the imagination of the entire university. If two credits (30 hours) are made mandatory for students, it will be of great help to them. The centre can aspire to become an official testing centre for IELTS and other such tests because our students are forced to travel long distances to take such examinations. A nominal fee can be charged to make it self-sustaining and expand services.
After a distinguished teaching career of three decades, how do you view the journalism education scenario?
State universities are obviously hamstrung due to the rigid structures, fund crunch, lack of recruitment, and not having the latest infrastructure. Yet, the Journalism Department successfully transitioned from print-media-only to television, public relations, advertising, and digital media by fine-tuning the curricula catering to all students. Our students are everywhere. It has been a gratifying experience, and time just flew!