Dr. Satish Kandlikar, Gleason Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is the recipient of the 2020 Isaac L. Jordan Sr. Faculty Pluralism Award. It is given each year to an RIT faculty member who enhances diversity and inclusion. Isaac L. Jordan Sr. was RIT’s first chairperson of the Commission for Promoting Pluralism and led by example. Kandlikar said he is humbled by this award.
1) You are an exceptional educator. Close to 40 of your 45 years in the profession have been spent at RIT. To what do you attribute your longevity? Why do you still get a "kick" out of teaching others?
I am surprised that 40 years have gone by, yet everything here looks so fresh and exciting to me every day. By working with the students, I enjoy the learning – the joy when we get it and are able to present it in a new way that amplifies the joy of discovery. The way I see it is that we work together to understand new phenomena and apply the knowledge to achieve something that propels us forward on a new paradigm. I found that if you love your students and their inherent attributes, they will reward you with unbelievable outcomes.
2) You established several programs that expose students to the world of engineering, including a new project you are developing called TinkerEng Lab. How do you come up with such interesting programs and projects? Do you see a need and then seek to fill it?
The answer is rather simple – I feel almost obsessed with serving the students in a way that will keep them excited and engaged. At the same time, I realize that we are granted this privileged position to work with young minds in an academic setting. To this end, I want to extend such opportunities to other faculty members who can contribute as well as revel in the success of the students. With the changes imposed by the Pandemic on academic structure, the TinkerEng lab project was modified and a new initiative has been started. It is organized by an ALAANA student group under the ECCO initiative with guidance provided by Venessa Mitchell. The group Pride to Explore – An ECCO Initiative will offer zoom sessions to their members as well as other RIT community programs with technical, professional and societal context. This initiative will provide a platform for the students to develop leadership skills and take charge of their career paths with a strong commitment to foster pride, commitment, peace, harmony and excellence. Our lab will provide the support in organizing these events and later transition into a showcase platform for the TinkerEng projects when we return to a more normal academic schedule.
3) Was there a special teacher you had, as a child or teenager, who influenced your decision to become an educator? What was it that led you to this profession?
Upon retrospect, I think my parents had the most influence. My mother made us learn through encouragement as well as sacrifices, while my father was most influential through his quiet and loving support and encouragement. I love conducting research, sharing results, and writing. To me, it is more important to help others than isolating myself – my office door is always open for anyone who wants to talk to me.
4) What advice would you give to young educators, just starting out, to inspire them?
Learning is the essence of our quest, and believing in yourself and others is the key to success.