In Focus: A Sustainability Dialogue with Jessica Seddon

In Focus: A Sustainability Dialogue with Jessica Seddon

In an exclusive conversation for The Krea Communiqué, Jessica Seddon, Member of the Academic Advisory Board at Krea, a Senior Fellow at World Resource Institute and a Senior Fellow at Yale University, shares her interpretation of sustainability and how it’s driven by human dynamics intertwined with social and political landscapes and economic strategies. Jessica  takes us through work on environmental governance and around ‘Air’-a globally shared commons that affects nearly everything we care about. Underneath all these she is deeply focused on the reasons why humans and groups of humans make the choices that they do, particularly with respect to the non-human environment. That has always been her interest – and the latest manifestation of that is air quality and climate change.

She also navigates us through her environmental journey, right from the seeds sown in her childhood as she grew up in the middle of words and fields and with a family that was very connected to the environment around. Further leading to her conscious embarking on the path in her junior year at college and successive milestones that punctuate her journey.

In reference to the mammoth task that awaits the future generation and how we could groom them to be sustainability-sensitive and conscious citizens, Jessica adds, “I think they are. I don’t think we’re in any position to groom them – we should be in more of a position to be embarrassed that we’ve left so much to them to solve.”

Jessica, when you think of the word, Sustainability, what is the first thing/word that comes to your mind?

Contentment is the first word that comes to mind. Things can only be sustainable – in the sense that they can be carried on for an indefinite period of time without much change if people do not want.

Having said that, sustainability continues to be misconstrued -over time – to mean only ecology, and hence the initiatives have been skewed. How can we attempt to engage with it more holistically in a way that it includes the environment, social and political landscapes that we inhabit?

I would say, thankfully, that this has been changing for the past decade or so. Sustainability is at times thought of in ecological terms as a kind of indefinite carrying capacity – that the present species, surroundings, etc can carry on without shifting suddenly to a new state. However, the role of humans in driving these changes – this lack of environmental sustainability – has been pretty clear for a while and the drivers have also been pretty clear. Those drivers are deeply intertwined with social and political landscapes, not to mention economic strategies.

I think it would be very hard to find somebody who would define sustainability without some kind of reference to human dynamics at this point.

WRI develops practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive. Tell us a little bit about your focus areas in the now.

Right now I’m actually only part-time at WRI. I’m a senior fellow there and I focus on air – the lower atmosphere that shapes our health, our ecosystems health, and climate. I also teach environmental governance at Yale, where I am a senior fellow at the Jackson School of global affairs. Environmental governance is basically the study, practice, and experimentation of how we can steer the human and non-human systems around us toward better – perhaps you could say more sustainable – outcomes.

I could go on and on about the air because it basically is a globally shared commons that affects nearly everything we care about – from our health, to crop yields and food security, to storm intensity, to the productivity of renewable energy, to much more. And nearly everything we do – from moving around to cooking to producing to growing food affects it.

But I think underneath that I am focused on the reasons why humans and groups of humans make the choices that they do, particularly with respect to the non-human environment. That has always been my interest – and the latest manifestation of that is air quality and climate change.

Personally speaking, when did you embark on this journey towards sustainability? Growing up, what was your relationship with nature?

I grew up in a rural area in Vermont just below the Canadian border. So in many senses I grew up in nature – in the middle of the woods, fields, and with a family that was very connected to the environment around us.

I only really consciously embarked on an environmental journey in my junior year of college, when I considered becoming an earth sciences major. I ended up not changing at that point but I always did try to work in some understanding about the economics and politics of our species’ relationship with the rest of the environment – not to mention differences in cultural understandings. I was able to collaborate in the mid 2000s with a climate scientist named V Ramanathan and write a few papers about policies toward air pollutants that also affect climate. So in some sense my formal professional environmental career began then.

Do global sustainable initiatives deepen the divide on the planet? The impact of climate change the world is facing today, is fundamentally the result of advanced economies who have now shifted negotiations away from historic responsibility or climate debt to current emissions levels. In fact many of them are outsourcing emissions to developing countries through trade; how can climate finance and policies become more holistic and equitable?

I would hesitate to lump all global sustainability initiatives in one bucket. Some do deepen the economic divide, others try to address it. And you are implicitly speaking about carbon emissions being outsourced – but pollution footprints are actually growing faster than carbon footprints. It’s not just trade it’s also production decisions and The supply chain evolution before covid.

I don’t think there’s really a simple answer about how climate and finance policies can become more holistic and equitable – and I think at the root of both of those things, both of those policy areas, are public expectations and acceptance. Which brings me back to this point of contentment. We’re not going to get very far on holistic and equitable policy and finance until we recognize that the ways of life that are extracting more than the planet can bear are driven by want. I mean want in the sense of both need and the more luxurious version of just greed.

We have been constantly discussing how sustainability is a real work-in-progress. Would you agree?


How much do our individual everyday actions contribute to a collective impact? Can they – if at all – offset the large, environmental footprint of the major industries and the large corporations?

Well – I think the environmental footprint of the major industry is a large corporations wouldn’t really exist unless we used and consumed what the industries and corporations produced. That said, many of the choices about how to produce and what kind of environmental footprint is absolutely necessary to meet demand are not individual decisions and so it is unfair to put everything on individual actions.

It takes working together and seeing the goals in new ways.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. We are almost halfway through. How much progress has the world achieved towards peace and prosperity for people and the planet?

Sadly – I’m not sure how much. In many ways, we seem to have regressed.

And finally, how can we groom the next generation to be sustainability-sensitive and conscious citizens?

I think they are. I don’t think we’re in any position to groom them – we should be in more of a position to be embarrassed that we’ve left so much to them to solve.

Future Forward: A Journey in Sustainability by Anita Arjundas

Future Forward: A Journey in Sustainability by Anita Arjundas

As the world re-imagines its ways and moves towards a more sustainable future, how do career roles evolve in these new contexts? While sustainability no longer stands detached from any career role, young graduates are consciously exploring pathways to be sustainable leaders and champions, working towards a resilient global system in collaboration with corporates and bodies of governance.

The Communications Team reached out to Anita Arjundas, Member of the Executive Committee at Krea University and also Member, Board of Management, an entrepreneurial leader who is passionate about sustainable development, with a request to share her journey in the Sustainability space and her perspective on how the rapidly evolving world today unravels challenges and opportunities for young aspirants in building a career in sustainability outside of research institutions, policy think tanks and grassroot organisations. 

From environmental law and environmental analytics to climate change, tech and environmental communications, the pathways are many. 

“People often ask me how I got interested in sustainability a couple of decades ago, given that I was a corporate CEO then and working on the built environment to boot. It was precisely because of the very environment I operated in and a role that allowed me to drive change that got me engaged and committed to the need for sustainable development.   

Buildings account for close to 40% of energy consumed and greenhouse gases generated. Their share of freshwater consumption and waste generated is also high. With urbanisation levels in India expected to reach 40% in the next decade, a significant part of the built environment is yet to be created. And thus, a significant opportunity to re-examine approaches to creation – quantum and purpose, design and materials, resource type and use, supply chain and life cycle management. But also, to re-craft lifestyle demands and consumption aspirations – after all it’s the people who inhabit and use these buildings over their lifetime that account for much of these numbers!     

Questions such as these and many more face every industry operating in the world today. The world economy consumes over 100 billion tons of natural resources every year – minerals, metals, fossil fuels and biomass, with less than 9% of such resources being reused. While global warming and climate change have taken centre stage in recent times, focusing most of the discussion around decarbonisation strategies and green portfolios, issues around biodiversity and habitat loss, water security, environmental justice and income inequality are slowly gaining currency.

The corporate world of today and capitalism as we know it is being forced to re-examine its role from the perspective of multiple stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, investors, communities, and the planet. A significant shift from Milton Friedman’s definition of the role of business and its singular accountability to shareholders. Skeptics worry whether this perceived shift is just green washing and virtue signalling or at its best – too little, too late.

Given all of the forces at play, young people often want to know if there are adequate opportunities to build a career in sustainability outside of research institutions, policy think tanks and grassroot organisations. From environmental law and environmental analytics to climate change tech and environmental communication – the pathways are many. Specific to corporate careers, I would argue the urgent imperative to develop an understanding of the natural world and the direct and unintended consequences of human endeavour on the environment. If the way business is done has to change, at a scale that possibly only business can achieve, then transformative thinking about strategy, product design and delivery, marketing, risk management, and performance metrics is needed in every function and at every stage of a corporate career, not just for those seeking specialised roles in sustainability consulting or practise.

Business has always prided itself on being at the cutting edge of innovation, solving complex problems and disrupting existing paradigms through its ‘creations’. Maybe it’s also time to think about what it will not destroy in this journey of innovation. For in the end, as John C Sawhill, Former President, NYU and Former President, TNC said, ‘Our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.’” 

Take Ten: Interpretations of Sustainability from the Krea Universe

Take Ten: Interpretations of Sustainability from the Krea Universe

So, what does sustainability mean to you? A question that has more to it than meets the eye. A question that in every sense of the word, holds the entire planet within. Take Twelve was initiated as a project to understand the diverse interpretations of sustainability by various individuals within the Krea ecosystem.

While it started off as an innocent reportage on exploring the perspectives of leadership, academic experts, team members and students within the Krea community, over time, this initiative turned into a kaleidoscope – both interesting and thought-provoking, sketched with multiple hues of interpretations and woven in by explanations interweaving through various disciplines, from Humanities and Arts to STEM.

Through these interviews and discussions, the Communications Team invariably were nudged to open their minds to concepts and dialogues which were unique and become aware of a more sensitive and empathetic usage of language revolving the critical concept of sustainability. Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at the idea of sustainability like solving the Rubik’s Cube, attempting to understand cultures, deciphering behaviors to analysing scientific data.

We hope you, the reader, also get to embark on an interesting journey through the words of the diverse stakeholders within the Krea universe and take a moment to reflect on how you yourself may interpret the term ‘sustainability. And that’s just the beginning.

*All views are personal

“Sustainability is a question of human purpose – is our purpose to maximise human potential, or is our purpose to live happily, in harmony with each other and our planet?  We must realise that this is a binary choice; we cannot have both.  Happiness and harmony go beyond climate change, energy, food and water – we must also consider sustainable lifestyle choices for physical and mental well-being, as well as sustainable familial, social, economic and political structures.  Our path from status quo to sustainability is not well-mapped, but if we remain focused on our purpose, I have faith that human ingenuity will find us a way to get there.”

Kapil Viswanathan, Chairman of Executive Committee, Krea University

“Over the last few decades, we have witnessed multiple radical innovations. Innovations that have put immense pressure on earth’s limited resources. This has also put the world as we know it, and the future at risk. Sustainability for me finds its meaning in everyday actions, it denotes conscious efforts to move away from our myopic view of the present and involves integration of solution-based approaches that also serve the needs of our future generations. This would mean shifting away from the lens of ‘business as usual’, and finding more than one possible path to course correct the infinite growth on this finite planet. What we do today will determine the future. When recourse is complimentary and not competing, we can truly affirm that we are headed towards a strong and sustainable future.”

Prof Lakshmi Kumar, Dean, IFMR GSB

“Conservation Biology increasingly adopts the idea of a Safe Minimum Standard rather than a Cost Benefit Analysis for the environment, reminiscent of a ‘First Do No Harm’ notion enshrined in spirit in the Hippocratic Oath. Sustainability could well do with heeding such a conception, rather than the utilitarian advancement of the greatest good for the greatest number. So long as that number comprises only a select element of one species, there is no sustainability to be had, glib pronouncements to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Prof John Mathew, Divisional Chair, Humanities & Social Sciences, SIAS

“The ability to sustain. Sustaining, to me, is to live life with the bare minimum by providing ourselves with only what we truly need and working hard to earn and replenish it. But, in recent times as the comfort levels and luxury levels are increasing drastically, we are tending to overuse the resources at hand as we are not efficient in finding a sustainable way. When there is no sustainable alternative for any activity, products/services then comes the problem of overuse. This overuse in the present will not allow us to live our life in the future, not even a bare minimum life.”

Amulya Sanivarapu, GSB Batch 20-22

“Krea’s vision of preparing young people for an unpredictable future through its interwoven learning approach is founded on the very pillars of Sustainability. Campus life draws attention to how the campus community’s actions and practices can have a ripple effect, immediately impacting the region we are located in. A diverse and inclusive campus community, harmoniously co-existing with the surroundings and contributing to the social and economic development of the region, is how we at Krea embrace sustainability. Making informed choices and decisions, whether it be sourcing food from local vendors, generating direct and indirect employment opportunities in the region, reducing the carbon footprint by using shared shuttle services or public transport, organic farming, working on research projects to help sustain the ecosystem of the region, the sustainability goals are present everywhere. The students of Krea have rightfully taken their place at the University’s Sustainability table, by being active stakeholders in all initiatives to build a meaningful living on campus.”

Vidhya Munuswamy, Dean of Student Affairs

“The idea of Sustainability gathers many themes and like any idea or concept has a deep history. The idea may be old but it gathered momentum only in the 20th century through various national, international and civic efforts and movements world over. There was a time when sustainability spoke to a very urgent and pressing human predicament and the lopsided way in which industrialisation in Europe and North America unfolded, and the way it influenced aspirations for development in post-colonial Asia, Africa and Latin America. It made us re-look at the dominant modes of development, forced us to question the rapid depletion of natural resources, and re-examine the issue of intergenerational justice. It motivated activists, academics, researchers, policy makers, and artists to raise new questions. But over a period of time, the idea seems to have lost its force, its agency. As happens to many ideas and concepts, it was used recklessly, not in good faith and soon it turned it into a cliché.

Today the issues remain supremely relevant but the idea of ‘sustainability’ itself feels worn out, with little creative and active strength left in it to galvanise or animate us. And hence, there are two options left to us: we use the term in a mechanical way and conduct business as usual or alternatively, re-imagine the concept of Sustainability and make it speak to our context, make it work in more honest and creative ways. Suitably modified, it can prompt us to re-define our relationships, to re-think our social relations,  our ways of life and consumption, and our aspirations, and question growing inequalities in the world. It can make us re-define our relationship with the present, past and future. Unfortunately in its dominant usage,  the term Sustainability is trapped in a technocratic vision of the world and therefore, has lost its power of critique. While it is necessary that we generate clean and green technology, we urgently need a radical re-thinking of how we lead our lives on this planet. We cannot say the game will be played as usual and hope to produce a better world. We need to think of how the idea of sustainability can be re-interpreted and re-imagined in ways that can help us to transform the way we lead our lives, and to make structures of power (pollical, industrial, economic and social) more engaged and accountable.

As Nietzsche said, “Can our ideas walk?” I would ask: “Can the idea of sustainability dance? Can it help us choreograph a better future?”

Dr Bishnu Mohapatra, Director, Moturi Satyanarayana Centre for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences

“Sustainability is an inclusive, just, and viable way of life — a holistic approach to every problem-solving and decision-making, encompassing environmental, social and economic factors, with a genuine regard for the underlying cultural, political and technological determinants in a complex world. Authentic Sustainability is more than compliance necessity, risk mitigation strategy, brand building exercise, or development agenda. It is a modus operandi based on synergies and symbiotic partnerships, all the more so in the case of perceived conflicting interests among multiple stakeholders. Individuals and systems are intrinsically interconnected; they reflect and support one another. Aligned, they contribute to a healthy whole, greater than the sum of its parts. Weakened, they trigger a systemic collapse. A Sustainable mindset comes from this realisation that, each time we harm a local ecosystem, or silently watch an indigenous language disappear, or fail to provide quality education to a child, we loosen one more thread in our safety net, thus compromising our very survival.

Finally, Sustainability is about humbleness, too — a willingness to accept that, despite all our scientific advancements and best intentions at heart, we might still be far from finding the best solutions for our troubled world.”

Lidija Stankovikj, Senior Manager, Communications

“To be sustainable is the intertwining of society, environment, culture, and economy. These interrelations are dynamic and constantly need to be optimally balanced to benefit the present quality of life for everyone without compromising future generations.”

Sharon Buteau, Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University

“I believe Sustainability is about living with awareness every moment of our lives. Being sensitive enough to differentiate between our need and greed, taking action to conserve rather than deplete, and following best practices that build rather than break-down, all these reflect our responsibility towards humanity and sustainable living.”

Anuradha Iyer, Director- Development

“Sustainability for long has been defined as the utilisation of resources in a manner that fulfills the needs of the current generation and does not compromise the needs of the future generations. It extends to all spheres of life- economic, social, or environmental. However, its omnipresence in today’s dictionary has turned it into an ambiguous and symbolic framework with no practical ramifications.”

Mitula Sai Subramanian, Cohort of 2023, SIAS

Let’s Walk the Sustainability Talk

Let’s Walk the Sustainability Talk

The Krea University campus centres around the ethos of holistic sustainability. Several projects and initiatives, aligned with the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, aim at increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental footprint and fostering biodiversity on campus. In doing so, Krea’s green campus continues to promote the values of efficient and accountable use of scarce resources, and supports the wellbeing of all members of the Krea community.

Krea students champion some of the key sustainability-focused initiatives on campus. Three Krea students — Pratibha Khullar, Avinash Panakkal and Sai Balaji Suresh — graciously agreed to take us for an informative and enjoyable Sustainability Walk, showcasing the landscape, infrastructure and conservation practices that are part of this thriving campus that embodies the principles of sustainability.

Avinash, a first-year student at Krea, asserts how important the values of environmentalism and sustainability are for the Krea community. “Here at Krea, we place great emphasis on sustainability, be it in terms of environment, wellbeing or student life”, he says. It is this awareness about the impact of every individual and collective action, that makes Krea an educational hub of inclusiveness, creativity and innovation, where learning is not limited to the traditional classroom.

The Butterfly Garden
Our Sustainability Walk begins with a visit to the Butterfly Garden. Inviting us to explore this beautiful part of the campus, Pratibha, a first year student at Krea, tells us that hundreds of butterflies can be observed in this area every day. “There are dozens of butterfly species seen throughout the year; some of the easily identifiable ones are Striped Tiger, Plain Tiger, Glassy Tiger, Common Grass Yellow, Cerulean, Oriental Grey Pansy and Crimson Rose”, she specifies. The Butterfly Park provides both a visually appealing landscape, as well as cover and protection for butterfly and other pollinator insects.

Biodiversity Zone
As we walk along Krea’s famed Perimeter Pathway, we reach our next sustainability landmark — the Biodiversity Zone. “The water body and the surrounding area are part of a designated biodiversity zone at Krea”, says Sai, a second-year student at Krea. He explains that the zone acts both as a flood control and a large reservoir for collecting rainwater. Due to the high water table and rains, water is available throughout most of the year. This water is used for irrigating Krea’s entire landscape. This is a significant water conservation measure. “We can maintain and keep the campus green thanks to this”, he adds with a sense of pride. These man-made water canals also contribute to the campus microclimate.

Although the entire 40-acre campus is a lush green space, we have dedicated a three-acre area at the north-west of the campus for indigenous and locally-adapted flora, with the purpose of building and nurturing a small self-sustaining forest ecosystem. The biodiversity zone is already becoming a sanctuary for many species of birds, butterflies and other insects that are frequently spotted on campus.

Sai is aware of the value this zone provides to the Krea community and the larger environment. He tells us that the water body and the greenery support many types of insects, birds and fish. There are 37 identified varieties of bird seen and/or living on campus. Among them are the Black Drogo, Indian Roller, Pied Kingfisher, Indian Cormorant and Spotted Owlet. “One of my favourites is the Golden Oriole, which has a beautiful yellow colour and flies around in pairs,” says Sai.

Sai is very enthusiastic about taking the next steps. “We plan to vegetate this zone with native flora and nourish a natural ecosystem; in addition to the existing trees, we plan to plant more than 500 local forest species of trees,” he explains. Since the project is based on the principles of permaculture, the zone has a potential to become a ‘food forest’ vegetated with green leafy vegetables, microgreens, amla, lemon and pomegranate trees. Through several student-driven clubs, such as the Nature Club, Ecology Club and the Social Outreach club, students can actively participate in this project and develop a sense of ownership for biodiversity conservation.

Organic Farm
A small nursery of plant saplings and seed depository is set on campus. A student-led initiative, called ‘Community Organic Farming’, has also started off successfully. The initiative aims at promoting sensitivity towards environmental issues. It provides students a chance to get hands-on experience of what it is like to be working on land and growing crops from scratch. This experience makes one aware of where our food comes from, and instils a feeling of appreciation for the land and for the farmers.

“On this land, we plan to grow a variety of locally sourced organic vegetables”, explains Pratibha. Before expanding the project on a larger scale, the students involved in the project selected a small patch of land to work on as a prototype. They planted a local variety of spinach, after preparing the land to make it cultivable. “After almost a month-and-a-half of hard work, daily waking up early in the morning to work on this land, the result is truly rewarding,”Pratibha concludes with a smile.

Solar Panels
With a constant effort to reduce the carbon footprint, and a vision to make Krea carbon neutral one day, there is a fully-operational 520 kWp solar photovoltaic installation on campus. The solar panels have produced a total of 750,000 kWh of renewable energy. Avinash aptly draws our attention to the importance of using solar energy as a renewable source of energy. “These solar panels help cover around 35-40% of our electricity consumption; they help reduce our CO2 emissions by an amount equivalent to that absorbed by 40,000 trees in one year,” says Avinash. Here are plans to increase the solar panel capacity gradually over the next few years, to produce more green electricity.

Sewage Treatment Plant
Our next sustainability spot on campus is the sewage treatment plant, which not only makes us less dependent on freshwater, but also reduces our overall carbon footprint associated with the process of procuring water through the Water Supply and Sewage Board of Sri City. Our treated water can be used for landscaping, cleaning external spaces, flushing, etc. Pratibha tells us that this is an innovative low-energy technology which involves nearly no moving parts except for the pumps. “All the wastewater from the campus gets treated here. All recycled water is used for the flushing requirements in the campus. This has helped reduce our dependence on the outside source of water. We aspire to make Krea water self-sufficient one day.”

Waste Segregation
As we enter the main Academic Block at Krea, Sai points out the colour-coded waste bins, strategically placed on each floor of the building. “We try to segregate all our waste on the campus by using separate, colour-coded bins for dry waste (such as paper and plastic), wet waste and e-waste,” he explains. The recyclable waste (like paper and plastic) goes to relevant vendors for recycling. Krea has already started a program for organic waste management. Krea will soon have its own compost facility, where all the wet waste generated on campus will be processed. Awareness about the importance of not wasting food is high among the Krea community. “The amount of food waste is quite low, since we make a conscious choice not to take more than we can eat”, says Sai, concluding our Krea Sustainability Walk.

Forthcoming Projects and Initiatives
Kshitij Amodekar, Associate Director – Design and Sustainability, Krea University, delineates the sustainability journey ahead, with several projects and initiatives already in the pipeline.
“Sustainability has various interpretations, and the applications are wide. We are striving to improve our understanding and delivery of these within the Krea community and the extended community around Krea University. While we work on this, we march on with various initiatives in the next year or so like biodiversity plantation, onsite organic waste management, planning new buildings with energy saving systems and planning for expanding our renewable energy capacity, etc. One of the most significant challenges of the 21st century is the human-environment relationship and our collective impact on our planet.”

Watch the Krea Sustainability Walk video here

Unravelling a Narrative on Education, Economy and the Vision Forward with Dr Raghuram Rajan

Unravelling a Narrative on Education, Economy and the Vision Forward with Dr Raghuram Rajan

“Our development has to build on our unique aspects, more specifically on our liberal democracy and institutions, and that will be our strength. The future is limitless.”  

These inspiring words pitched the gateway to a deeply insightful session anchored by Dr Raghuram Rajan, as he shared narratives on the need-of-the-hour remedies for India’s economic recovery, on creating better education and healthcare systems, and working on using hard infrastructure to facilitate access to markets.

In a wide-ranging discussion, with the students at Krea, Dr Rajan also responded to a room brimming with questions and shared his perspectives on various aspects, from making a choice to move away from the rat race, better ways of financial inclusion, entrepreneurship and its merits, lessons from history and the need for young students such as the audience to fight for preserving and advancing the India that we have created, with resilience and optimism.

Dr Raghuram Rajan kicked off the interaction shedding light on the K-shaped economic recovery in India and how poor employment numbers are the key indicators of economic underperformance.

“One of the numbers that really struck me is the female participation in the workforce in India and it was the lowest in G 20 along with Saudi Arabia in 2019.  Even Saudi Arabia has reformed, opening up jobs for women, their labor force participation for women is 33% today, we are still at 20%. We have a long way to go.”

He expressed the need for a reality check, on what could be rectified and done differently. On why a country with definite successes such as the largest two-wheeler industry in the world, ability of ISRO to send missions to Mars for a fraction of the cost as NASA and whose UPI is being emulated in many countries as a case study of fast payments, is still underperforming.

He laid emphasis on creating hard infrastructure that allows connections and access to markets and soft infrastructure such as creating more education and healthcare. He suggested that withing the economy, India focus on services more than goods. He conveyed the importance of investing in people and how the biggest concern today is not economic recovery but schooling, especially of young children in government schools who have been set back by two years and are in the danger of dropping out.

Reminiscing his time at RBI, he spoke of days when they would step out to have a meal at the home of a Class 4 employee, the lowest tier of employment in the organisation. “It was a fascinating sight to see the children of these employees work with Infosys and some as bank managers. In one generation they had moved out of the low level of employment to this, that’s what education can do.”

As the session moved on to the Q&A segment, the questions rolled in succession. Answering one of the queries on disparity, he retorted “We have to work on ensuring quality of education spreads from stronger universities to weaker ones. Universities like Krea should become research universities, so they can train teachers and students at Krea could do a PhD, come back and populate the other universities. Create an ecosystem and spread the benefits. This won’t happen overnight and will take 20-30 years to realise but any vision has to start now.

In answer to a query on colonialism and India and its dire effects on India’s progress, Dr Rajan recommended that we look forward and use history in matters such as dialogues on climate change. “Use it to insist on the right to more emissions than Western countries as they have been destroying the atmosphere for a much longer time”.

Speaking in response to a question on financial inclusion, Dr Rajan emphasised how entities in microfinance do bridge the gap through easy facilitation of credit, but the bigger problem lay in the management of finance by the poor. There is an urgent need of imparting skills and education before providing credit to them. In many such cases, Fintech could step in at places where banks are reluctant and even hand hold them, exploring new possibilities and ways to access.

On being asked to comment on the ‘rat race’ and a way out of it, he advised, “You can refuse to be part of the rat race. There are so many possibilities today. As we grow richer as a country, we can afford basic living in what we do and wherever we are. Then you can look at fulfilment in what you do instead of from the salary you are getting.”

Sharing anecdotes laced with humor from his own life experience, Dr Rajan explained how during his younger days, the choices were limited to either the IIT, the stream of medical science and to some extent the Economics at St Stephens and becoming an entrepreneur was often associated with youngsters who couldn’t land employment opportunities. On how he succumbed to the rat race, studied at IIT and later circled back to Economics. He shed light on how there were innumerable opportunities for the young graduates today.

As a parting note, Dr Rajan left these powerful words with the young audience to mull and act on. “As young people you need to fight for a better India, the future of the country is in your hands. Fight for a country which embodies the best of the past. We have a constant battle on what is best and it’s you who has to decide that. The experiment of India that our founding fathers thought of is a bold one, let’s not lose the best of what we created, let’s preserve that. Do whatever you do with all the energy you have. It’s not necessary to be a social worker or work in an NGO, you can produce the best widget in the world and still add value. Just go out and be the best in whatever you do.”

Lekshmi Gopinathan reports, from the Communications Desk.

In conversation with Dr Vishakha N Desai, Member, Governing Council and Academic Council at Krea University

In conversation with Dr Vishakha N Desai, Member, Governing Council and Academic Council at Krea University

Dr Vishakha Desai is a member, Governing Council and Academic Council, Krea University. She is also Senior Advisor for Global Affairs at Columbia University, and an adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs. She was President and CEO of the Asia Society, a leading global organisation committed to strengthening partnerships among the people, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museums and Library Services Board. Dr Desai holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Mumbai, and MA and PhD in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan.

Dr Desai, the theme for the International Women’s Day 2022 is ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’. Why, according to you, is every word in this year’s theme is crucial

The phrase sustainable future, implies that it would be a future that would have consistency, a clear path and continuous renewal. Such a world is not possible if half the human race is not fully involved in creating that future. Equality doesn’t just mean participation but also equity of ownership, where women not only need a place at the table but also have the capacity to change the shape of the table, if necessary, to create a more sustainable future. 

Personally, do you believe that the world needs to dedicate a day exclusively to reinforce, reiterate the role, existence and impact of women in society? What is your view?

I wish we didn’t have to dedicate a day to highlight the role of women in society. It implies that the days in the rest of the year are not about issues and aspirations of women. The main reason we need to highlight women’s contributions on a single day is to remind everyone that this needs to continue throughout the year! Not a token that can be forgotten the next day, but an important step that paves a road. 

In an interview about your recent book, World as Family, responding to the relevance and importance of the idea of the book, you say, “​​the Coronavirus reminds us that no matter where we are, and who we are, the pathogens of the pandemic will affect our bodies the same way. My dancer friend Faustin Linyekula once said, the world lives in our body.” If we were to apply the same principle to the context of gender equality, would you say, women across the world – no matter the countries they are from – are grappling with a common set of issues and are in a sense, united in their fight for equality?

With the exception of a few matrilineal societies, it is fair to say that women in many parts of the world face issues of discrimination, but they are not always the same. As we have learned with Covid, while the pandemic affects people with the same level of alacrity, it does matter how individual countries or local communities handle the pandemic. Similarly, while women suffer inequality universally, how their issues are handled by political and social leaders does affect their well-being. 

You call two countries – India, and the United States – your home. As a woman, have you had to straddle these two worlds, differently? 

Given the different cultural contexts of the two countries, of course, one has to be sensitive to the surrounding conditions. But I do feel that through my upbringing in early independent India in a family of Gandhian freedom fighters, I learned to have my feet firmly planted while keeping my mind and eyes open to the world.  And that has served me well no matter where I am. 

What is your take on the global progress on gender equality?

After the Beijing women’s conference, there was a strong sense that women all over the world will continue to move forward with confidence, but it is fair to say that the progress has been unequal. For example, in India, more girls were going to school but during the pandemic, it affected young female students as well as women workers more adversely than men. In other words, in many parts of the world, new policies may have been put in place, the social attitudes have not changed fast enough because there has been less attention paid to changing the mindset. 

In countries across the world, women even in positions of power have had to make choices that men are less likely to make. While workplace policies over years have attempted bridging the divide, at a time when the world is talking of gender equality for a sustainable future, how do we accelerate systematic support so that women continue career roles while they continue to be mothers and caregivers?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that all societies have to account for the needs of families to provide shelter and financial support and taking care of the children and elders. These functions need not be gendered.  That is the reason some northern European countries are focusing on support for children and elders and not penalize women who often end up being the caretakers. 

Do you believe that the fight for equal rights is an everyday work-in-progress? 


Do you have any advice for students who seek careers at the intersection of sustainable development and gender?

Sustainable development is often exclusively associated with environment and climate change, and it sounds very neutral. But as we are learning now, issues of equity, class and gender do affect how the climate crisis plays out. For example, it is only in the last five years or so, scholars have begun to highlight how the urban poor are more adversely affected by environmental degradation than others.  Similarly, the environmental degradation caused by wood and cow dung-burning cooking affects rural women more severely, and requires a gendered lens.  So, it is important to provide a gendered lens to the questions of environmental sustainability , and in the process expand the definition of sustainable development.  

And finally, if you were to share with us, three women you consider your role-models, who would they be?

My mother, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and my women friends in their late eighties who continue to be engaged, active and always interesting! 

Krea University appoints Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan as Vice Chancellor

Krea University appoints Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan as Vice Chancellor

Eminent scholar of history and environmental studies to lead Krea University’s efforts to re-imagine education

31st March 2021, Sri City: Krea University announced the appointment of Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan as its next Vice Chancellor, effective July 2021. 

A scholar of global renown, Dr. Rangarajan has a BA (Hons.) in History from Hindu College University of Delhi, an MA and a DPhil, both from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar.  His wide experience in academia includes faculty positions as Professor of Modern Indian History at the University of Delhi and Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, where he previously served as the Dean of Academic Affairs.  He has also taught at Cornell University, Indian Institute of Science and National Centre for Biological Sciences. His first book ‘Fencing the Forest’ was published in 1996 and the most recent ‘Nature and Nation’, in 2018. His co-edited works include ‘India’s Environmental History’, and ‘At Nature’s Edge’. Having started his career as a journalist, he has also served in roles outside academia, including as the Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.

Dr. Rangarajan’s appointment by the Chancellor of Krea University, Mr. N. Vaghul, comes after a rigorous global search launched by the University last year. The search was led by a committee co-chaired by Dr. Vishakha Desai, Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University and Mr. Kapil Viswanathan, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Governing Council. Commenting on the appointment, Mr. Kapil Viswanathan, said, “As a scholar and an administrator with a global outlook, Dr. Rangarajan is well placed to further Krea University’s mission to help humanity prepare for an unpredictable world.  We look forward to Dr. Rangarajan’s leadership, building on Krea University’s strong foundations of ethics, innovation, excellence, inclusivity and accountability.”

Dr. Vishakha Desai, co-chair of the search committee added, “As a renowned scholar of history and environmental studies, Dr. Rangarajan embodies the spirit of interwoven learning that Krea University stands for. His experience in the academy and in public institutions would serve to strengthen Krea University’s commitment to bridging the intellectual world with the one beyond.” 

On his appointment as Vice Chancellor, Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan said, “It is my honour and privilege to accept this position, and join the extraordinarily talented faculty, staff and students of Krea University in pursuit of our shared mission. I will strive to uphold the high standards of innovation and excellence that Krea University stands for.” Krea University’s current Vice Chancellor, Dr. Sunder Ramaswamy will complete his tenure in June 2021 and will continue to be associated with Krea as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Economics.  As the inaugural Vice Chancellor, Dr. Ramaswamy played a key role in shaping Krea University in its formative years.   

Krea inks pivotal new partnerships

Partnerships in focus

In line with Krea’s vision to develop well-curated purposeful alliances, the University has stepped into significant partnerships with the India-Oxford Initiative (IndOx), School of Informatics and Computing Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and Northeastern University.

Krea University and the IndOx alliance will see both entities work together towards knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination in the areas of Sciences and Humanities. The first round of strategic initiatives is expected to commence shortly and will focus on areas of Gender Violence and Mental Health. Matched by the significant academic assets at both institutions and the ongoing ground-breaking projects at Krea in this space, these initiatives will find much needed acceleration.

Krea has also signed a partnership with the School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), a leading University from the United States of America. IUPUI has recently launched an AI institute and will work closely with Krea on this initiative. The School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI is one of Indiana’s premier, high-ranked urban public research universities and Computer Science institutes, known for its numerous educational opportunities and innovative information system designs. The partnership, through its short-term immersive programmes, will open a world of opportunities for students at Krea who are seeking to make a Masters progression in Health Informatics or Master in Bioinformatics. Other collaboration areas include participation in current and new programmes, joint seminars and academic meetings, exchange of academic materials between the faculty at Krea and IUPUI.

Krea’s comprehensive university agreement with Northeastern University, USA involves collaborative efforts across teaching, research, cultural activity and joint development of ongoing and new curricula and academic projects among many other initiatives.  It also includes but not limited to mobility of faculty, scholars and students between Institutions, faculty and staff’s professional development, student services and collaboration in academic publications and other materials of mutual interest. As an initial activity, there will joint initiatives between IFMR GSB and D’Amore McKim School of Business at Northeastern. Northeastern University ranks among the Top 40 research universities in the country and has made one of the biggest rankings leaps of any in the Top 100. The D’Amore-McKim School of Business has contributed significantly to this rise in rankings by redefining business education, boasting exceptional undergraduate and graduate programs focused on the future of work. It is accredited by AACSB International.

The collaborations at Krea aim to benefit multiple stakeholder groups including teaching faculty young researchers, and students from both institutions as well as think tanks and related organizations in India.

Krea University partners for OneShared.World “Rise or Fall Together” Virtual Summit

Krea University partners for OneShared.World “Rise or Fall Together” Virtual Summit

Krea University was one of the proud partners of RISE OR FALL TOGETHER: The OneShared.World Interdependence Summit 2020. The summit brought together some of the world’s most inspiring people, including a Special Teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, keynote remarks by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, and performances by opera superstar Renée Fleming and Australian Sikh rap star L-FRESH the LION.

The summit will explore how recognizing the mutual responsibilities of our interdependence with each other and our shared ecosystem must underpin all efforts to solve our greatest common challenges, including pandemics, climate change, and systemic global poverty and inequality.

Krea University welcomes its 2nd cohort of undergraduate students


Nobel Laureate Esther Duflo delivers the keynote address

The School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences at Krea University welcomed 144 talented students into the second cohort of the undergraduate programme. The inaugural ceremony preceded the virtual five-day interactive orientation event which brought together the incoming cohort, sophomores, faculty and eminent speakers. The classes for the new cohort commenced online from the 1st of September.

The holistic admission process at Krea gauges potential beyond academic scores, ensuring a diverse set of students from varied backgrounds and interests. The students come from over 17 states of India and from various boards of education. In keeping with the University’s need blind admission and need-aware financial assistance process, over 25% of the cohort has received financial assistance.

Dr Sunder Ramaswamy, Vice Chancellor of Krea University welcomed the students with the message of FLARE — Fun, Learning, Adaptability, Resilience and Empathy, he deemed necessary for the young students to embrace, in their life at university.  “As you begin the Krea journey, send out a flare into the world. I hope you will make your impact, and as you are trying to make your life better, I hope you also make it matter.” He shared Krea’s mission statement to admit high potential students and prepare humanity for an unpredictable world. 

Nobel Laureate and co-founder of J-PAL, Dr Esther Duflo, was the special guest of honour and addressed the students on this momentous occasion. In her keynote address Dr Duflo extended three guiding principles for the students, for their time at Krea and beyond. She encouraged students to embrace diversity, be flexible and not be overwhelmed with problems. Tracing her own journey in life, she added, “You have the luxury of being at a very unique institution that values multi-disciplinary learning. Take this opportunity to take life chances, encounters, and let intellectual discoveries guide you. Embrace nimbleness and flexibility rather than single minded focus on one goal.”

She asked them to celebrate the diversity in their cohort, create social networks and learn from people who are different from their own selves.

“You are here because you want to be change-makers but you might be wondering where to start from. Don’t get overwhelmed. There is no problem however big it is that can’t be broken into smaller pieces. Pick one of those small pieces, apply your mind and skills to it and solve it. Then move to the next one. And don’t worry about the size of the overall challenge, before you know it you would have changed the world and changed yourselves as well.”

Dr Bishnu Mohaptra, Dean of School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences in his message to the students welcomed them to explore the idea of university. “Freedom, diversity and interconnectedness – all these ideas are debated within university and here within Krea. This is a place to debate these ideas and give them a new lease of life. It’s also a place where by giving new life to these ideas, we make them more meaningful, vibrant and useful.” He shared SIAS’s commitment to provide a space in fostering and strengthening these ideas and the ability of students to debate these ideas.

Dr Shobha Das, Dean of IFMR Graduate School of Business at Krea, welcomed the incoming cohort on behalf of the school. She added, “In weaving, two distinct sets of threads are interlaced at right angles to weave a cloth. The two schools, SIAS and GSB are distinct, and the University is woven with threads from the two schools, each distinct but both together forming parts of the woven textured cloth that is Krea.”

The ceremony included special moments from the welcome by the faculty and also the second-year students. Student Meera Trivedi on behalf of the Class of 2022 shared, “What I want to tell you today is that in all of its glory, with the beautiful campus, beyond excellent professors, unique curriculum and the intellectual culture, Krea is essentially what you make of it.”

The orientation programme was put together by the Orientation Team comprising the 2nd year cohort and was themed “Along Came ’23”. The fun and lively five-day long orientation was inspired with themes from gripping TV shows and movies. The event also witness sessions by celebrated activist Kalki Subramaniam and international artist Jacob Boehme.

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