Many of the greatest discoveries are by people who have had broad exposure to multiple disciplines, says Neuroscientist Dr Tara Thiagarajan in her keynote address to the SIAS Class of ‘24

The School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences (SIAS) at Krea University welcomed nearly 200 talented young students into the third cohort of the undergraduate programme. The inaugural ceremony preceded the virtual five-day interactive orientation event, which brought together all students, faculty and guest speakers.

The admission process at Krea gauges potential beyond academic scores, ensuring a diverse set of students from varied backgrounds and interests. The incoming batch of students come from over 3 countries, 19+ 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 20 percent of them received financial assistance.

Dr Mahesh Rangarajan, the Vice-Chancellor of Krea University, welcomed the students with the message of embracing changes that would prepare us for future challenges. Relating one epochal event with another, Dr Rangarajan spoke about the significance of 9th August in the history of India, South Asia, and Asia – the launch of the Quit India Movement. Decades later, while circumstances have changed, we continue to live through yet another epochal change, he shared.

His address also elaborated on the educational transformation that awaits India. “There are many ways to prepare yourself for change. One of them is being educated. What is remarkable about India is that it has been at the forefront of a great education transformation. The number of Indians who go to college has doubled. Krea University is a new institution, but what makes us new is the quality of our faculty, our libraries, our facilities and our ability to teach young people on looking at knowledge in an integrated way,” he said.

Chance favours the prepared mind

Neuroscientist and Founder of Sapien Labs, Dr Tara Thiagarajan was the special guest of honour and addressed the students. In her keynote address, she shared the three values that went into creating Krea University. “Krea was started with a vision to build a new institution with these three values- a) Interwoven disciplines b) Porous Boundaries where learning integrates with the real-world, and c) ‘Learn to Learn’- because education is lifelong and not just constrained to the 3-4 years you are here at Krea.”

As she welcomed students to a new kind of learning, Dr Thiagarajan shared inspirational stories of scientists who were not constrained by the system of the time. Narrating the stories of French chemist Antoine Lavoisier and American businessman Cyrus W Fields, Dr Thiagarajan shed light on the extraordinary power of interwoven learning. “They looked at the world and went after whatever they thought was interesting or important. If you don’t look broadly at a problem with multiple perspectives, you are constrained in the possibility of the solutions you find,” she added.

Ending her address with a quote by Louis Pasteur, Dr Thiagarajan encouraged the new cohort to explore widely while at Krea. “As we all start out with great hopes for ourselves. We should know that life is not without obstacles. We look at life as some sort of upward progression. But life throws a lot of things and perhaps you are all acutely aware of this due to the pandemic. There are many things beyond our control. However, what is within our control is how we respond to these obstacles,” she said.

Building Resilience

Dr Shobha Das, Dean of IFMR Graduate School of Business at Krea, in her special address to the incoming cohort, shared how Krea built resilience during these unprecedented times. On dealing with unpredictable changes, Dr Das added, “I would like to suggest three things that would help build resilience. First- Read, don’t glance. Second- Listen more, talk less. And finally, Reflect and don’t judge. Keep yourself open to new information, new views, and different kinds of people.”

Dr Akhila Ramnarayan, Divisional Chair of Literature & the Arts at SIAS, in her special address, shared the importance of Liberal Arts and Sciences to tackle the rich, perplexing questions of the 21st Century. She shared, “In the past year, we have been through so much together. Alone, as a planet, and a University. And yet here we are, welcoming you with all our hearts into the Krea fold with joy and a sense of deep purpose. Because now is the time that the liberal arts and sciences’ mission, with which our mission of Interwoven Learning is deeply intertwined, is put truly to the test. And it is at this time that we must all come together to combine scientific temper with artistic zeal for philosophical preparedness.”

Celebrating inclusion and diversity

The week-long orientation programme also featured industry talks and entertaining activities to welcome the new cohort. Speaking about the challenges and support systems needed for inclusivity and diversity, technologist Ketty Avashia shared his journey through his personal story of coming out as a transman in the workplace. Working as the Vice-President and Platform Integration Lead in India for the global financial company Wells Fargo, Ketty also shared how he became a diversity and inclusion (D&I) advocate and encouraged students to become allies for change.

Ending on a musically funny note

The orientation programme concluded with Krea Nite – an evening full of music, laughter, and excitement. Engaging students and Krea staff and faculty alike with her wry sense of humour was standup comic Urooj Ashfaq. The overall programme ended with a phenomenal performance by Voctronica – India’s first all-vocal ensemble. To watch highlights from the inaugural ceremony, click here.