IIT Bombay And WashU Collaborate To Bring PG Programmes To India, Says WashU Vice-Dean

IIT Bombay And WashU Collaborate To Bring PG Programmes To India, Says WashU Vice-Dean

WashU's Markus Baer shares insights on entrepreneurship, visa issues, student resources, and popular courses for international students. Learn more about WashU's offerings and opportunities.

Lavanya AhireUpdated: Sunday, January 21, 2024, 08:24 PM IST
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IIT Bombay | Facebook (Representational Pic)

The Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai (IIT-B) and the Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) are collaborating to bring WashU’s PG programmes to IIT-B. 

Speaking to The Free Press Journal (FPJ), Markus Baer, WashU vice-dean, shared his thoughts on entrepreneurship and the international students’ prospects of studying in the U.S.

FPJ: What should a student look for in a university when studying abroad?

Baer: Students want to choose an institute of repute, but they must remember that the difference between the 20th best school and the 21st is rather negligible. I would recommend that students choose an institute that feels like home, a place they have some sort of connection with. Students should make a well-informed decision after talking to alumni and faculty. Most colleges are open to conversation, they are just a phone call or a mail away. The universities in the U.S. are still some of the best in the world. A degree from the U.S. still has a lot of viability in the world. 

FPJ: Students are getting deterred by visa issues since the new rules were applied. What do you think about this?

Baer: I don't think that students should be deterred by visa difficulties. I think international relations are always changing. We are running programmes in China and India, and we're dealing with these issues. So, I think if you are a motivated student, you should not be deterred by these issues. It is very important to be up to date on these requirements. WashU has an office which assists all students with the visa process. The new guidelines might make the process more difficult, but that shouldn't stop students from pursuing the school they want to go to. 

FPJ: How do students get to know more about WashU?

Baer: We have relationships, here in India with IIT-B and in China with Fudan, and those have been for executive programmes but it helps increase brand awareness. WashU holds information sessions where you can meet faculty and officials from the university. Getting first-hand information about school is usually very helpful for students and we try to facilitate that through the admissions office which will answer all verification questions. 

A lot of Indian students apply to WashU, which is considered the best university in the U.S. for entrepreneurship. For students wanting to apply, it will be incredibly helpful to speak to past alumni in Mumbai.

FPJ: A lot of students, due to a lack of available information, resort to using consultants when applying abroad. What are your views on this?

Baer: It might be enticing to outsource admissions to consultants; it becomes really important to talk to primary sources. Doing your primary research becomes important because a university like WashU, which is in the Midwest, may not be everyone's cup of tea even though it's a reputable school. St Louis, in terms of residents, does not have a large Indian community, so it might not suit all Indian students. I would guess that most students want a diverse faculty, a diverse student body and a university that challenges them, and WashU provides a great student experience there. You wouldn't know that unless you do your primary research instead of going about the process with a counsellor. 

FPJ: What are some courses that international students opt for?

I think WashU’s most popular course in college is a Python coding course. We have a specialised master's course with seven specialisations. Five of them are STEM-designated, which is especially attractive because STEM degrees are usually what help students get hired. These STEM-designated courses are especially attractive to students from China and India. 

FPJ: How do you think that the change in the pattern of the GMAT exam will affect students and universities?

Test scores can be imperfect, we have now learned that to an extent they can predict your success very well. A high test score can not only predict how well you do in college but also outside college. So, if you reduce the number of questions and sections, it becomes less predictive. It cannot tell so much about you. Because the GMAC has removed the writing assessment part of the test, the universities will have to invest more in nurturing that quality in a student who lacks that skill. The streamlining of the exam means that we democratise the exam, but we have to be careful about drawing a line somewhere. It's very difficult for universities to compensate for essential skills that students need to have. Writing is a skill that is slowly degrading in students with the coming of tools like AI and ChatGPT. I don't think it's useful that analytical writing is being omitted, but if it's done, I do think schools have to invest more in compensating or developing those skills. 

FPJ: Why did you start teaching a class on creativity and entrepreneurship?

Baer: I want to dispel the misconceptions that creativity or entrepreneurship is an innate skill or a skill that can be picked up but not taught. Creativity is no different than any other physical or cognitive skill that we have. The skills required to be more creative can be, we just don't teach them. Certain learnt skills can help come up with ideas or very ideas. There is research to suggest that if people use a scientific process for entrepreneurship, people do better. Entrepreneurs can develop hypotheses, see evidence to support the hypothesis and then test the hypothesis with data. That is something you can teach here. 

The average entrepreneur is 45 years old. These skills take learning time and experience to develop. In the media, we only see the young shine as entrepreneurs but the reality is that most successful ventures are led by people in their mid-40s. 

FPJ: How are placements at WashU?

Baer: At WashU we have career fairs where recruiters come and talk to students. Students who want to stay in the U.S. and have the language skills easily get jobs in these fairs. Especially for our undergrad and MBA programmes we aggressively push for placements. Recruiters are on campus very often, students go on company visits every few months. We try our best to match them up with companies. 

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