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Mukul Kumar shares his journey, views on new programs and future of the education sector

Mukul Kumar
Chief Innovation Officer | Hult Int’l Business School
Advisor at Connect2Teach
Former- President | UWC, USA. &
Chief Academic Officer & Provost | Hult Int’l Business School

 It’s the act of thinking in one sector and carrying it over to the other sector that’s really hard. 

Mukul Kumar, Chief Innovation Officer at Hult International Business School shares his thoughts on new age programs and the future of education sector.

Connect2Teach: You started your teaching career at Maryland and moved forward to the position of president at UWC, how would you describe this truly inspiring and challenging journey?   

Mukul Kumar: I did not have enough knowledge about the real world. During my time at Mckinsey & Co. as an engagement manager, I developed an interest in management and the business world. After spending 12-14 years in consulting, I came back to the education field to check if I could create some impact with the knowledge I had acquired. I joined Maryland and had been a part of the adjunct faculty there for a long time. To move forward, I opted to join Hult because I believe that Hult is a new kind of business school which wants to be different and global. It is the perfect place to build new programs to create new ways of thinking and teaching. This is the best way in which I would describe my journey.

Connect2Teach: Can you give us some examples of the kind of subjects you have taught at universities?

Mukul Kumar:  2 aspects in which I tend to do  most of my teaching are leadership and organizational behaviour. The core areas of my subjects revolve around new strategy, platform economics and network economics.

 The first course I teach in institutions is ‘Business Insights from Organized Crime – what can business leaders learn from the Mafia and the Yakuza’. This may sound crazy but students actually love this course. Such courses force students to transfer knowledge, which we don’t do often enough. I force them to think about how we are going to apply it in a business context, what could we learn – it’s the act of thinking in one sector and carrying it over to the other sector that’s really hard.

So in short, I help them understand the importance of applying their theoretical knowledge in different situations because it is the only way you can bring new ideas into your work life on a regular basis.

Connect2Teach: What do you think will be the biggest change in the higher education sector in the future?

Mukul Kumar: In the next 5 years, I’d love to see a lot more blended learning.

  Global Innovation, a concept that was relatively limited twenty years ago, is becoming very real. 

We’ve put a few billion dollars to figure out what doesn’t work. How do we get a hybrid model to work? How do we prepare the right kind of teaching material? These are major questions that are going to prove important over the next 5 years.

Connect2Teach: With the recent happenings like Brexit in the UK, how do you see the philosophical principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kuttumbkam playing out in the near future and what does this mean for higher education around the world?  

Mukul Kumar: There have been tons of various new technologies that have taken us away from the standard ways of being, but we have always figured out new and interesting things for humans to do. I do feel that these events will have a short term impact in the field of higher education. But in a 5 or 1o year horizon, we are definitely going to see the world come closer together and see technology progress.

With the introduction of new technologies, there is going to be a huge displacement of workers. There will be more unemployed labour force and I firmly believe that this is where the education sector is going to play a huge role in helping them figure out the skills for future. 

Connect2Teach: How do you think the rise of digital learning is going to impact the traditional classroom experience in the coming years?

Mukul Kumar: I always say that faculty is boring in the classroom. And what is more boring is taking classes through videos. Studies have shown that students spend only five minutes watching a 40 minute long video. So the question here is, how do we become more engaging?

Many online learning sites such as Khan Academy and K-12 schools are focusing on this question and I would say these are the new textbooks. I believe that online learning platforms should focus more on discussions and skill building rather than emphasizing on transferring knowledge alone. 

Connect2Teach: How has your professional experience influenced your role as a university leader?

Mukul Kumar: All the career choices have had a great influence in making me the person I am today.

 Through my professional experience, I have learned to focus on one significant question by what sort of problem are we trying to solve?’ ‘Is this even the right problem to be solving at all?

And I am sure that the roles I have been currently playing at the university level would not have been the same had I taken a 10 year tenure-track faculty path.

Connect2Teach: Every inspiring journey has to be a challenging one. Where do you think you faced the greatest professional challenges?

Mukul Kumar: Talent is something which is essential. Finding, cultivating and retaining talent has been the biggest challenge so far.

 The statement made by Moscantor at Harvard that ‘execution eats strategy for breakfast’ is absolutely true. You can come up with strategy, but how do we make it happen? It’s all about talent. That’s tough.

Connect2Teach: As you previously mentioned that you love teaching, we would like to know what do you enjoy the most about it.

Mukul Kumar: Teaching is an amazing profession.

 The most gratifying feeling about teaching is when people write you a note, 10-15 years later, saying -remember that thing you did in that classroom 10 years back, and then they’ll go on to describe some very concrete thing that they walked away with, that’s made a huge difference to them.

In addition to this simple yet blissful gesture from students, teaching yields three essential benefits:

  1. Forces me to learn all the time
  2. The more interesting and stimulating assignments that I create, the more likely we are to come up with new insights that will be valuable to all of us.
  3. Teaching has been the best source of talent and collaboration for me.

Connect2Teach: Success is a skill, and it is something you can learn. If you had to name any 3 achievements in your career that you are extremely proud of, what would they be?

Mukul Kumar:

  1. Improving average faculty ratings by more than 25% at Hult International Business School.
  2. We went from serving 0 to 1500 CIOs in the span of four years.
  3. Currently, with the UWC, we’ve raised $40 million – the goal was $5 million. So roughly 10 times the goal.
  4. We have also built a new curriculum that helps students build soft skills, 21st-century competencies around critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and collaboration.

Connect2Teach: Finally, how would you use a platform like Connect2Teach?

Mukul Kumar: For me, Connect2Teach could be a very interesting way to get a feel of what are corporates are interested in.

 Since I am interested in spending some time out in the marketplace, but daily responsibilities take over, this feels like the perfect platform to have a feel of what our client in the UK, Bombay, Singapore is more interested in at this point. Also, I feel that such platforms make it easier for people to close the information asymmetry.



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