What are you most excited for in the new year?
I hope the borders will open and we will be able to travel again, without limits, and to experience real, in-person academic mobility. There’s lots of incredible stuff going on. I’m excited about ITMO HighPark’s construction to start. Our Avatar project is getting nationwide recognition. Many spaces around the campus are getting a makeover - just the other day I was talking to a professor who said the new auditorium looks too bright.
What are your plans for the first work week?
The first thing I will do is go to the cafeteria. We redesigned it to make it a hip place to hang - it’s a perfect environment for generating ideas and working together. I usually get a coleslaw salad and a vegetable soup. Sometimes I order food through our ITMO.Students app too, which makes it super convenient. Our first week back we’ll be getting ready for the spring semester and discussing the future of education in Russia at the Gaidar Forum.
How do you come up with ideas and inspiration?
Inspiration comes from our team. We ask uncomfortable questions: Why would students come to a university? Why wouldn’t they skip classes? What’s important? How do we combine the top emerging educational formats? How do we build a university that is in demand? Our strength is our ability to be fast and agile - how do we do that organizationally?
Have you ever had an Aha! moment?
We were discussing the development stages, back in 2017, and realized that the new transformational power will be data. It has informed our vision ever since.
What do you do to avoid burnout?
As a Vice Rector, you’re never bored. Every day you can tackle a new task, switch gears. Work and life for me are very much intertwined - I think you’ve got to love the university inside yourself. For me, they’re inseparable. At the same time, you’ve got to know how to recharge. I love sports and try to work out every morning: running, tennis, hot yoga and Thai boxing. And there’s nothing like extreme snowboarding, when you get dropped off from a helicopter and you shred the slope. It’s freedom!
How do you deal with failure?
In really challenging moments, when I feel like screaming, I always try to identify the emotion that I’m experiencing and analyze it. Say, a proposal got rejected - that only means that the work done for it will be more effective elsewhere. A person who has made mistakes is a person with experience.
In your opinion, what is the university of the future?
It’s an institution without physical and time limits, without a class schedule and attendance lists. It’s a puzzle made up of subjects, classes, and internships that students need at certain times of their lives. Flexible hours, an individual schedule, personalized education, and self-reflection are the most important features. We need to move beyond the framework of Bachelor’s, Master’s and Postgraduate programs and instead, focus on agile educational programs that truly respond to market demand. Right now we see some of the top industry players competing with academia on educational content. We need to be faster and better than the industry.
What’s coming to ITMO this year?
Several things are happening. We’re standardizing the mixed learning format: all content will be uploaded and stored in a systematic way, making it easier to develop and access. Our Avatar project is gaining ground - it is in the testing and feedback stage and will be up and running in the spring semester. One of the services offered will be finding a scientific advisor. We have over 1,500 scientists and knowing their scientific interests, the algorithm will suggest five potential matches. Soon students will also be able to use the individual learning track service to help them make course and specialization choices. We’re using real data to make real decisions.
What is your dream for ITMO?
I want it to be in the top 50 universities for students around the world because they’d know that this is where they have the freedom and support for development. You can realize your potential in projects, you can work and go to school. You come with a seemingly insane idea, instantly find a group of like-minded people, and make it happen. In St. Petersburg, ITMO is in a unique position as a “window to Europe” and a “window to Russia”. With Russia being an emerging economy, there’s a real opportunity for breakthroughs.