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Engineering dean moves to position of vice president for administrative services

March 17, 2013

Satish Udpa describes himself as an “accidental administrator.”

When he came to the U.S. from India about 35 years ago to further his education, he didn’t know the extent of the possibilities for him on American soil. Udpa said good things just seem to happen to him, such as accepting a new administrative position offered to him in February.

Today, Udpa will step down as dean of the College of Engineering to take on new responsibilities as executive vice president for administrative services — a position formerly held by Fred Poston, who now is dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The position includes the oversight of some of the departments on campus, such as MSU Human Resources and the Office of Planning and Budgets, although Udpa said he will be in direct oversight of fewer departments than Poston was. Another change in the position includes taking charge of some aspects of Bolder by Design,- MSU’s recently updated strategic plan.

Udpa will be overseeing cost-cutting measures and upping efficiency. He said he is not yet sure what things he will be changing and where the cost cutting will begin. This spring, he will start by evaluating Information Technology, the Human Resources Department and Office of Planning and Budgets.

“Look at the climate here — the state support for MSU and other institutions is steadily decreasing,” he said. “We have to consider what resources we have (and) we have to make use of our resources to perform more efficiently in the future than we have in the past.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a 1 percent increase in state funding for MSU for the 2013-14 fiscal year, although State Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, said he expects the House recommendation to be higher. A House committee will make a formal budget recommendation for higher education Tuesday morning at the Capitol.

Although the administrative position is all new to the seasoned educator, heading a department is not. Since coming to MSU in 2001, Udpa has taken on many different roles, including acting as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and dean of the College of Engineering, where he served for about seven years.

During his time as dean, Udpa said the college has increased its undergraduate enrollment and has received increasing funds for research — an achievement during a time of economic recession.

Graduate student Pavel Roy Paladhi said although he’s disheartened he will not have as much one-on-one time with his mentor, he believes what Udpa has done with the college is proof he will thrive in his administrative position.

“His patience, his kindness, his openness — these are the reasons for where (we are),” said Roy Paladhi, who has worked with Udpa as a student in the college since 2009. “So he’ll just fly, I’m very sure.”

By listening to his students, Roy Paladhi said Udpa inspired himself and others to pursue careers and challenge themselves.

Sridhar Ramakrishnan, a 2009 MSU graduate working as a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Defense in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, said he owes where he is and what he learned today to Udpa.

Ramakrishnan uses Udpa’s technique of pushing students with their own ideas as he monitors junior technicians in the lab.

“Dr. Udpa … would let you (pursue) your own ideas and marginally guide you, he would always let you make your own mistakes,” Ramakrishnan said. “That was indeed character development.”

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