In conversation with
Prof. Dyah Sawitri

Rector | Universitas Gajayana

Higher Education Spotlight: Where does your passion for education comes from? When was the first time you realised you would be a teacher?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri:I get my passion from my parents. Education was always very important to them- their number one concern. I have followed in their footsteps and I knew at a young age that this will be my contribution to society.

How do you balance the responsibilities as rector with your duties and passion as a teacher?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri:I rely heavily on the power of God, my family, my husband, and the support of my campus.

What are the milestones in the university’s history and how do they translate to your present day identity?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri:Gajayana University was founded in 1980, and we have 11,000 alumni. We provide undergraduate and graduate programs alongside our professional program in accounting. In the development of the university we have always valued innovation according to the vision and slogan of the university: “We Give the Best”.

We are eager to help our students be highly competitive graduates. We do so with competency based curriculum design that is adaptable to the needs of the stakeholders- industry and government.

When you became rector what were the goals and strategies that you set for yourself in order to move forward Gajayana University?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri:I wanted to develop human resources, develop management, build capacity, and produce graduates of an excellent standard. We want to make our graduates competitive in MEA. To do so we strictly comply with the requirements of the government and integrate that with the values and character of the local community. We realise that our graduates must be adaptable to the industry needs and now we are placing a high focus on this here at Gajayana.

Are there any flagship research projects you are working on currently? How do those projects benefit the industry in Malang?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri:Our research projects are generally focused on entrepreneurship and SMEs. Our strategic plan, which we renew every five years, has guidelines for the direction of our research. We involve businesses in that research to get current, real world data. With that information, we’re able to offer relevant and up-to-date training and advice to these businesses and others in the similar areas. We do our best to help them market themselves successfully so that they can eventually compete on a global stage.

Can you tell us about your plans for expanding internationalization?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri: Currently we have partnerships with universities in Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Timor-Leste, and Cambodia. The focus is to improve the entire education process, from the moment students are admitted to when they are graduates. These students and faculty are involved with exchange programs, joint research projects, and joint publications.

At the moment we’re eager to focus on collaborations with our neighbours in the Asian region, but eventually we would like to expand our internationalization process out further west to Europe, Africa, and the United States.

In regards to your graduate program, what opportunities do the students and faculty have where they can work and learn outside of the university?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri: Because of our collaboration with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Economy and Development, our Timorese international graduates can complete their entire degree here or do what we call a dual, or “sandwich”, program. This is where they work on 75% of their degree at their home university and then are able to complete the remaining 25% of their degree here. The Timorese staff is also encouraged to come continue their studies here while we also send our teachers to Timor-Leste to do leadership training.

How do you envision the University of Gajayana in the future?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri: Hopefully in five years our university will be similar to Nanyang University in China. We do take inspiration from the Chinese education system, but we also have a saying that expands upon this a little more. “Go get your education, although you have to go to China.” It means that you should get your education, no matter how far you should go to pursue it.

What are some of your proudest moments during your time as a rector?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri: I love seeing the relationship between the students, teachers, and the administrative staff. Everyone respects each other like we’re in a big family.

How do you continue to develop and encourage the ideas of lifelong learning with your students, alumni, and yourself?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri: Education needs to start when you’re young, with your family, and be encouraged to grow in more formal settings like the university. But education also needs to be inspired to continue beyond the formal setting as well. For example, I have continued my education outside of the university through my involvement with different communities that mirror my own passions. I work with the education community, the organization for women, and the association of Indonesian lecturers. I take what I learn and apply as much as I can in both formal and informal settings.

As a successful woman, what words of inspiration or advice do you have to the young female readers who are excited, but perhaps a little apprehensive, to join the workforce?

Prof. Dr. Dyah Sawitri: My advice is based on an Indonesian saying. It sounds very poetic in my language, but it’s difficult to literally translate into English with the meaning intact. What it means is that you should lead with your heart, to follow your passions, but you also need to let your head, your rational side, have a voice as well. It forces you to be careful and not take unnecessary risks, but it will also keep you on the path to your goals.