SouthfieldJuly 10, 2012
New LTU president sets sights high
By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer
SOUTHFIELD — When the new president of Lawrence Technological University Virinder Moudgil took to his first official day in the office July 2, it was a day that started in the wee hours of the morning and wrapped up at 9:30 p.m.
“That may seem long to some people, but it’s just another day for me,” said Moudgil, a biomedical researcher from India’s northern Punjab region. “It’s like my dad always said, ‘If it comes easy, it’s not worth it.’”
Moudgil’s entrance was marked by writing a letter to introduce himself to the students, faculty and staff, and reading and research to adjust to his new role leading the university in its capital campaign and strategic plan. It ended with meeting scholarship recipients who shared their goals and dreams with him.
And while the administrative duties are just as important, it’s the latter part of his day that seems most likely to define his role leading Lawrence Tech into its 80th year — he’s all about interacting with the students, who have an unprecedented level of dedication and motivation, he said.
“If you just want a degree, don’t come here. I’m sure you can understand why that’s hard to say as president,” Moudgil said with a smile. “But students who come here are motivated, talented and have aspirations that go beyond just the impact of having a degree.”
For Moudgil, it’s students like mechanical engineering senior Michelle Hier, whom he met his first day, who characterize the typical LTU graduate: a future “world leader” that will make the region proud.
“There I am, hearing dreams of (her) working for NASA because she wants to put a man on Mars. How many 20- or 21-year-old students have aspirations to go to Mars?” he said. “That kind of leadership is the hallmark of education at Lawrence Tech.”
Not only did Moudgil see his own daughter excel at LTU more than 20 years ago — and says she is now a successful engineer in New York City — but he joins the university himself after a lifelong career in research, where he was no stranger to scientific discoveries.
He received his Ph.D. in zoology-biochemistry from Banaras Hindu University and made groundbreaking findings in 1969 about how hormones affect the brain, he explained. He came to the U.S. in 1973 when he landed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Mayo Clinic and found his mentor, David Toft, who discovered a protein that mediates the action of estrogen.
Moudgil then joined the Oakland University faculty in 1976 and eventually went into the administration side of higher education, though continued to make contributions to breast cancer research. Starting in 2001, he led academic affairs at Oakland University as senior vice president and provost before coming to LTU.
His experience in the biomedical field has helped prepare him for the transition into technology education, as well as appreciate it, he said.
“What I’ve done the last 30 years has been biology leading into technology. It’s nothing new for me, except for the specific elements, because the body is the best example of engineering that you can find.”
As the seventh president of Lawrence Tech, he hopes his legacy can be that of establishing an interdisciplinary approach to studying at LTU, just as how the integration of various fields has helped him succeed. He said that while the College of Engineering and the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Tech are well known, he hopes to strengthen the College of Management and College of Arts & Sciences, too.
“These (colleges) are four legs of the same stool. Two legs are world famous, and I want to see all of them as strong,” he said, noting the examples of making engineers stronger in design and architects more business-savvy.
Moudgil said he will also be a president that leads the students in their own visions because that is where the enthusiasm, passion and aspirations come in order to continue making LTU valuable to the community.
“If you are a student at Lawrence Tech, you are going somewhere,” he said.
And with the hard work, dedication and worthy cause he attributes his driving force to, he’s fully prepared to getting students where they aspire to go — even if that means setting his sights on Mars.
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