On the hotseat
By Team Edex
20th August 2012 12:00 AM
As principles of leading arts and science colleges in the country, these women display a phenomenal amount of grit and compassion while educating India's young.
AS Saroja, Principal, Government Law College, Ernakulam
Teaching is her first love
- by Aswathy K| Kochi
In August 2009, AS Saroja was promoted to the ranks of principal and her first posting was in Government Law College, Thrissur. From the beginning, it was not a cake walk for Saroja. “I am basically a teacher and imparting knowledge to children is my first love. Teaching satisfies me the most. I feel that becoming a principal is like holding a glorified clerical job which mainly requires lot of administration and management of the whole college, its staff and students, both of which are alien to a teacher,” says Saroja, who moved in June, 2011, to Government Law College, Ernakulam.
Law colleges are usually the centres of student strikes and political unrest. Managing these must strenuous. And does being a woman principal compound the problem? “Gender does not change anything. If you are a principal, you ought to be strong. One has to take bold decisions which one often does not like. And I think women are bolder and take strong decisions, as there is no vested interest,” she says.
Needless to say that Saroja has faced student ruckus. “There are so many incidents to cite from my career where students and sometimes staff had turned against me. In Thrissur Law College, we introduced the system of internal examinations. There were protests from students with political afflictions. They even held teachers captive. But during all those moments I never felt afraid. We stuck to our agenda,” she says. “There were times when I had to take a decision which I didn’t like. During those moments I even felt like quitting. But at the end of the day, commitment and sincerity to the job helped me pull through.”
Saroja has been the dean of both Calicut University and Mahatma Gandhi (MG) University. Apart from being the dean, she has acted as chairperson for Calicut, Kerala and MG universities too. After becoming the principal, Saroja has been part of various national seminars and conferences. “Last year for The Moot Code Competition, some 20 colleges from across India participated. For a programme on Alternative Dispute Resolution, 14 teams participated from all over India,” says Saroja, who has presented numerous papers and articles in journals.
The fact that she was once a law student helped Saroja understand the pulse of youngsters. “Being a law student myself, I could understand the pulse of students. Now more than 50 per cent of the faculty here are my students. So the working atmosphere is also good. There is a great rapport between the teacher and students,” says Saroja. “If one wants to stay happy here, then we have to accept our job sincerely. Face the challenges boldly and follow principles. Values like patience and tolerance, which I thankfully inherited from my father, also helped me to face critical times.”
Another observation that she makes is the loss of values among students. “Earlier students used to respect their elders and had great values. But now even after becoming so friendly, students behave properly only to score marks,” adds Saroja
Ashalatha, Principal of Maharajas College, Ernakulam
The advantage of being a woman principal
- by Aswathy K| Kochi
In her 30-year stint as lecturer, 2012 is special for Ashalatha, principal of Maharajas College, Ernakulam. This year she took over as principal of a 136-year-old college. “I thoroughly enjoy my position. As a lecturer, my duty was confined to the four walls of the classroom, imparting knowledge to students. I find this duty of handling the administrative section more interesting. The creative aspect of this job drives me the most as I get to implement more innovative ideas,” she says.
Beginning her career as a chemistry lecturer in Victoria College, Palakkad, Ashalatha had the opportunity to teach in several Kerala colleges including Government College, Chittoor, and different government polytechnics. For a brief period, she was a Board of Studies member in Kerala. She has also worked as compulsive social service (CSS) coordinator at Chittoor College. While working at Maharaja’s Technological Institute, Thrissur, she was the women development cell coordinator.
Ashalatha has a special affinity towards this job because years back, her uncle PV Appu too was the principal of the college. “This job, though challenging, is not distressing because of the seamless support that I get from my colleagues, other staff and students,” she says.
Being a woman principal is an advantage, finds Ashalatha. “Students tend to have more access to women teachers. They open up to me, maybe because they get a tinge of motherly affection from me,” she smiles. Along with her duties as principal, she has also been the college union retiring office, the first woman to chair this post.
Along with its share of historical fame, Maharajas College is also known for its zero tolerance of politics. So how does she manages student agitations on campus? Ashalatha says, “Listening to the needs of the students is important. I have found that by dealing with them peacefully, we can bring forth a positive change in the attitude of the students.”
Sanghamitra Khuntia, Principal of Rama Devi (RD) Women’s College in Bhubaneswar
She leads from the front
- by Diana Sahu| Bhubaneswar
The fairer sex should not demand any undue advantage on the basis of gender. A woman working at the same level in an organisation is paid on par with men, so why can’t she take more load or work in a hazardous condition? Women should always lead from the front and motivate a team,” feels Sanghamitra Khuntia, principal of Rama Devi (RD) Women’s College in Bhubaneswar, which is considered the premier women’s college of Odisha.
Having done her higher education in English from BJB College and Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Sanghamitra has held the position of English professor in various colleges. She was the HoD of English Department in RD Women’s College before becoming its principal four months back.
Her immediate priority is to work towards getting deemed university status for RD Women’s College. “Few years back, National Assessment and Accreditation Council had visited the college and awarded ‘A’ grade status to this institution for imparting quality education. The proposal for deemed university status for RD Women’s College has been lying in the back-burner for some years. We are taking it up again in earnest,” she says.
According to her, “RD has a strong and bright student base. But, somehow it was not able to catch the attention of corporate giants. However, in the past three to four years, efforts have been initiated to rope in corporate players to recruit our students through campus drives. Apart from campus recruitment, we are also focusing on counselling and training as many students are still not aware of job opportunities,” she concludes.
Shuvada Mohanty, Principal, BJB Junior College, Odisha
Busy with college's development
- by Diana Sahu, Bhubaneswar
After spending over two decades in teaching students economics, Shuvada Mohanty has now donned the role of principal of one of the top colleges of Odisha. Mohanty, who is the principal of BJB Junior College, Bhubaneswar, says her role as a teacher makes her complete. “Although the role of a principal has brought in new responsibilities and challenges, teaching still gives me immense satisfaction,” says Shuvada, who continues to teach economics.
After graduating from BJB College, she completed an MA in applied economics from Utkal University, Bhubaneswar. Shuvada then served as a lecturer for several years till she joined BJB Junior College in 2010 as an economics professor. This May, she was appointed as the principal of the college.
With the college lacking on several fronts including quality faculty and infrastructure, Shuvada plans to take up the issues. “We are also trying to initiate the construction of a separate building for BJB Junior College. As per the proposal, a seven-storey building would be constructed on the arts block premises,” she says.
The state government has sanctioned `4 crore for first phase of work. “We are also trying to fill-up vacancies in teaching and non-teaching categories as they have been taking a toll on the education front in the college,” she says.
Sr Jasintha Quadras, Principal of Stella Maris College (SMC), Chennai
- by Preethi Ann Thomas
Describing her role as that of an academician and administrator, Sr Jasintha Quadras calls the journey to principaldom challenging, exciting and rewarding. She took over as principal of Stella Maris College (SMC), Chennai, in 2008 after having spent three years as vice-principal. With a PhD in mathematics, Sr Quadras also completed a course in theology at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune.
Reputed to be a tech-savvy administrator, Sr Quadras has been involved with various activities in the college (for instance, automating the day-to-day working of the campus through intranet) since she joined the department of mathematics in 1996. She now ensures that the 3,800 students, who are currently studying at SMC, are able to meet the challenges of the world. “I like to think of this as a mission, rather than a job. To see hesitant, diffident young women metamorphose into confident, strong individuals, empowered to take on the challenges of life at the end of their studies makes it all so worthwhile,” she says.
Since she took over, various changes have been implemented — streamlining of credits across programmes in 140 UG and 90 PG programmes, introduction of new certificate courses, increased industry linkages, establishing a UGC-sponsored Centre for Women Studies, student mentoring, development of English language skills, soft skills training, coaching for civil services, NET, eco-initiatives, food and water security programme, etc.
SMC offers students extensive opportunities to foster creativity and leadership skills. “As a college community, we work to create a positive impact through service on our immediate social environment. We want to work towards the creation of a world community of peace, justice and equity, where our students will be agents of social transformation.”
Sr M Juanitha, Principal of Mount Carmel College, Bangalore
Focus is on value addition
- by Sangeetha Samuel, Bangalore
Continuing the legacy of Bangalore’s Mount Carmel College is Sr M Juanita, the institute’s principal. This teacher of four decades believes in equipping students for life on campus itself. ‘Right values for life’ and not academics is the priority for her students whom she fondly calls as children. “Mount Carmel has always been the forerunner of constructive changes in academics. Helping students improve their knowledge and instilling values that will enrich their life is important,” says Sr Juanita.
The principal has been instrumental in ensuring that the girls are part of the college’s outreach programme. Strictly against the usage of mobile phones on campus, the principal insists that eves must concentrate on studies and warns that errant students will be punished.
Joyce Sunder, Principal of Bishop Cotton Women’s Christian College, Bangalore
- by Sangeetha Samuel, Bangalore
Joyce Sunder, principal of Bishop Cotton Women’s Christian College, Bangalore, wishes to empower every student with education. Heading an institution which is still in its early stages, the principal has taken up the challenge of ensuring that students do not lack avenues to hone their skills.
Joyce Sunder has a doctorate in women studies. “Several bridge courses have been facilitated for students so that they are equipped with interpersonal skills and elements that will make them employable” says the principal. “Two certificate courses have been introduced by the University Grants Commission. Students are exposed to intercollegiate fests to give them confidence and job fairs to make them independent as an individual.”
Joyce Sunder believes in a process of transformation through reformation for erring students. “Students have access to counsellors throughout the year and the faculty are available for them at any given time,” she says. Also there is no compromise on academics at Bishop Cotton.
K Nirmala Prasad, Principal of MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai
Zero tolerance for the mundane
- by Preethi Ann Thomas, Chennai
While taking over a five-year-old private college 15 years back, K Nirmala Prasad (MCom, MPhil and PhD) knew that the task ahead would be tremendous. To attract good students to the self-financing courses at MOP Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai, they would have to brand the college as top-notch. “We had to offer them (students) something that other established colleges didn’t offer. Their education had to be employment-oriented so we started offering soft skills training, computer specialisations, etc, for students to equip themselves to face the employment market,” explains Nirmala, its principal.
From summer internships to new courses like MA Communications and BSc Electronic Media, repackaging existing courses to suit current needs of the industry and insisting on practical knowledge, they’ve done it all. By introducing a student and application-centric model, the girls of MOP Vaishnav gained with industry-tie ups, market research, 50 hours of practice school to apply domain knowledge, research-oriented projects, incubation of entrepreneurial ideas and exploring their creativity through a community radio station and online hunts. “We deliberately moved from the chalk-and-talk method and rote learning to more innovative methods of teaching and learning,” she says. However, this reputed academician is never satisfied with her achievements. “I am constantly bogged by the need to innovate and reinvent and can’t tolerant the mundane,” she expresses. “We have ventured into finishing lessons for these young adults so that they can handle their personal and professional lives better.” Her aim is to turn MOP into a university. “Being affiliated to a university involves a lot of constraints. We want students to have the freedom to choose any combination of subjects before they decide on their major in the second year,” she concludes.
Sr Alphonsa Vattoly, Principal of St Francis College, Begumpet, AP
‘Serving people is serving god’
- by Payal Ganguly, Hyderabad
In her five-year stint as principal of St Francis College (Begumpet, AP), Sr Alphonsa Vattoly has been a significant contributor to the growth of the 54 year-old institution. She is on her toes for 11 to 12 hours a day. “The college was granted autonomy for its postgraduation courses in 2010 and we have a host of innovative courses that match the requirements of the industry. This includes a BCom (Integrated Professional Programme) for aspirants of chartered accountancy,” says Sr Vattoly.
Under her stewardship, the college has initiated a certificate programme in American Business Experience with St Ambrose University at Davenport, Iowa, USA. The programme for faculty and students from commerce and management stream has enriched 24 exchange candidates in three years. The institute also has a signed an MoU with British Council for setting up an English Language Teaching centre at the college.
The upcoming American Corner at the college is likely to provide a diverse experience to students. “The students as well as visitors to the centre will benefit from the vast library of around 25 lakh books and journals, which will be available at the centre. The US Consulate in Hyderabad has funded the programme and the infrastructure is being developed,” says the principal.
Among her multiple responsibilities as a member of executive council of Osmania University and University Grants College (UGC), Vattoly enjoys teaching best. “I believe that serving people is serving God. The unique point of our institute are courses like BSc Software (Honours) and MA in applied psychology, which were introduced in response to the changing demands of the job sector,” she observes.
Sr Y Philomena, Founder, Director and Principal of Villa Marie College for Women, Hyderabad
Dedicated to women empowerment
- by Payal Ganguly, Hyderabad
A holistic education for girls motivated Sr Y Philomena, founder, director and principal of Villa Marie College for Women, Hyderabad, to set up the institute in 1991. “The generation I belong to had few institutes which thought of education beyond academics. It is important that girls have access to a complete space, which nurtures their personality,” says Philomena whose sabbatical in USA gave her the fillip to start an institute in her hometown, Hyderabad.
A firm believer in an education that guarantees employment, Sr Y Philomena has been instrumental in introducing viable courses for students. “We were one of the first colleges to introduce BSc computer science. The courses are revised annually and those which are obsolete have been weeded out. We have recently introduced courses such as BCom in foreign trade and advertising, which are not mere degrees but also add value,” says Sr Philomena.
To inspire the faculty to go the extra mile, the college practices regular holiday seminars for educators. “It is a process of reinventing the teaching methodology. Also, revamping the infrastructure is a continuous process for the institute. We encourage the girls to express their creativity. The students of mass communication and journalism have been involved in creating short films and have been guided by renowned persons in the field,” adds the principal.
It is also the only college in Hyderabad to offer a finishing school course for an all-round development. “It is important for women to not only succeed professionally but to strike a balance in life. This programme is targeted at providing a well-rounded education and equip the students for challenges in life,” explains Sr Philomena.
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