Interview By Bhawna Rawat
Prof. (Dr.) Chavi Bhargava Sharma is currently working as the Executive Director & Dean at Manav Rachna University. She has done her doctorate in Psychology. A researcher, writer and teacher, Dr. Chavi Bhargava Sharma has been instrumental in setting up and being the founder of three major departments MBA, Psychology, Hospitality and Hotel Administration and the Doctoral programs. She also heads the Community service, social responsibilities and CSR initiatives of the organization. She has experience of ten years, working in the post of Professor, Dean and Director.
As a trained clinical psychologist from 1988 to the present, Dr. Sharma has been working in the area of mental, emotional and psychological health and wellness. She has conducted training for IBM, Times of India, RSS, C-DAC etc. She has been working as a psychological counsellor and psychotherapist on issues of mental health like depression, anxiety, autism, learning disabilities, behavioural and emotional problems etc.
Dr. Sharma’s career can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, she has been involved in teaching, writing and social psychological research. The second phase of her career involves working as an educational intrapreneur, which involves setting up from the scratch and building educational institutions, their various departments like MBA, Hotel Management, Psychology, Economics, Social Work, Liberal Arts, Faculty of Management Studies & Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Liberal Arts.
Experience in the education industry
I have been in the education Industry for a good 28 years. I have been at various positions and mainly have been instrumental in building departments and institutions from the past 14 years along with teaching.
This is the best Industry to work in because even though it sounds clichéd, teaching is a noble profession and a teacher affects eternity. It is challenging and exciting to work with the future and be a part of creating a future and it keeps you forever young and agile mentally and emotionally.
Dr. Sharma’s philosophy of leadership is to lead by example
I know only one style, a leader leads from the front and leads by example. Everything one expects from the student or the faculty one should be the example, one needs to walk the talk and respect both the students and teachers. I set up the management department and was the Director & Dean since 2008 and at that point in Manav Rachna, I was the youngest Dean and the only woman amongst all Men, who mostly were superannuated and were in their second career innings. Believe me, it has been a tough journey but worth learning. It began with building the MBA, then MBA in Healthcare, Hotel Management, Psychology, Ph.D. programs in these disciplines and now it is Liberal Arts, Economics, Social Work, Sociology, etc.
The significant challenges faced by theExecutive Director & Dean of Manav Rachna University
The challenges were plenty in a male bastion and among all the men I had to carve my space and make my voice matter
See, a woman with a mind of her own, a strong woman who can take decisions and who does not run to a man for every little thing is not a desirable woman. Men want women to listen to them and agree to what they say, not challenge them. Today, there is an almost equal number of women Deans and they do not face challenges.
Manav Rachna is offering the best to its students
If Manav Rachna is thriving, it is because it is offering the best things. It is an open market and the student is also a customer. If we are in the business, then it is because we are giving a good ROI to the student and that is why s/he comes to us.
The changes in the Education Industry and the desired skills in a student
Education had gone from becoming teacher-centric to learner-centric. The future belongs to flexible and blended learning.
The skills required of students have also changed. You require life skills, behavioural skills, the capacity to multi-task, work in teams which are cross-cultural and cross-gender, be emotionally intelligent and know the application of the domain knowledge. Ethics, values and integrity thankfully have made a comeback and people are looking to hire people who have the heart and head in the right place.
The growth of students through placement opportunities available atManav Rachna University
When I started the MBA department in 2008, I got students mainly from Haryana, and many of them were first-generation learners too. Being a psychologist, I saw that the main difficulty of the learners was how to learn and then I realized they needed to be groomed and taught life skills. The first thing I did was to introduce a paper which was mandatory with credits across all semesters on life skills and employability skills and this included personal and professional skills like understanding yourself, self-esteem to working in teams & organization and building your career.
Along with this, we did mock interviews, Group discussions and aptitude tests, and got people from the industry to nurture the students. We also made the students go through a mandatory 30 hours of community service and social work. Students have worked with the police, in NGO’s, villages etc. and it made them grounded, taught them emotional intelligence, discipline and responsibility. This package helped students get placements. It also helped increase the strength of the girls from 13% to 49%.
Establishing a relationship with the students
I have always followed the open door policy. Any student and any faculty can come and talk to me directly. Besides this, I have always taught a paper every semester and there is no better way to connect with the students than the class and teaching. Like I stated earlier, I lead from the front and for all scholastic, co-scholastic activities I ensure I interact with the team. I had also introduced ‘Director of the Day’ where each student got a chance to run the department and sat in my office and worked with me and took decisions that the chair required.
Encouraging an ideal school environment
An ideal environment should be one where there is space for everyone. It should be diverse, plural and inclusive. The emphasis should be on learning and assimilation, and we need to move away from rote learning. We should be teaching to become co-learners and facilitators with freedom and flexibility for the students to decide his or her curriculum. Liberal Arts are the future.
We also need to move away from a punishing system, based on distrust, to one that respects the students and encourages learning.
Goals for the Institute for the next few years
The aim of education is to equip the students to live happy lives and have meaningful careers, and for that one has to redefine education and the pedagogy. Instead of the cut-copy-paste from the west, build a robust system that is made in India for the global student.
A piece of advice for the current youth and the aspiring students
Do not let anyone define what and how you should be and live. Live a life of honesty, be true to yourself, do not forget to question things, make your mistakes, discover yourself and discover life.
A career should be the consequence of your learning and not the reason for your learning and life.