Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Ms. Rajita Kulkarni took over as President, Sri Sri University in April 2017. She is also the President of the World Forum for Ethics in Business. She has been a member of the Board of Governors of Sri Sri University since 2009. In addition to these key responsibilities, she leads a global Board of Directors comprising Members of European Parliament, CEOs, and international experts from business and development. During the last 6 years, she has worked with global coalitions of organizations from the public and private sector, government and institutions like the United Nations, The World Bank Group, The European Parliament, The Council of Europe, CERN, The International Olympic Association, FIFA, The Max Planck Institute, Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales, Chambers of Commerce and various civil society organizations.
In March 2018, Ms. Kulkarni featured among the top 100 inspirational women of India in ‘The Phenomenal She’, a book published by the National Bar Association of India. Her keen understanding of the educational systems around the world, her ability to connect with academicians, students and regulators and her unique skill of bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders towards a common goal is taking the Sri Sri University team to build it as a global centre of excellence.
Rajita Kulkarni’s experience in the education sector made her realize that it is the best field to work in
Education is the most important aspect of one’s life. It shapes us into what we want to be, and in fact, life is incomplete or inconceivable without education. Everything we know in life is because of education. So, being a part of such a sector which is responsible for shaping the character and capability of an individual is such a great honour and a big responsibility. I think everybody associated with this sector should consider themselves extremely grateful that they have the golden opportunity to shape the current and future generations of our world. So, I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to do so. My association with the field of education is quite old. Even when I was engaged in professional studies, I used to involve myself in training and development activities. I was helping individuals understand their potential and achieve their goals through different learning initiatives.
The President’s philosophy of leadership is to lead by example…
Yes. My approach to leadership is leading by example. I have always believed that whatever we say as leaders, we have to first embody that. I firmly believe in servant leadership as we live in a world where information is easily available to people through technology, they are worldly-wise and aware of what they need to do. So as a leader, what we need to do is to be available to them and help them do their job in a better way. As a leader, I consider my biggest role is to be a facilitator, to help my team to achieve their goals and stand by their side in moments of crisis. Above all, as leaders, our responsibility should be to guide our teams in 3 important aspects-
- Where do we want to go? What is our vision?
- Why is this our vision? What is the purpose of our work?
- How can we get there?
Being the President of this prestigious university, what are the challenges you are facing?
The challenges are many. In fact, when we first acquired the land for the university, there was nothing here. It was just a big patch of land full of mounds and uneven stretches. So in the first place, to really conceptualize everything and work towards transforming it in its present state was quite challenging. We stuck to our value systems , didn’t pay any bribes, even when things were moving at a very slow pace or not moving at all. But then, people find it difficult to believe such things in India. Now things are certainly much better, but couple of years ago, it was quite difficult to work while abiding by one’s principles. It is easy to bring a team together when everything is working well but when you make a beginning from ground zero, it is a big challenge.
The curriculum of the University ensures that the knowledge students gain is of the highest level
We have a very unique approach I would say. There is a different curriculum for every subject. We offer our students the best knowledge of the East and best of the West. Every program of ours has the most updated knowledge component in the academic sense, at the same time, it is being combined with the eastern wisdom through meditation and spiritual programs. We are empowering our students with tools and techniques to manage their mind. We teach them ancient breathing and meditation techniques that have been researched to have a very positive and healing impact on the body and mind. These techniques are helping our students deal with stresses of modern day living, peer pressure and challenges of being part of the global work force. So we are actually equipping our students to deal with their mind, to overcome pressure, to handle a crisis, to remain calm in a difficult situation. This also makes their perception, observation and communication stronger. The students become more innovative, creative and dynamic. All these are qualities that recruiters look for when they recruit students from campus. This is a very important differentiator of our university.
We also take pride in our 100% vegetarian and hygienic kitchen services. The University has an ISO: 22000 certiﬁed kitchen, complying with all the quality standards. The food served here is ‘satvik’ (high on subtle life energies) because we believe, ‘what you eat impacts your mind’. The food is delicious with specialities for few days a week and gets updated every six months based on the feedback. The food caters to the wide group of people coming from all over the world. It is a way of community dining which brings all the students, staff and employees under one roof. The spirit of volunteering or ‘sewa’ is encouraged by giving the opportunity to the ones interested to be a part of the kitchen’s serving activities. We have a smoking, drug and alcohol-free campus which is most important for students to nurture a addiction free life. It is also extremely important for parents, because they know their children are safe on our campus
Even in the academic part of our curriculum, we have very good faculty members. Two third of them are doctorates and are among the most knowledgeable faculty members any institution can have. They use innovative teaching techniques to guide the students.
Placement opportunities available at Sri Sri University
We have very good placement opportunities, especially because of the ‘Art of Living’ network in almost 155 countries around the world. Our students have done summer training in the World Forum for Ethics in Business in Europe. Our students are employed in different countries in the world. Even in India, they are getting very good opportunities like in the government sector, UN, and Fortune 500 companies of the private sector, fortune 500 companies are there.. Our students have also ventured into startups and in the last 3 years alone 18 startups have been incubated by our students. We been recently selected by Odisha Govt as a nodal agency for Start Up Odisha. We also got the Chief Ministers Award for the best organized Start up Boot Camp in all of Odisha.
Read more about placements opportunities available at SSU
Ms. Kulkarni on building a relationship with the students
I am always there for our students. Most of them follow me on the social media. They read what I write, they also write back to me. Whenever I am at the campus, I make it a point to meet the student body and heads of different clubs. Every month I make sure to meet students who are excelling, winning different competitions for the university. I have an open door policy; students can easily approach me for any of their plans or even to share any challenges if they are facing.
Ms. Kulkarni’s idea of an ideal school environment
We have an ideal school environment where students are happy to invest their time in studies and extracurricular activities. We have a culture where students and teachers have open communication, where queries from students are welcome in the classroom as well as outside. Faculty members are also engaged in mentoring and coaching the students for their future. The leadership of the University is leading with the intention of contributing to the society, not only for personal gain or profit. This is the intention of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar ji to bring the best education in India and this is exactly what is happening at Sri Sri University.
The top qualities that an aspiring Manager must possess to compete in today’s time
I think that the first quality that an aspiring manager should have is the ‘pursuit of excellence’. We are living in an extremely competitive world today, so this is a quality that a manager must possess. The second quality is ‘dedication to work’ because we all know that we are very easily replaceable today, either by a human being or by technology. If they have to really survive and thrive, young managers must be extremely dedicated and highly committed to the work that they are doing. They have to be willing to work hard. The third quality is ‘the ability to keep up with the trend’. We all know that every day there is a new technology, the world is evolving very fast, so if they have to stay relevant, if they want to stay always employable, then young managers have to look at how they can keep themselves updated and upskilled.