Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. Amishi Arora is currently the Director at CIBMRD, Nagpur. She enjoys autonomy and provides the same to the faculties of the institute. She wishes to spare and spend more time for the students apart from her regular work as it’s an enriching experience for her.
Dr. Amishi Arora’s journey in the education industry
I entered this industry by accident, I had no intention of entering into the academic field. I was invited by my Director after I completed MBA to engage a few lectures. So, that’s how the journey began. In the process, I really started enjoying it. I was the youngest teacher, the senior batch was actually my junior batch and I started teaching the 1st year students. Initially, few apprehensions were there but I also realized that I related to the students much better than the other professors, with due respect to all my professors who were quite advanced in age at that time. Being just a fresh student, I could understand what the students actually want and I tried to give them back exactly the same. I was able to relate far better with them.
This actually gave me more confidence and made me more interested in the profession. I realized that this is exactly my cup of tea. So, my journey began from there. I was not in a position to engage more lectures or take up a full-time job opportunity because marriage was there, a new family, etc. Slowly I began by engaging as a visiting lecturer and grew to engaging as a full-time faculty. All of a sudden, I was entrusted with the responsibility of the head of the institution because the director retired and there was no one to take the position at that time. It was like this, I didn't know ‘A’ of administration at that time and while on the job, I was able to understand a few things. That was the year when we faced a AICTE’s inspection and several other compliances to meet and it was a big challenge but I had a very supportive team and we were able to meet the challenges and we came out of it pretty well.
I think one learns day by day and till date, I’m learning. There are so many changes in this industry. As far as my experience is concerned, I would say it is a very comfortable industry to be in as against what we see in other industries because there is less number of hours involved and it depends more on your studies and efforts. It is an industry where the student’s community pays a lot of respect and it fans your ego as well. Teachers do carry a little more ego than others and that’s probably because of the importance and the respect which the students and their parents give. So, you get to interact with all the stakeholders, students, employers, parents, management, regulatory bodies and it’s a different challenge over there. But all in all, it’s an area where it gives you maximum job satisfaction. The kind of happiness and satisfaction which one gets after delivering a lecture is amazing. Even if you’re not paid for it, you feel happy and satisfied because you delivered a good lecture and students have accepted it and liked it. And of course, one needs to keep himself updated all the time. Today’s students are far more aware than the faculties with so much of information being available. So, another reason that I enjoy this profession is that one gets to keep himself updated all the time.
Dr. Arora’s philosophy of leadership and her inspiration
My inspiration has always been my father, it’s not a cliche but he has been an ideal in all respects. I have seen him being respected in society as an honest upright person and there were certain principles which he taught to all us, his children and we follow it. We have also been following his principles, his teachings and guidelines and it has helped us meet the challenges and also to gain a lot of respect from society.
As far as the philosophy of leadership is concerned, this is a very interesting area. I have researched a bit and contributed by way of papers also in this particular area and topic. I have done some workshops and even developed a few cases on this subject. I have seen leadership in 2-3 various organizations where I have worked and from them, I have learned what is important and what is required! First and foremost, the leader has to be passionate. If the leader is passionate about what he/she is doing, then everyone follows suit. As the head of this institution, I have to be passionate about my job, I may not know everything, I may not be perfect in my operations, but if I am keen on getting my job done well, passionate about delivering well, then in that case I know, I’ll be able to be successful. For one, the passion becomes contagious. The people at the top are zealous, interested, motivated, committed. So, people at the lower rank and middle rank observe you and they also understand that this is how they must follow. You don’t have to tell them about their responsibilities and their commitments. You have to walk the talk and lead from the front. More importantly, it has to be a participative and democratic sort of leadership style. Democratic style of leadership in this particular industry is what is required where teachers get so much of respect that if you don’t treat them with equal amount of respect, they won’t be cooperating with you.
All these employees have to be involved, to get them that feeling of belongingness, participative and democrative style of leadership is my style of leadership. It has also paid dividends, I have enjoyed the support of my team tremendously.
Challenges faced as the Director of CIBMRD
These days, the challenges are increasing a lot in the sense that there are so many regulatory bodies and so many compliances which we have to meet every day. Each and every institute cannot be perfect. There will always be something which you may have to fulfill or something which you may have to keep working on! It’s a never ending story and I feel I am losing a lot of productive time in doing this kind of unproductive compliance all the time. But that is part of the job and I shouldn’t be complaining about it. Then there are difficult students, they need to be motivated, they need to be put on track as sometimes they go off track. You kind of feel responsible for all the students who come to you. They become a part of your family, just as I have my own children this is my extended family. For all the students who have passed out, who have been a part of this institution, the motherly feeling has always been there.
I can see students suffering from broken relationships, depression because of some family issue, students not being so cooperative because of competition, students trying to outdo each other where placements are concerned, so these are little things where you feel that your job is also to churn out not just academically satisfying students but also upright citizens. Some basic things that I feel am responsible for teaching all my students like what morals are, ethics are and what is right and wrong. I think my entire team takes some time in conveying these aspects to our students through various small activities and platforms. We can’t take a lecture on moral science or ethics. There is ethics as a subject but it is just treated as an academic subject. But to actually imbibe those values and to practice it in real life, is what we would want our students to carry on! It comes by showing them in small ways when we are hosting activities, we are participating somewhere. In everything, first and foremost quality is good conduct. Then getting the cooperation from all the team is also a challenge. Non-performers have to be informed and they should be motivated into performing better. There are a lot of internal politics, external influences, competitions, the trends in the economy - like education and especially MBA was not going through a very favourable phase sometime back. It is now back on the track but the past few years, we witnessed a mushrooming growth of MBA colleges everywhere, quality being diluted and somewhere the impact has been there on us as well, like availability of good faculties, students’ perception and criteria of the MBA college. So, you have to stand tall in terms of competition in such times. There is another challenge and of course, meeting the needs and criteria of management also. Fortunately, we have a very supportive management and we are allowed to do our own here. A lot of autonomy is given to me which gives me room and space to experiment, and most of the times my experiments have paid off well. These are new areas and we can try to be a little innovative in our approaches also.
Placement opportunities available at CIBMRD
70-75% students get placed, although if we compare with the best ones, the average pay scales don’t match. But in the category in which we operate, we are known to be one of the good placement providers. It is our USP. Local organizations don’t want to pick up local students and students don’t want to go out. We encourage them because we feel that they should learn on a wider platform and we have to really motivate them to pick up whatever opportunities come their way. Fortunately, good profiles and good organizations have visited and keep on visiting us. But our main focus is more on developing their entrepreneurial skills. Placements are there and companies will come and go! But why not start something on your own? We have a very active entrepreneurship development cell and we also have an incubation center. It’s a very promising area.
However, students are not very forthcoming to take up entrepreneurship as a career right away. They would want to spend some time gaining some experience and then think about entrepreneurship. They really have to be motivated and cajoled. We give them mock companies and simulation activities of the organization for idea generation. Then they will be given some seed money to create organization out of it wherein we will invite venture capitalists also and ask if they want to fund any one of these ideas. We give them that exposure, intensive training, other than the classroom training and syllabus is also given for entrepreneurial development. So, I feel we would be contributing to the society in a better way if we develop entrepreneurs more than just a good placement provider because everyone is doing that. Everyone talks about placement but if we are able to create more number of entrepreneurs, then it would be our ideal yardstick of success.
Differentiating CIBMRD with other institutes
Most of us are the same because we are affiliated to the university, we are approved by the council and admissions are through DTE, so the kind of curriculum, the kind of students, the kind of regulatory norms is the same, operating in this area. In that way, we are not different. In areas where we try to have an edge over others is our pedagogy, which as I said I enjoy autonomy, I try to give a lot of autonomy to my faculties as well. So, they are in fact asked to experiment in the ways of teaching.
One thing which we try to do is, we call it field immersion activity. For each subject, the faculty has to involve the students in some kind of practical work. If you are teaching an ex-subject, so how that ex-subject is actually there in the corporate world, how it is functioning in the industry, the nuances of the particular subject, should be made to understand to the students with the help of faculty. Field immersion area is one area where we try to focus on the students and we are the ones which took a lead in coming up with certain areas of evaluation. Like we have the subject seminar concept, at the end of it, although viva is not the part of the assessment criteria prescribed by the university, we follow what the university prescribes to us.
Apart from that, what we do is, at the end of the term, for each subject, a group of students is asked to do their presentation on the subject unit-wise. That helps them in developing their notes, study material, which then they are asked to share. There is a book review platform also. Though books are not very popular among students with the digital and online sources being made available so easily. Students are asked to read a good book, biographies, autobiographies, do a presentation in front of others, share what you have understood from the book and other students who have not read the book also understand the content of the book. He/she may not be able to read it but also understand what is there is in! Some students enjoy this, some don’t because they don’t want to sit down for reading. They enjoy attending the class, they enjoy listening to it rather than participating. There are a few things like these which we try to incorporate. We also do outbound training for them, so that helps them a lot and that is something they enjoy tremendously. There are a few adventure campsites over here, different hurdles and obstacles in which the students are supposed to participate in and overcome. That is where actual learning comes, areas like organizational behavior, HR, etc. are taught through these outbound activities. For them, it’s a picnic and they enjoy it. We have to keep inventing something to keep them involved.
Dr. Arora on her time management
It’s so ironical! I take up training programs and I take up time management but most of the time I feel that I’m not able to manage my time. I am not satisfied, I try to do my level best. The best way is to plan your day, a lot of times whatever is planned doesn’t happen. Something new comes up and that takes away your time. But I try to plan what I would want to do in that particular day, even if I am able to accomplish 80% of what I had planned, I am happy because 80% is quite a good number.
Most of the times, I am able to complete 60 or 70% only. I delegate a lot, as I said autonomy is one thing which is given to all faculties over here. But if they run into any problems or difficulties, they are always open and welcome to come back to me for suggestions and help. Most of these areas and activities are part of their KRAs of the entire team. People know that they are going to be evaluated on that. Their progress depends on how well they take up their delegated responsibility.
Ensuring best practices of industry through an updated curriculum
We don’t have our curriculum here; we follow what the university prescribes. Me or somebody from my team is involved in the process as members of the board of studies or member of the team developing the curriculum or syllabus. We have to go beyond what the university prescribes. The university is offering fairly satisfactory program when MBA is concerned but we give give far beyond from what the university prescribes. There are areas which are not part of the curriculum but we have sessions on that so we have ad-hoc faculties, we have guest faculties, we have workshops which are beyond the classrooms. We encourage students to take up certificate programs as there are so many online sources. So, the number of certificates that they have at the end of the term is going to be beneficial for them to face an interview but they won’t do it unless we really make them do it. Our internal evaluation is also based on the number of certificates that they have! We make them do certificate programs through our own platform. There is a faculty in charge for that, he coordinates and ensures that all students are participating, taking up the course, doing the assessment and finally being awarded with the certificate/diploma. Internal marks are based on what they have achieved through the process. The field immersion activity is also there to give them that practical exposure. Usually it’s a group of students which a faculty carries along in his/her subject. It is the faculty’s job to give them the exposure and training.
Establishing a relation with the students being the director
As a Director, I am involved in so many other administrative responsibilities, meetings outside the institute, with the university people, with the authorities, with the management and other similar platforms that I am really not being able to involve myself much with the students. However, I do ensure that the induction program is conducted by me, so that the basic soft skill training and personality development areas are taken up by me during the induction, in between the sessions, and at a later stage and also during events.
I also do take up a couple of subjects with the students, so I’m involved with them when I’m engage my subject with them. Otherwise, the coordinators are more in touch, I am not that involved which is a little regrettable on my part because I would like to engage more with them than in other activities. Sessions with students are always enriching, spending time with them is also enriching. There is a feeling of job satisfaction, it’s a happy feeling when you spend time with the students.
Goals in your mind for the future of CIBMRD
It’s a difficult question! There are many things that we would like to achieve and there are other basic things which we need to comply to before we move on to those areas. First and foremost, all the levels of accreditation have to be complied to. So, we would also move to international accreditation as and when time permits and expand into other vocational programs because we are very happy with the vocational program which we are doing with Tata Institute of Social Sciences in their School of Vocational Education. It’s a unique concept and I am delighted at the way that the students have developed through that course. The best part about that course is that there is 40% classroom teaching and 60% on-the-job training.
We have to tie-up with organizations for this on-the-job training. They are called SKPs - Skill Knowledge Partners. We send the students after the 2 months of classroom teaching, we send the students to these organizations for internships, for the practical learning, practical exposure. They learn more by involving themselves in these kind of practical activities than in the classroom. They understand the theoretical concepts far better. So, I have seen students getting benefitted by this concept of pedagogy and this is my goal for other programs also. The university or the council may not prescribe a similar way of teaching but we would like to suddenly take it up that way so that we can give them the desired exposure and advantage. I think we will have to go for an autonomy for that at a later stage.
Suggestions for the current youth
They should not move with the herd. They need to understand what they would like to do, what are their aptitudes, understand their inherited skills, understand their strength and how to capitalize them and study well before selecting a college. Students just want to migrate to a particular city because every student wants to go there. There are so many colleges which are not doing well just because a city is a big attraction to the students’ community, all students going over there will not get admission in the best colleges. So, you’re spending your parents’ hard earned money and you’re going to be staying there in hostels and will be paying more fees. You can take that kind of education in your own city also at a lesser price.
What is more important to the students is that you involve and gain practical exposure as much as you can! Do your homework well before taking admission, don’t just go by the trend that my friend is there, so I should also go there! There is a lot of promotion being done by a lot of institutes and they have created their own image but they may not deliver that promise. With due respect, a lot of government organizations are there and they have an edge over other private institutes because they are a government institute but it’s not always the best. Best students go over there but it’s not always the best. The private institutes are in the competition. To survive in the competition, they are doing the best to rise up well and you would find that there would be faring better than most of these so-called government-run organizations.