The higher education sector is at an inflexion point. It needs to find more effective, efficient ways to educate students without sacrificing rigour or the human interactions and feedback that lie at the heart of quality education. And it needs to do this while somehow covering the escalating costs of financial aid, student services, technology, and compliance with government mandates. There is a serious need to shift on how students are being educated. Their emotional quotient needs to be tapped, along with their behavioural skills and team-player skills. “I wish we could tell these things to our students along with their education curriculum. Our examination pattern should be case-study-based and remove rote learning. We need their understanding. These things have come through NEP, and everyone should adopt this to secure a good future for our youth”, points out Dr Shalini Gupta, Vice-Chancellor, Desh Bhagat University.
With the pandemic making everything digital, it was quite a challenge to make the faculty members at the Desh Bhagat University adapt to the fact that they had to go online. Training the faculty members was quite tricky as there were not many faculty training programs for remote education. So, Dr Shalini started a training program to help the transition to remote education be smoother. They were helped to transition to various technology. She states, “We established a media center for lecture recordings to technologically upgrade our campus”, adding, “Many of our faculty members were not well acquainted with computers and technology. We helped them through our program, making it as an add-on to our manpower”.
Although they miss out on the one-to-one interactions with their students where they would mentor them, everyone has geared up to this kind of environment. Desh Bhagat University is now 100% into technology. Having upgraded the infrastructure, the complete institution is technology-driven with smart classrooms with faculty members equipped with laptops and cloud spaces. Every process in the campus, right from the admission to final interviews to startup interviews, is digital.
An Educator by Blood
Coming from a family of reputed academicians, Dr Shalini’s father, Late Prof. PK Gupta, was an English Professor at DAV Bhatinda, from who she draws inspiration. She reminisces, “When I was studying, he would know everything about every subject. I could talk about absolutely anything with him. He was a great storyteller, and he would teach me through stories. He was a great photographer too. He helped me understand how extracurriculars helped him in his profession”.
With a Doctorate in Entrepreneurship, Dr Shalini is a B.Com student who has completed her MBA. She did well in her academics as well as extra-curricular activities. She was taught at home to not just concentrate on one thing, which made her excel in singing as well. She was a radio singer at Kurukshetra Radio Station and Bhatinda Radio Station on a part-time basis. “What you do from childhood has an impact on your leadership skills as well. You know how to say things and counsel better, which affects your leadership positively. Some qualities are inherent, some are parental, and some are observed. Your qualities will help you decide between right and wrong”, opines Dr Shalini.
Starting her day as a doting mother, Dr Shalini takes care of her house and family and becomes an academician by 10 am. During her work, she meets people, tasks decisions for her students’ welfare, and takes up challenging tasks as well. An active social media user, she ends her day with a bit of gardening and singing. She started her journey with Desh Bhagat University as a Director when she was just 28 years old and became the Vice-Chancellor when she turned 45. “My mother, who was a teacher as well, has guided me throughout my career. When I joined Desh Bhagat University, I spoke to my mother about this, and she inspired me to go ahead as she was a visionary lady, and I gave the nod”, adds Dr Shalini. Throughout her journey at Desh Bhagat, Dr Shalini led the university from when it was a tiny sapling and has played a huge role in making it bloom like a flower.
Scaling Heights with her Team
Believing in participative decision-making, Dr Shalini takes her team along with her as she grows. She motivates, empowers, and takes them in her fold, which has helped her build her super team. She states, “I believe in the team effort; I don’t like divide and rule. I want my team to meet and sit together. They should know everything, and I should empower them. I do my best and don’t get into politics and manipulation. I never leave my values and make my team grow”.
As a leader, Dr Shalini feels qualities like integrity, honesty, professional ethics, and empathy are inherent, which makes her a role model for everyone around her. She opines. “As an educator and leader, I believe in humanity and spiritualism, which I feel, are the core values needed for the society, and that’s how you can be a good leader, who is a student all the times”. Constantly working on upgrading the university in all aspects, Dr Shalini is striving to enhance their research quality, innovation, and entrepreneurship, changing the mindset of faculty members to help them smoothly adapt to remote education.
Women have often been limited in India in their roles due to socio-cultural constraints, including politicization, rigid social norms, and expectations prioritizing family over career. Complexity in the social structure and a heterogeneous population of more than a billion varying in culture and religion have made it difficult for governments and institutions to implement policies that are inclusive and not gendered. “If you are looking to grow, then you have to be emotionally intelligent and not get scared of small things. They have to understand the work-home balance, as it is quite difficult. They have to be mentally prepared to manage time between their homes and offices. Explore the qualities they are born with. Believe in yourself. Women are better in-born leaders. They can cross any obstacle with their can-do attitude”, opines Dr Shalini.
If we go for the figures, women in leadership roles are still a minority in India, but the trend is now changing. The education sector has maximum women faculty members who are leaders in their sphere. Although there are women in various sectors at leadership levels, they are still less in number. “We, as a society, have to change our mindset towards women and understand that they are capable and better leaders. Women are blessed with patience, sympathy, empathy, and team effort, which are missing in men. Although women are educated, we don’t find many women leaders in rural areas. As educators, we should take this up and bring about a change in the society”, concludes Dr Shalini.