Professor Dr C Krithika, the Registrar at Meenakshi Academy of Higher Education and Research (MAHER), makes it to the list of the 10 Most Inspiring Leaders in Education in 2022 for her extraordinary management skills. As the registrar, Dr Krithika is responsible for effective administration and smooth functioning of all the departments at MAHER, under the guidance of the Chancellor, Thiru. A.N. Radhakrishnan, Rector Mrs. Jayanthi Radhakrishnan, Vice-chancellor Dr. R.S. Neelakandan and other members of the board of management of MAHER. Dr. Krithika wears many hats and takes on multiple roles, including being the member secretary at the Board of Management, Academic Council and Planning and Monitoring board of MAHER. Additionally, she oversees the appointment of new staff, choosing the best of the best to give students the right faculty to help them reach their potential.
As a leader, Dr Krithika strives to create an engaging environment at MAHER to nurture academic growth and encourage a culture of research and thinking. She is known for her communication skills and impeccable attention to detail. She is responsible for all communication that goes through MAHER and works towards having the best facilities at MAHER that comply with all regulatory norms of the UGC, NMC, DCI, INC, and other bodies. “We have a very robust Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) that proposes initiatives to continuously improve the quality of MAHER. Feedback is taken from all stakeholders including students, parents, peers and alumni to help us improve regularly,” says Dr Krithika. MAHER was awarded the title of “Best Institution for Higher Education” in 2021 by News 18 Jury. Meenakshi Ammal Dental College was placed at the 24th rank at all India level in the rankings released by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). MAHER was also nominated by the Ministry of Jalshakti, Government of India, for the water conservation award and was the only Deemed to be University in south India to have been shortlisted.
Over the years, Dr Krithika understands the challenges students, faculty and administrators face. With her academic and administrative experience, she learnt the importance of spirited teamwork and a nagging need to arrive at a solution through consensual opinion. “According to me, leadership involves listening, understanding, comprehending, and then executing my tasks, which means being the person I would want others to be. Leadership also involves building a relationship with people based on mutual trust, respect, empathy and goodwill,” she shares. As a leader, she ensures that a fair and transparent SWOC analysis is done to identify the potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. Then, by framing a blueprint of the targets needed to be achieved within a definite time frame, one can build on strengths, capitalize on opportunities, and overcome challenges. Regular meetings are held to engage with the heads of the institutions to learn and evolve as people and as an institution continuously.
Dr Krithika, initially, did not set out to take on an administrative position. She began her studies in dentistry, oral medicine and radiology from the Tamil Nadu Government Dental College and Hospital in Chennai. She was awarded the ‘Best Outgoing Student’ and graduated with four gold medals and a university rank in General Medicine. She later went on to complete her PhD at MAHER.
Dr Krithika’s love for research landed her at the end of the NPTEL course on health research fundamentals with an elite gold certificate. She has also attended numerous workshops and courses on research methodology and systemic review offered by the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR medical university, CMC Vellore, and John Hopkins University. She has also completed the ‘International Certificate on the Principles of Bioethics and Human Rights’ offered by The Department of Education, UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, HAIFA. She is presently pursuing her PG diploma in the same area.
As a young girl, Dr Krithika was a good student and consistent topper in school and college. “Even as a student, I used to learn a single topic from different textbooks and different specialities and collate the information to have a holistic idea about the subject. I believed in a deep understanding of the principles behind every skill required of a student. I would always give my 100% in preparation for every assignment, class test and university examination,” she says. She carries the same work ethic and commitment to excel in whatever she does, bringing it from her student days to her professional career.
As she looks back, she shares that her husband, Dr Sridhar, has been the most significant influence in her life. “He has always been my friend, philosopher and guide, and I didn’t need to look beyond home for inspiration or motivation,” shares Dr Krithika. He served the government of Tamil Nadu and occupied high offices in medical colleges and also served as the controller of examinations at the Tamilnadu Dr MGR medical university. He is an astute clinician, respected academician, an able administrator, and a brilliant artist. “I look up to him for guidance and support in all my career decisions and professional endeavours. His honesty, integrity, hard work, fair-mindedness, composure and organizational skills are some of the qualities that I strive to emulate in my life and career,” she adds. Her son Praveen, an engineering graduate from BITS Pilani also offers his unconditional love and support which has enabled her to balance family and career effectively.
Though Dr Krithika had immense success in her education and career, there were some inevitable mistakes and stumbles. “I used to get upset that a few of my colleagues indulged in spreading baseless rumours to malign my reputation despite my hard work and dedication. I realized that the more I thought about it, the more pain and anguish I experienced. It affected my productivity and peace of mind, even though there were other genuine well-wishers offering advice and comfort,” she shares. Without taking it to heart, she learnt that to be truly happy, one must have the strength and conviction to walk away from people, places and circumstances that threaten the peace of mind. By surrounding yourself with people who really care about you and encourage you to be a better human being, one can have a more nurturing environment that helps one grow and prosper. “Now, even as I am quite open to constructive criticism, I try to ignore negative comments and reactions from others that serve no meaningful purpose. It makes me realize that internal happiness is just as important as professional success at the end of the day,” Dr Krithika shares.
Instilling Creativity among students
MAHER was declared as a Deemed to be University under section 3 of the UGC act 1956 to provide affordable quality higher education to all sections of the society. MAHER aims to become an institution that transforms society through diverse programmes and healthcare advancements that will lead to the overall development of human resources, knowledge, innovation, entrepreneurship, and research. “We are trying to foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship among our students by creating awareness, providing guidance and organizing programs/activities through the MAHER IIC,” shares Dr Krithika.
With a mission to create an enabling state-of-the-art infrastructure and intellectual capital and provide a best-in-class learning experience with the freedom to innovate and invent, MAHER strives to bring in more diversity among students, provide academic flexibility as per the guidelines of the New Education Policy, build a strong alumni network to track student progression, encourage publications, patents and funded research projects among faculty, deliver world-class health care to patients and provide an unforgettable learning experience for students. “The organization that it is today, is a result of the untiring efforts of our visionary Chancellor Thiru A.N. Radhakrishnan,” says Dr Krithika.
MAHER is also on a mission to foster values and ethics to develop students and learners into responsible citizens, advance the global cause, and develop consciousness for the environment. They want to collaborate with national and international institutes to lower the carbon footprint and focus on sustainable development, among other things. “We, at MAHER, thrive on collective decision making, adopting fair and student-friendly initiatives, following protocols and regulations, and facilitating a respectful dialogue and consensus-building endeavours between all concerned parties. In my opinion, time management, efficient organization, proper prioritization, and impromptu improvisation are the keys to staying calm and handling the pressure,” shares Dr Krithika.
MAHER has an actively functional Institutional Innovation Council (IIC) that collaborates with the Innovation Cell of the Ministry of Education, Government of India (MIC). The institute participates in the programs driven by MIC and organizes its own meetings and IPR related programs every quarter for the benefit of the students and faculty. MAHER completely sponsors the charges for all IPR related activities of the students and faculty, including patent application, publication, and grant, which has resulted in many patents from our students and faculty. In addition, MAHER encourages all Postgraduate students and PhD scholars to copyright their thesis and dissertations. MAHER offers incentives for publications in journals indexed in PUBMED, SCOPUS and Web of Science. MAHER also has its own incubation centre, which provides the floor space, infrastructure, guidance, and mentorship for all creative ideas from the students and supports them all the way from developing a concept to establishing a start-up company. As a result of the efforts of MAHER IIC, we have a few thriving start-up companies launched by our own students and incubated at our own centre.
Fostering a need for excellent research and education
Dr Krithika believes that learning is a continuous process and that we must embrace the cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning. In this regard, she keeps herself updated with the latest trends in her field by attending courses, workshops, continuing education programs, and reading journals, papers, and newsletters. Through research and interest in gaining more information, Dr Krithika has a spirit to be in the know when it comes to excelling at her job and career. Additionally, she feels that good networking is crucial in academic administration that helps to discuss common challenges, conflicts and difficulties that crop up from time to time in all higher education institutions.
As an administrator, Dr Krithika believes that there needs to be more work done on the education system. She wants to see a change in the teaching-learning process, those required in the evaluation process, those needed to improve research/teaching productivity and those required to instil values through education. On the teaching-learning front, she believes that there is an urgent need to expand the nation’s online resources and online teaching capabilities, as the pandemic has taught us. “It is also imperative that all stakeholders are trained adequately to handle the challenges faced in this transformative phase. The evaluation process could be made completely digital and remote while ensuring that the sanctity and the integrity of the examination or the evaluation process remain undiluted. It would be prudent to have a universal hassle-free, fool-proof, government-endorsed software/system which is easy and convenient for students and evaluators,” she adds. Overall, she would like to see a good balance between teaching and research activities, as one cannot exist without the other. “There is also an urgent need to inculcate values like professional ethics, gender sensitization, conflict resolution, environment consciousness, etc. among our students, such courses can be offered as non-credit compulsory courses across all professional programs,” explains Dr Krithika.
In association with A.N. Radhakrishnan IAS Academy, MAHER is currently about to offer training to our students for IAS/UPSC/Civil services and other competitive examinations outside of regular college hours to provide career guidance and support. MAHER has upgraded the library network by integrating the libraries of all campuses, complete with OPAC and android mobile applications and promoting the utilization of these services among students and faculty. “We are working on a plan to improve the infrastructure, enhance the admissions, develop a comprehensive ERP, evolve a robust mentor-mentee system, and promote research projects and publications among our students and faculty,” Dr Krithika adds.
MAHER strives to have a paradigm shift in what they teach and do. After a lot of discussion and deliberation with management, faculty and other stakeholders, MAHER plans to have a complete change in providing higher education to students. On the curricular front, the institute plans to introduce at least a couple of contemporary value-added courses in each program for the benefit of our students. They are also planning to enhance medical camps, field visits, research projects and industrial internships, and are also drafting policies and SOPs for various initiatives and activities of MAHER both for student support as well as research integrity. “We are going for a full-fledged NABH accreditation of our medical and dental colleges and hospitals. We are revising our faculty appraisal system to make it more transparent and equitable. We are rolling out several student welfare initiatives, including merit-cum-means scholarships, fee waivers and sponsorships for student participation in national level sports and cultural activities,” says Dr Krithika.
With research in the forefront, the management at MAHER has also decided to upgrade their research laboratories in all the campuses, improve infrastructure, including modernizing the hostel premises, auditoriums, lecture halls and patient blocks, and enhance digital capabilities and cybersecurity measures. “We are organizing an international conference this year that will witness participation from several delegates worldwide. The theme of the conference will be inclusive and interdisciplinary in nature. We are also adopting several environment-friendly initiatives like sensor-based devices and solar-powered campuses.” Dr Krithika shares.
To encourage research, the management aids faculty to enrol for PhD programmes. They are introducing a semi-annual internal academic and administrative audit to identify strengths and weaknesses and plan their actions to strengthen the Institutional ethics committee, academic integrity panel and Internal Quality assurance cell. The institute plans to organize at least 10 placement drives, twenty discipline-specific career guidance programs, and thirty skill enhancement programs in the next academic year on the student front. “We plan to introduce fellowship and certificate courses in the constituent colleges and expand the electives offered in the choice-based credit system already in vogue in various programs,” Dr Krithika shares. They also want to introduce a credit transfer of Swayam courses offered on the NPTEL platform across all the programs offered in the humanities and sciences faculty. With all these coming soon to MAHER, this is the institute to consider for higher education and research.