I cannot forget to recall the first lesson brought up by Professor Anupama Devendrakumar from College of Arts and Sciences about not letting our perception about ourselves defines us. It all started when my classmate perceived herself as being an aggressive person and she assumed this as a fact. However, Professor Anupama pointed out that she might be aggressive at times but she as a whole did not solely represent aggressiveness.
How do you usually start your day?
Professor Anupama: I am an early riser. I like to kickstart my day with a cup of “Chai” - Indian milk tea boiled with ground cardamom and grated ginger. As my mind is fresh, calm, and energized in the morning, I dedicate this time to doing deep work. I read a book for 45 minutes and then get into tasks that require undivided attention such as planning a teaching method, lecture, and writing.
What encouraged you to pursue a career in the education field?
Professor Anupama: I did not pursue teaching because I had this perception that teaching was not for me, I doubted if I could be a good teacher. Some years ago I was invited to teach in Bhutan. My first experience of teaching was memorable. It dawned on me that teaching is intellectually engaging and meaningful. In my early years as a student, I did not like my learning environment, it was stressful. Now as a teacher, I understand what was lacking in my schooling. With that awareness and understanding, I try to teach in a way that learning can be a fun, engaging experience that can help students discover and build on their abilities.
How has VinUni been to you?
Professor Anupama: VinUni is a unique work environment that has been helping me to discover and explore my teaching and research interests. Some of the things that I like about VinUni are the constant support, encouragement, and recognition of good work; the sense of community it creates among the local people and many, like me, coming from different parts of the world to work in Vietnam; and the students – sweet, sincere, hardworking, curious bunch that they are.
What are some of the happy and memorable experiences of your teaching career?
Professor Anupama: Oh many. To name a few, I am happy when I see my students deliver more than what the grading criteria expect, revealing that they are engaged with the content and invested in their learning. One memorable aspect is when I feel challenged as a teacher during my interactions with the students (and the way they look at the world) as to how to reorient teaching methods (or education) to catch up with a constantly changing world.
What is your experience of working and living in different countries?
Professor Anupama: Living and working in different countries has had a profound impact on me. My curiosity took me to different countries. It offered new experiences and opportunities for self-discovery. It was not always smooth, there was a phase where I felt torn between countries and identities. I persisted with an open mind and figured out answers to profound questions such as ‘Where is home?’, ‘Where do I belong?’. Exposure to different cultures and societies taught me that there are more ways to live life than the ones I was familiar with.
What are some core values that matter to you?
Professor Anupama: Integrity, authenticity, and a sense of growth that comes from continuous learning. As a teacher, I believe education has a larger purpose than creating jobs and skills, these are necessary but not sufficient - a value that I would like to explore and cultivate in me.
Can you share some of your interests besides your professional life?
Professor Anupama: I love cinema, especially world cinema, and literature. Of late, I have not managed to read as much. To make up for it, I have set a target to read more this year. Another interest is traveling – the idea of it and what it means has evolved surprisingly. I am also fond of walking. I go for a long-distance brisk walk almost every day. What I talk about when I talk about walking is it has been a deeply philosophical, spiritual interest that has had a positive impact personally and professionally.
Do you want to say anything to your younger self?
Professor Anupama: I would say, I am proud of you for having the courage to do what you wanted, for trusting yourself, and for accepting the outcomes of your decisions with grace.
Being a student in her class has truly been an eye-opening experience for me! Huge thanks to Professor Anupama Devendrakumar for this insightful conversation. On behalf of VinUnians, I would love to demonstrate our gratitude to each and every Dean, Faculty, and Staff for being part of our college life and supporting us tremendously!
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