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Innovating Liberal Arts for the Future at Shoolini

As the Head of the Chitrakoot School of Liberal Arts at Shoolini University, Associate Professor Purnima Bali is at the heart of the department. She brings over 16 years of rich teaching and research experience to her role. An award-winning educator and prolific researcher, Associate Prof Bali has contributed extensively to English literature, cultural studies, feminism, and world literature through numerous international publications. 

Recognised with prestigious accolades like the ‘Young Faculty Award 2016’ and ‘Bright Educator Awards’ in 2017 and 2018, Associate Professor Bali also holds editorial positions in several esteemed journals and serves on advisory committees for national and international conferences. With a PhD in English Literature from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, she continues to inspire students and colleagues. 

In this interview with Shoolini IMPACT, the CSLA Head shares her inspiring journey, her vision for the Liberal Arts program at Shoolini University, and her ongoing projects to enrich the academic landscape. 

1. What fuels your passion for teaching, and what attracted you to Shoolini University? 

“All through my childhood and youth, I missed having a good teacher and mentor. This is why I always wanted to become a teacher and make a difference in the lives of young people. One thing that attracted me to Shoolini University was the culture, the environment, and the beauty of the place. 

The students and faculty members come from diverse nationalities, especially within the Liberal Arts department, which includes faculty from Syria, Taiwan, China, Ethiopia, Iran, and all around India. This diversity is the real beauty of the university, as it allows us to learn, unlearn, and relearn from those around us. 

I believe Shoolini University has a positive aura. Every morning, I look forward to coming to campus. There’s never a day when I don’t feel like coming to the university and meeting everyone. I have never experienced this, even though I have been a part of many schools and universities across the country. 

2. How did you make Shoolini one of the best Liberal Arts universities in India?  

At the Chitrakoot School of Liberal Arts, we follow an interdisciplinary approach. Although programs like BA English (Honours) focus on English literature, our students benefit from courses in History, Political Science, Sociology, foreign languages, and Hindi. This interdisciplinary method distinguishes Liberal Arts from core programs. Our students also gain exposure to international and renowned speakers through various initiatives during the program.  

We go beyond academics at the Chitrakoot School of Liberal Arts by conducting various activities to enhance student exposure. Our annual Literature Festival, held every March or April, is a highlight, featuring lectures from diverse speakers, including film producers, singers, poets, chefs, athletes, actors, and bands. 

We have recently received approval from the academic council to start the Center of Excellence for Language Learning (CELL), offering several programs: 

  • ELP (English Learning Program): This three-month program, from November 1st to January 31st, helps international students improve their Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing (LSRW) skills to join regular classes in February seamlessly. 
  • University-wide Writing Seminar: Liberal Arts faculty lead these seminars to enhance students’ writing skills, emphasising the importance of the human touch in writing, even in the age of AI tools like ChatGPT. 
  • Foreign Language Programs: We offer minors and electives in French, German, Persian, Mandarin, and Arabic. Our department also hosts various seminars and conferences across different genres, such as the recent National Seminar on History and Traditional Medicine held on May 10-11. 

These initiatives reflect our commitment to providing a holistic educational experience beyond the classroom. 

3. How are interdisciplinary perspectives and research initiatives integrated into the Liberal Arts curriculum at Shoolini University? 

The time has passed when we focused on a single course or subject. Today, even in Liberal Arts, our research incorporates insights from science and management to make our work accessible and relevant to broader audiences. Focusing solely on one discipline limits the publishability and readability of research

Collaboration with various departments is crucial. In 2023, our Liberal Arts faculty and scholars published 21 papers — all in collaboration with colleagues from both Indian and international universities. Platforms like Journal Storage (JSTOR), which offers access to over 12 million resources in 75 disciplines, are vital for our students. 

We also encourage participation in diverse seminars and conferences to broaden students’ perspectives and learning experiences. This exposure ensures that our Liberal Arts program at Shoolini University remains impactful and comprehensive. 

4. How do you promote diversity, equity, and inclusion among faculty and students? 

Our department champions diversity, equity, and inclusion by having faculty from around the world, ensuring everyone is respected equally. Beyond paper publications, book writing is a significant focus in our department, reflecting our commitment to diverse scholarly contributions. Our faculty’s writing skills are a standout feature. For example, Foreign language teacher Chen Mong Chun has translated two books into Mandarin, Assistant Professor Prakash Chand recently published a book, and I have authored a book in Hindi.  

Our BA Liberal Arts program offers specialisations in English, Political Science, and History. At the master’s level, we offer MA degrees in English and Political Science, and at the PhD level, we provide programs in English, History, and Political Science. We have also introduced the Summit Research Program (SRP) for BA students, focusing on research from the very beginning to enhance their familiarity and expertise in this area. 

6. What is the career scope of Liberal Arts in India, and how does the program prepare students for real-world challenges? 

Liberal Arts graduates have diverse career opportunities in administrative services, teaching, copywriting, journalism, banking, and government services. Our department supports these pursuits by allowing time for exam preparation and coaching through our partnership with Vivek Academy in Chandigarh. 

Our program offers a well-rounded education through exposure to various disciplines and real-world experiences. We have MOUs with foreign universities for student and faculty exchange programs. Last semester, students participated in a six-month exchange program in Taiwan, which included paid internships, providing valuable international exposure. 

7. Can you share some inspiring student stories?

Absolutely! Our students have achieved remarkable success. For instance, Rsvika Tripathi has authored two books, and Malika Pathania represented Himachal Pradesh in the Youth Parliament. Our students consistently excel in various competitions, reflecting the dynamic culture we’ve cultivated. At our department, we believe that real-life experiences are just as meaningful as academic learning. 

8. What is your vision for the Chitrakoot School of Liberal Arts, and where do you see Shoolini University in five years? 

I believe the Chitrakoot School of Liberal Arts will be the best in India within the next five years. Our relentless dedication and hard work ensure that faculty and students shine in every promotional and academic opportunity. My goal as the head of the school is to elevate it to a level where everyone aspires to join us, not just for classroom learning or reading sessions, but for the unique experiences and lifelong relationships we cultivate. We focus on teaching humanitarian values, making our Liberal Arts program truly exceptional. 

Shoolini IMPACT Team

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