Universiti Malaya – Wales

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Q&A With Assoc. Prof. Dr Sharmila Sethumadhavan

Assoc. Prof. Dr Sharmila is the Head of External Engagements & Partnerships at IUMW and a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Business. She specialises in International Business, Strategic Management, and Consumer Behaviour.

What’s your teaching style as a lecturer?
My style of teaching is student-led, resource-based and flexible. I did start my teaching on a ‘raised platform’ – just delivering all knowledge that I had to my students. I started teaching in 1990, and I assumed this was the best approach. It was good, students understood what I said, did what I said and passed their exams.

It’s only after a few years that I realised, this approach means I totally ignored the existence of my students! The transformation from “the head to the heart” – is not a one-time event – it’s a continual process spanning my years of teaching. From solely providing cognitive support to trying to build the capabilities of students and ensuring employability – which I was able to do.

What does a ‘good education’ mean to you?
Education is the gateway to a successful future it is said, but to be successful does not always mean to have a good career, move on to buy properties and have a materialistically prosperous life.

Education is none-other than material to enrich our knowledge and wisdom which helps us to develop our ideas and concepts. Every human has feelings, thoughts, questions and different ideas within them.

Name your favourite music artist and favourite movie.
The queen of soul, Whitney Houston. I felt her vocal itself told stories. I felt her songs showcased optimism, reassurance and belief that she will always love the person she is talking about. That is lovely!

Many movies come to mind, but my favourite movie which I just rewatched a few days ago on Netflix was 3 Idiots – the moral of the story – achieve excellence first, the success will automatically come looking for you.

What do you think is one skill that every successful person has?
Be fully present! Mindfulness! A simple word. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around us.

Your belief of being over-busy or over-extended will not allow you to create space to explore, think, and reflect – which is the key to success. Yet we always feel that these activities of overdoing a task are the antidote to the nonessential busyness that infects so many of us.

Name someone who inspires you and why?
The Dalai Lama

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

At various points in my life, despite being neither Tibetan nor Buddhist, I’ve found myself reading his books and trying to emulate his teachings ( I have so far not succeeded) to lead a more balanced life, especially in terms of emotional well-being.

What do you do to relax or for fun, outside of work?
I love travelling and enjoying nature; more so hiking – I like spending time outdoors, nature entailed of course. I feel rejuvenated

I first started this in 2018 and was amazed by the natural life – during my visit to Nepal I got to know how important nature is to life.

How do you overcome difficult situations or challenges?
It much depends on the type of situation I am put in. If I made an incorrect decision then trying to explain it can make things worse. So instead of digging a deeper hole, I stop digging. If it’s not too late then I reflect and change the decision. Or make some other change that improves the issue caused.

I try to be as honest as possible without trying to blame others – even if others are involved. Perhaps the learning is in being mindful of the situation

How do you motivate students to keep learning?
Believing in them is a worthwhile motivation investment. A young person is normally motivated by knowing you trust them and allowing them to think and provide a decision.

Also try and have a one-to-one conversation. Any problem can be solved by having a F2F or online (on camera) talk. Ask questions as to what choices they made and how they can move forward. Develop a plan together and then help them stick to it.

Name one thing you do/item you use daily that contributes to a successful day.
Walking every morning before sunrise I feel is the most powerful way to stay healthy, have a good cardio workout and reflect for the day. It helps with my mood as well – and every morning after the exercise I feel rejuvenated and on most mornings raring to go.

Final words of advice for the students of IUMW?
Never cry over the past, it’s over, do not stress over the future, it is not here, live in the present and make it beautiful!

When you talk, you only repeat what you already know, but if you listen you may learn something new! (Dalai Lama)