T. Shirmila Stanley, Madras Christian College

Value Every Individual

“The learning I experienced in the United Board Fellows Program had a huge impact on my personal and professional development,” Shirmila Stanley, assistant professor of commerce and convenor of the Centre for Human Resource Development at Madras Christian College, said in a recent interview. She describes her main takeaway from the 2017-2018 program in simple terms: “Value every individual.” That’s a lesson she now applies during the pandemic as she and her MCC colleagues consider how they can best support each other, their students, and the broader community.

Redesigning classes for online teaching and learning is an immediate need, but “not all of our faculty are tech-savvy,” Dr. Stanley points out. “Some need training, so those of us who have skills become enablers of others.” Students, on the other hand, may need emotional support. “Students have psycho-social needs,” she said. Many have parents who have lost jobs during the shutdown, creating additional stress. “What kind of assistance do they need?” Dr. Stanley asked “How can MCC as an institution, as a community, help them?” MCC sent out surveys to better determine students’ needs, and faculty have been calling their students to check on them.

The pandemic also has magnified the needs of the larger community. “Yes, we need to guard and protect our own health,” Dr. Stanley said, “but we also need to tend to others’ needs.” The shutdown launched an exodus of migrant laborers, returning to their homes as opportunities for work closed down. “They needed food,” Dr. Stanley said, “so as a community, MCC supplied food and made meals – with proper social distancing – to feed these people.” Those encounters prompted Dr. Stanley to reflect upon the role that higher education plays in society. “If we are to be part of society,” she said, “we need to better understand social problems.”

Dr. Stanley hopes faculty will bring a positive attitude to present circumstances and recognize the potential that lies in their hands. “This is a frontier, with no boundaries,” she said. “We can equip ourselves with new ways of teaching and learning, and find ways to go beyond our campus walls.”

Dr. Shirmila Stanley was the 2017-2018 Candy T. Eng Fellow. Following her experience in the Fellows Program, she received the 2018-2019 Outstanding Women Faculty Award at Madras Christian College.