Interview Insights: Dr Saroj Rani

Dr Saroj Rani is Assistant Professor of Economics at Maitreyi College, University of Delhi. She teaches courses in Political Economy and Microeconomics. Catch a conversation with her as she talks about her experiences in academia!

How did you become interested in teaching this subject? What is your field of expertise?

In high school, I had opted for medical subjects and I wanted to become a doctor. Due to several circumstances, I could not proceed with that. When I took an exploratory class in economics, however, I was enamored by the subject. People often question whether economics is art or science – and I think it is a blend of the two – which particularly interested me and I pursued my passion from then on. Today, I am proud to be a professor in economics, and now that I have a PhD, I guess I am a doctor too! Economics is one field of study which is applicable to our daily life – whether we are sitting at home, playing outside, or visiting the market – we make economic decisions throughout our lives. My field of expertise is political economy and microeconomics.

What advice would you give to a student who is interested in delving into your subject? Are there any specific pitfalls to be avoided?

Definitely – there are gaps in students’ knowledge as they transition from high school into college. For students who find economics tough, we usually ask them to forget most of what they learnt in high school and to start fresh. For anyone who wishes to delve into economics, it is important to recognize the broad scope there is in the subject. Economics is one field which combines insights from science, humanities, and commerce. Without economics, no household, corporate firm, or government will be able to function properly. All of economics is governed by principles of demand and supply – so it is very important for the students to understand these concepts well. I teach the course in political economy, and we discuss ideas of capitalism, socialism, and mixed economy in the classroom often. I try to incorporate simplified examples from our daily life into my lectures and that really helps the students understand concepts with clarity.

Benjamin Franklin once said – Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn. How can we inspire students to want not only to gain knowledge for a career but to enjoy learning?

I think teaching is essentially a personal process. There is no such thing as one-way teaching. I started teaching economics in 2008, and my students stay in touch with me long after they graduate. My classes are very interactive, and I discuss with my students ideas and concepts beyond textbooks. I think students’ contribution is very essential to learning at college level. As professors, we can provide experience, and the students then leverage that experience to come up with excellent research ideas.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller. Can you share an experience or anecdote where your academic journey changed unpredictably?

While I was pursuing my PhD, I was presented with an opportunity to travel to Kazakhstan for a conference. Even though I was initially hesitant, my husband encouraged me to go there and to seize the opportunity. I went there for around 28 days, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days of my life. We have been born into a system where we have pre-conceived notions about a lot of things. My experience in Kazakhstan changed my perspective and my academic journey to a great extent. Everything from the hospitality, academic exposure, diversity, and the overall experience truly makes me glad I chose to attend the conference!

What according to you is the most important lesson every person must learn?

There are ups and downs in everyone’s life – it just cannot be a straight path. But it very important to learn to accept and encash every opportunity presented to you. I consider myself to be the perfect epitome of this notion. One should never give up no matter what the circumstanced may be!

Who is your favourite author?

I particularly like Chetan Bhagat – his books burst with liveliness and one cannot be bored reading them.

Who was your idol growing up?

APJ Abdul Kalam, Dr Manmohan Singh, and my father!

What do you do for fun?

I like to dance, cook, and read. I am also currently obtaining my PhD in classical music. Indeed, there is no age bar for learning!

How would you describe your academic journey in one word or sentence?

Loving – I like to live life full on. Life is short – so live and let live!

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