Interview Insights: Dr Malini Sharma

Dr Malini Sharma is Senior Assistant Professor (currently teacher in-charge), Department of Economics, Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi. Graduate of economics honors from SRCC, and post-graduate and M.Phil. from the prestigious Delhi School of Economics, DU, Dr Sharma has a teaching experience of nearly 24 years. She is currently a PhD Research Scholar under the able guidance of Dr. Manisha Karne at MSEPP, University of Mumbai, and has recently submitted her thesis. Dr Sharma has also been principal investigator of two innovation projects of Delhi University. She has presented several research papers in national and international conferences, bagged awards therein and has several publications in various academic journals.

What are your current research interests and what prompted you to pursue those specific areas?

My specialization has been in subject areas such as Development Economics, Financial Economics, and Health Economics. I would like to add an insightful example here. Consider, ‘Microfinance,’ Today, microfinance is commonly understood as a financial activity. However, it arose from several developmental predicaments and its ambit extends well beyond its direct impact to the indirect impact or to, say, the externalities of micro-credit participation on health status of beneficiaries – Health Economics. Hence, there is an overlap. This intersection or interdependence has intrigued and prompted me to pursue research in the said fields. Other subjects within the broad area of economics, that interest me and I have been involved with (either through teaching or research) are: environmental economics, political economy, game theory, public economics and more recently behavioral economics.

What advice would you give to a student who is interested in delving into your subject?

The study of economics does not dictate answers, but it can illuminate the different choices. Economics is not merely a collection of facts to be memorized. Instead, it can be better thought out as a collection of questions to be answered. More importantly rather, economics provides tools to work out answers to those questions. If you have been bitten by the economics “bug”, you eventually become a well-rounded thinker. When you read articles written on economic issues in newspapers or listen about them from media persons or from political candidates, you will clearly be able to distinguish between “common-sense” and “non-sense”. Having pursued study of economics, you discover new ways of thinking about current events, policy and politics.

A course in economics aims to provides a theoretical and practical understanding of the core economic principles both, at micro and macro level and enables one to understand what, ‘being developed’ entails in this globalized world and what policy initiatives can be taken to make India a developed Nation. It can equip the students with tools to harness future career opportunities in fields of Academics, Consultancy (financial consultants), Think-Tanks, Policy Making, Analysts (financial risk analysts, investment analysts), Research, Business Administration, Banking, Government Administration, Data Analytics, Corporate consultants, among others.

Having said all this, basically, the scope of economics is vast and it encompasses all walks of life. It is more than a social science-the genesis of experimental sciences, anthropology, psychology, neurosciences, and so on. Economics enables one to empirically test (by mathematically modelling) existing theories and data, and derive policy recommendations from this analysis. However, one must study economics only if one is truly motivated and has an intellectual bent of mind for it. Being proficient in mathematics is a pre-condition for studying economics.

In all your years of providing education, what can you say your students have taught you in return?

In all the years that I have been involved in teaching, I have come to strongly believe that student feedback is an integral part to bring about an improvement in teaching skills. ‘Learning knows no bounds’. Whether it is at the end of students or teachers-learning is a constant phenomenon. Teachers should learn from the feedback that they get from their students. Sometimes, students ask questions that broadens one’s perspective. I encourage my students to ask questions as sometimes I enhance my learning by answering those questions. Many a times, students have asked questions that has left me stumped and encouraged me to think and reflect. Their inquisitive minds have made me realize that driving independent thought is important.

How can we, as students, learn to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and the practical applications of the theories and ideas that we learn in the classroom?

Students can definitely bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical applications by applying the concepts that they have learnt in real life. ‘Learning by doing’, is certainly an effective strategy in leading to academic excellence. I incorporate a multitude of real-world examples and application-based projects in my lectures. Moreover, I have conducted several assignments based on simulations of real environments.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt. Can you share a life experience or anecdote where your academic journey changed unpredictably? How would you encourage your students to take failures in the right stride?

I have firmly believed in the famous quote by Sir Winston Churchill:

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”.

I cannot recollect any particular experience as such, but in the face of an adversity or failure, as the saying goes, I have worked hard relentlessly, until I could overcome my weaknesses and harness my strengths in order to succeed. This is my message to my students: ‘Never give up’!

How would you describe your teaching style in one word/sentence?

Interacive, engaging and Serious 

What additional resources would you recommend to someone who wishes to delve into your field?

The Instant Economist by Timothy Taylor, Principles of Economics by Gregory Mankiw, Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Lewitt.

Students can take up reading, The Economics Times, Economic and Political weekly and The Economist. Some blogs could be those by Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg. Financial Times and so on.

If you had to choose an alternate career, what would it be?

Economic Advisor 

What do you like to do for fun?

I have a passion for cooking, other than travelling and reading too.

What other academic or non-academic subjects interest you?

Anthropology, Psychology, Literature

What is your success mantra?

Big Journeys begin with small steps!

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