Dr. Neena Mehta: Wielding Education for Social Transformation
Neena Mehta

As Nelson Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” education has proved through years to be the most dominating factor in the overall development of any country in the world.

Education in India has not just ensured a solid human resource but has extensively contributed to a true awakening of the nation since its Independence.

The Knowledge Review takes immense pleasure and pride to uncover through an interview the story of an educator, Dr. Neena Mehta, who thrives on impacting change among people with education. Below are some highlights of the interview.

Please tell us about your journey throughout the education sector right from the beginning of your career.

I, Dr. Neena Mehta, was born and brought up in Chandigarh. I am PhD in Biochemistry and working as Professor and HOD, Dept. of Biochemistry with Rayat-Bahra Group, Mohali, Punjab (Near Chandigarh). During my studies and Post Doctorate research, I gained research experience in my field at various research institutes in India and abroad like Panjab University, PGIMER, Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) at Chandigarh, India, and in the Dept. of Biochemistry at Technical University, Germany.

During my professional journey, I have published research in various National and International Journals. I have participated in multiple National and International conferences as an invited speaker and have chaired scientific sessions. I have been a subject of music therapy, and in due course of my therapy, I got involved in music so much that I started learning music. I got cured of many diseases because of music therapy’s primary or secondary effects while learning music.

We have helped many female subjects, children, and the elderly gain self-confidence and help them feel empowered by our unique and excellent teaching designs. Autistic children have also gained from music therapy.

During my career with the Rayat Bahra group, I have been actively involved in conducting Rehabilitation and Music Therapy conferences as Chairperson in association with National Rehabilitation Institute, ENT Dept. PGIMER, Chandigarh and SABH Foundation, USA.

I believe that education should not be restricted to merely collecting degrees and should be used for social empowerment. I wish to be a student throughout my life, and whatever knowledge I have gained in my career, I want to pass it on with love to those aspiring.

What inspired you to step into the education industry? Who were your role models growing up?

To sincerely disclose the fact, I never wanted to be in the education line. I wanted to opt for a subject that would lead me to have an independent setup and build my career, and with this thought, I shifted from Chemistry Dept. in Panjab University to Biochemistry Dept. My Biochemistry Professors of Panjab University, IMTECH, and PGIMER, Chandigarh, are my all-time mentors and inspiration who are with me like my family members and always stood by me at different stages of my life and struggles in my career.

My acceptance of all the challenges and my faith in God lifted me gradually to different heights in the education sector. I can never forget that my mother was a noble and pious lady and was a beloved teacher of her students and it inspired me.

My biggest source of inspiration during my journey in the educational career is my husband, Prof. (Dr.) S.K. Mehta, also an academician and presently Vice-Chancellor at the University of Ladakh, is an internationally renowned scientist par excellence in his field of Physical Chemistry.

Many secrets of professional ethics and dedication in the education sector were sincerely taught by my father, a very honest workaholic person retired from Panjab University, who never compromised against any pressure and taught us the same, which is essential for the institute where we work.

I believe that one gets educated at every step during your journey of setting up your career and rising to the next step after that.

Tell us about your esteemed institute and its mission, vision, and core values.

Rayat Bahra Group of Institutes (RBGI), a leading private education group in northern India, is a huge umbrella under seven campuses with 30000+ students with diverse cultures, regions, and lifestyles. The group has emerged as a premier destination for higher and professional education in Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh in the Northern Region of India in approximately 21 years. Rayat Bahra University, a lush green campus, was established in 2014.

The University focuses on student-centric, multidisciplinary, and skill-based education. The group provides education in the areas of Engineering, Management, Pharmacy, Hotel Management, Education, Law, Sciences, Social Sciences, Agriculture Sciences, Medical & Allied Sciences, Media Studies, Polytechnic, Dental, and Nursing. In addition to education, the group is actively engaged in fulfilling its social responsibility.

What are the priorities of your institute in terms of course objectives and learning outcomes?

The curriculum is the core of education. It is vital to have a relevant, well-structured curriculum that answers all the questions about the future and equips the student with all the necessary skills and knowledge. Rayat Bahra University offers academic programmes reaching out to a wide spectrum of students across the globe. The syllabus is dynamic and is constantly revamped to keep pace with the rapid developments in various fields of study, scientific and technological advancements and to meet the demands of academia, industry, and society.

The University focuses on the courses that are helpful for children in getting jobs in their academic fields or being an entrepreneur. To make the teaching and learning more innovative and interactive various institutes have been equipped with labs where all required facilities are available. Environment studies are included in all UG programmes. Several activities such as seminars, workshops, guest lectures, industry visits, and field excursions are organized for students of all programmes to create awareness about the environment and sustainability issues. In addition, many National and international days are celebrated every year. Rayat Bahra University provides international students with opportunities to pursue courses in various streams. These courses aim to develop professional capabilities and instil competencies like social and ethical values, human values, environmental sensitivity, etc., resulting in the holistic development of future professionals.

Education is considered a tool of empowerment. What efforts do you and the institution take to ensure that education is provided to those who need it?

As women, we know first and foremost how vital education is to shape our future and be good citizens. While we provide many formal modes of empowerment like scholarships for socially underprivileged students and students who lost one or both of their parents, we also give a lot of time to mentorship.

At Rayat Bahra Group of Institutes, we spend a lot of time guiding students when they seek help for non-classroom issues. We are, therefore, aware of the circumstances that might affect the academic performance of most of our students, and we do our best to empower them personally and through the system.

Kindly mention any of your awards, accolades, and accreditations.

  • Awarded Special stipend to attend the International course on Molecular Medicine at Freiburg, Germany by the organizers
  • Awarded open SRF by CSIR
  • Awarded Travel Grant by DST to attend an international course on Tuberculosis at Naples, Italy
  • Awarded Travel Grant by CSIR to attend an international course on stem cells at Salerno, Italy

What advice can you give to those who want to step into the field of education?

Being in education is a rewarding experience. Being an educator teaches one to be empathetically organized and infuses leadership skills as one gain experience in teaching and mentorship. For those of us who also conduct research, we know very well: real learning comes when we explain concepts in our subjects of expertise to others in a simplified manner and get exposed to their questions and perspectives that might have escaped our own understanding. So, it is not only the students who are learners in a classroom but also the teacher. I would advise youngsters to consider education as an important endeavour of contribution to society, which requires the best talents to join hands in shaping our future as a nation.

Please share what lies ahead for you and your institution in the near future.

As I mentioned before, being an educator is a constant learning experience for me and my colleagues. Personally, I am happy to have evolved from being a young faculty and researcher to now having a leadership role in the administration as Dean Academic Affairs. I would like to continue sharing my years of experience in education, and I’m ready to take on more responsibilities if it helps to empower more and more students to realize their dreams.

The Rayat Bahra Group is looking forward to implementing the new National Education Policy in all its institutes, specifically focusing on interdisciplinary approaches, skill development, and academic flexibility in teaching and research. We wish to establish collaborations between academia and industry to provide clear pathways to employability.

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