Listening to a mildly deep conversation between two passionate young minds one often hears this statement, ‘I want to go and study at that college!’ It is said with a notation with a pure intention to learn, understand, and grow, but with a deeper meaning; to imbibe the discipline that the institution instils in the person to make the person a complete human being.
Traditionally, the education institutions were tasked with nurturing young minds in a holistic arc, making a complete circle, the symbol of indigenous harmony. That is the reason why Rabindranath Tagore said, ‘The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.’
While one part was making progress towards attaining literacy in the country, another part was struggling to access their fundamental rights easily. With a need seen for the advanced study of Arts, Science and Commerce in the community, the then Archbishop of Mumbai established St. Andrew’s College.
Inaugurating and unveiling the college to the world was done by the noble hands of St. Mother Theresa MC, Nobel Laureate. Slowly mapping its way to success and bringing every prominent course under its winds, St. Andrew’s College has today become a dominant institution of community service and academic excellence.
Talking about the college’s journey from an institution catering to serve the community to becoming one of the most prestigious liberal arts institutes, Dr Marie Fernandes, the Principal of St. Andrew’s Colleges, also sheds some light on the administration, principles, and the core values of the institution.
Colouring the Empty Canvas
Even though the foundation of the prestigious college was laid by St. Mother Theresa, the active functioning of the college started on 24 June 1983, when the Government of Maharashtra and the University of Bombay granted permission. Inaugurated by the then Archbishop Simon Pimenta, it was Msgr. Nereus Rodrigues, who first headed the college.
Passing on the torch of continuous growth and able leadership, the current Chairperson of the college is Oswald Cardinal Gracias, under whom the college has shown incredible growth. Explaining how the college grew with time, capturing the major domains of the education sector. Dr Fernandes says, “Besides the tradition B.A and B.Com courses which were introduced at the start, BMS was started in 1999, BMM in 2002, B.Sc. (IT) in 2001, B.Com. (Accounts and Finance) in 2003, in 2007 B.Sc. (Hospitality Studies), in 2009 B.Com (Banking &Insurance), in 2012 (M.Com) and PhD Centre in English in 2016.”
A Home-grown Visionary Educator
After completing her PhD in English, Dr Marie Fernandes joined St. Andrew’s College in 1992. Starting from the ground as a serious lecturer of English, it was in 2006 when she was appointed as the eighth Principal of the college.
During her journey from being a lecturer who laid the seeds of ideas, innovation, liberty and freedom in the free minds, to spearheading those values and ideas in the institution, she was appointed as a Research Guide for the University of Mumbai. Today under her able leadership, eight students have successfully completed their PhD.
With a book titled, The Animal Fable in Modern Literature and over 35 research articles published in various journals, she has turned into a passionate educator and researcher.
Highlighting some of the major indicators and turns of her journey with St. Andrew’s College, she says, “Since I was passionate about research, I introduced the research culture in college. We have been organising at least three major conferences- National or International in college every year, from 2008- 2009, approximately 40 in all. This is done by the English and Economics Departments and our UNESCO / Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation Chair for Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue established in 2009.”
“I also introduced the annual staff conference to encourage staff members to pursue research, and this has produced wonderful results, as our staff members attend conferences and present and publish papers very regularly,” she further continues saying, “For our students too, we have a student seminar and a journal where their research papers are published. We encourage them to take part in Avishkar, the University Research competition where over 800 colleges participate.”
Attaining International Recognition for the Institute
Being a college founded on the principles of serving the community, and the management under the able guidance of Dr Marie Fernandes, the college today is a significant institution of holistic education in liberal arts.
Further asserting on St. Andrew’s and her significant international achievements, she says, “I received the prestigious ‘International Visitor’s Leadership Award’ from the US Department of State, to visit Colleges and Universities across the USA, from 1-19 February 2010. It was wonderful exposure, and we saw it first hand and interacted with prominent educationists and policymakers from different states.”
“In 2009, we signed an MOU and established the Chair Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation Chair for Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue. In 2015 we received the UNESCO Chair for Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue with the Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation,” she further adds.
Highlighting some of the major milestones set by the college, she proudly highlights, “Through our International Conferences, we have been able to get foreign speakers. In our last conference organised by the UNESCO / Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation Chair for Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue, we had speakers from several continents share their views and concerns over the issue of water for sustainable development.” She continues, “There were speakers from Rio, Congo, Russia, Paris and, of course, our very own country. The Guest of Honour was the President of the UNESCO Council of Intergovernmental Hydrological Program (IHP), Mr Fadi Comair.”
“We received the Best College Award (2015-2016) conferred by the University of Mumbai on 26th January 2018. The University of Mumbai has over 700 affiliated colleges. We received an ‘A’ Grade by National Assessment and Accreditation Council for two successive cycles,” she further adds.
Following the Footsteps of St. Mother Teresa
Since St. Mother Teresa laid the foundation stone of St. Andrew’s College, it has been committed to reaching out to the poor and the socially disadvantaged. The college has a Social Outreach programme where all of the Second Year Degree College students work for 20 hours with various NGOs from different parts of the city to help various groups of people in need of help. They also have the NSS and DLLE doing remarkably good work.
St. Andrew’s College: A Pillar of Conscious Study of Liberal Arts
Having set up the hub of Liberal Arts, Dr Fernandes is proud of the constant flow of students consciously choosing to study literature. She explains the intricacies of this course and how the college thrives for student success: “Students who opt for Liberal Arts are at a great advantage. As a professor of English Literature, I make my students conscious of the fact that when they read literature, particularly the great classics, they get an insight into human nature which has not changed over the centuries. The colour of the skin might be different; dressing styles might be different, the century might be different, but human nature has not changed.”
“Stories that have stood the test of time are relevant even today because they transcend time and place. Those who study the humanities are at a great advantage because they can understand human nature better,” she further adds.
Inspiring a Generation
The college has a philosophy of grooming students to become leaders and enjoy all different forms of arts. Advising them on their future, an eminent educator, Dr Fernandes says, “The young generation has to discover the joys of reading. My advice to them is to read as many books as they can, for knowledge is power. Dream impossible dreams and find ways of reaching there. Talk to people and listen to some of their suggestions. Dare to be different, take the road less travelled, and leave a trail for others to follow.”
Envisioning the Future
Even after spearheading the institution to an international stature, Dr Fernandes still strives for success and plans to take the institution further to holistically serve the community. Envisioning the future of the institution moving forward, she says, “The National Education Policy 2020 has some very encouraging features. An interdisciplinary approach to education will allow students of Commerce, Science, Technology and Medicine to study subjects that are in the Humanities – Literature, Philosophy, History and the rest. They could also opt for more practical courses in the Fine Arts and earn credits for doing Social Work and reaching out to Economically and Socially disadvantaged groups. Education should be student-centric and exams should test the students’ creative, critical and analytical skills, not their memory.”
To Be Designed Separately
A commitment to guide our students to achieve excellence through holistic education.
- To mould students to be morally upright, socially committed, and spiritually inspired by Christian principles; to be responsible citizens of India and the world.
- To enable students to realise their full potential in academic, cultural, and sporting pursuits.
- To foster a scientific temper and encourage students to adopt a rational approach to solving problems.
- To empower students to be good leaders who will spread the light of knowledge, harmony, and equality in all spheres of life.
- To equip students with the required knowledge and skills to face the challenges of the real world.