"We rise by lifting others" women still exist in academia beyond the pursuit of personal aspirations — R Voice

"We rise by lifting others" women still exist in academia beyond the pursuit of personal aspirations

Isurika Sevwandi
Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭
edited March 9 in Personal Stories

Hey Guys, I was inspired to create this post in celebration of women's day 2022, and thanks to @Andrea Hayward who invited me to do so. Thanks to her for asking me to pen this post.

This post is to acknowledge someone (a woman in academia) whom I'm mostly inspired by the last couple of years and I'm glad to post this as we had a great discussion yesterday too with @Gayatri Ramachandran regarding women supervisors and I felt blessed to be surrounded by a scientific community who are free to share their anecdotes, to be of assistance to others, and also to be motivated by my institution and the women academics who always push me forward expecting my progress instead of success illusion.

So, without wasting much space, let me introduce the female figure I'm utmost inspired by, in my academic journey, Prof. Rekha Nianthi who is the current Head of the Department of Geography at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and let me explain why I'm that much inspired by her, in brief.

To my understanding, any woman is capable of giving that motherly care and affection (as it was touched by @Gayatri Ramachandran yesterday too) just because of her born female instinct and it could change the entire world. My HoD is a perfect mix of this motherly care and a leadership personality which I'm striving for as a junior academic. I adore the smart casual way she dresses according to the setting and event, as it definitely gives a positive first impression to everyone and her way of approaching anyone is so welcoming and stimulating. She lights up at any moment with her live smile and unwavering support with positive attitudes to twist and turn any negativity into the light of positivity. At a glance, I feel her as magic of positivity.

Regarding her academic model, she is really an up-to-date woman in her field. She constantly updates her knowledge base and skill set even though she has completed her postdoctoral research work years ago. She is active in social media as a young lady and really easy to communicate with (even in WhatsApp) because she constantly checks her profile and gets in touch immediately as she knows her role and responsibility. Even if you send her a message at midnight, she will get back to you in the dawn and that's her. She is so active than you can ever imagine from a lady in her 50s but that always wonders me (how does she find that much energy to perform so well). She teaches in a very practical way: theory to practice, what's happening on the ground here in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the world, their implications: both positive and negative, and future modifications needed. Isn't it what we all want to know? Her assignments and examination questions are all down-to-earth, very realistic, and practical questions with case-based inquiries that really demand critical thinking and analytical answers, so students need to do the groundwork in her subjects. She facilitates a lot of field excursions in her subject to get hands-on experience to her students in the best way possible. I love her teaching methods and style.

As an employer, she is empathetic, quick and effective in communication, works a lot from dawn to dusk, hardly forget anything because she tracks everything frequently, dynamic and appreciates the work of her junior colleagues with no hesitation, delegates tasks when in need but supervises/ mentors/ support and monitor the progress more often to ensure the progress. She is very much open, always transparent in formal paperwork, shares a lot of valuable opportunities for staff members and checks in their mental and physical health, and always worries about the healthy work-life balance. What else do you want from a female employer?

I will not expand further because I never want to make you feel this is a personal appreciation letter, but these are my frank feelings as being an undergraduate and postgraduate student and an employee of her. This is just a note of acknowledgment and a post to show that these women still exist in academia, lifting others while completing self-bound duties and responsibilities and still finding time to check in the progress of junior colleagues. Isn't it wonderful to be inspired by them and to feel that amazing to have those senior members as a go-to place?😍

A cheeky pic of her and me captured on my last day at the department🤩


Love to know your honest feelings😊


Comments

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    I wish I could click on that "Awesome❤️" a thousand times @Isurika Sevwandi! WOW! What Women-You All! One (in fact many, including your senior colleagues) supports you to the core while you reciprocate with that lovely dedication/dedications (including yesterday's message that you posted) and a beautiful picture to add to the rejuvenation that one feels, reading it🤩. Thank you for having caught the "m&m" - mother & mentor!(pun intended☺️)

    Thank you so much Irusika for letting the beauty in your relationship with your boss flow out through this post and fill us with tremendous positivity! Special thanks to @Andrea Hayward for motivating us to pen our hearts out🤗 for this season.

    Your boss indeed seems to be a perfect role model and an inspiration to many of us, the impeccable holistic package of a woman that she is, to you all. Its been an amazing start to this day and a memorablia of this year's women's day. Wishing you all -the community here, a very happy "marching" on a fulfilling and power packed journey as women! 😍

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    Thanks, lots @Gayatri Ramachandran , and I am fascinated to know that you liked the post and are inspired by the women community I am surrounded by😀. It was literally challenging to brief her qualities and traits as I am often learning something new from her benefitting my continuing professional development. As today is for public celebrations on women's contribution, I thought of adding this flavor to the platform and celebrating my model character during my tenure and I hope you all can relate to it directly or indirectly.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin
    edited March 8

    BEAUTIFUL post @Isurika Sevwandi! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us. First, shout-out to Prof. Nianthi for being such a wonderful human being, for being so kind and caring towards you, and for being an inspiration. Sending tons of good vibes and gratitude her way 😍

    The fact that you've written so fondly about Prof. Nianthi just goes to show the kind of impact she has had on you. She seems to be a fantastic example and standard to live up to not just for women supervisors and bosses, but for bosses and supervisors, period. We definitely need more people like her in academia!

    Some of the qualities you've mentioned that really struck me are empathy, unwavering support, conveying appreciation without hesitation, lifting others - these are all SO IMPORTANT! It shows that she truly cares about the people that she works with, teaches, or simply shares space with. She seems like someone who not only leads the way with grace and confidence but also someone who you can confide in and count on as one of the pack (I know I haven't met her or interacted with her, so please correct me if I'm wrong).

    I love that you've shared a picture of the two of you. I don't know if I'm reading into it too much or if your write-up has made me think like this, but I feel like Prof. Nianthi's eyes speak to both her kindness and wisdom 😊 So glad that you've been fortunate enough to learn from and work alongside someone so inspiring!

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    You've got it almost right @Andrea Hayward and I am so happy that you have grasped the very essence of her character and I would convey your gratitude to her😍 She is always backing me whenever necessary and we have a strong connection that we developed over time with work ethics, norms and shared values I love that you also find it via my post and I adore your capturing on her eyes😉 Love it💌

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin

    @Isurika Sevwandi yes, please convey my gratitude to her. I'd love that :)

    It's so rare that we find someone who we align with both in personal values and communication styles as well as professional standards and work ethic. So this post makes me very happy! 🙂

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Wow, I love how you found a motherly figure in your professor @Isurika Sevwandi . That is something so rare and even more precious. You deserve someone who guides and helps you and I am glad you have such a strong woman in your life.

    It really reads as if she is a very engaged and up-to-date lady which is a very helpful quality. I also find it great that her expectations and questions seem reachable and understandable as there is nothing more nerve-wrecking than a teacher with unclear instructions.

    I really could feel with which admiration you wrote about your professor and that filled my heart. 🥰 I am so happy that you get to not only be her student but also work with her. Absolutely amazing.

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for your lovely comment 😍😘💖 @Vivien Kretz I absolutely feel fortunate of working with I have learned a lot from her every time I get work for her/ work with her and it's really comfortable to connect with her and I am completely free to exchange my honest feelings and ideas with her as she welcomes them without being judgemental and understands well and correct me if I am wrong or have overlooked something, which is essential for the healthy working relationship and that motherly figure is outstanding and I always adore that affection and generosity she shares with me all the time. I wish everyone to have the opportunity to work closely with a strong personality like her with mild kindness you can always count on whenever needed.

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    What with every message my admiration for your Boss Lady is growing, that I kept "Awesome"ing in every message!!🤩 I can literally see my spirits and heart flying high above me now as I am packing up and preparing to go home😍@Isurika Sevwandi

    Like @Andrea Hayward said, we definitely-to-the-power of infinity need so many such women supervisors in research, who have such ladylike leadership qualities! Wooh! Like @Vivien Kretz mentioned, its a very very precious and absolutely amazing bond! Am I not so glad that you wrote this coz imagine if you hadn't, I especially would have had no big hope to lean on- that there ARE such female bosses in academia. Special cheers for that Isurika!🥂

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Being able to be honest with someone who also is such an authority figure is so amazing @Isurika Sevwandi and it is worth so so much. I love this so much. Many people do not realise how much more helpful it can be to be open and honest about something rather than hiding behind a facade. It really creates the feeling that working is enjoyable and you do not have to show up to work with concerns and stomach issues (which I experienced personally). But instead, you cannot only address everything with her but also connect with her and that is beautiful. 🥰

    You are right, everyone deserves such a gentle figure to work with in their lives. I hope that I will meet an amazing professor/mentor/boss like her too.

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Exactly, it increases the hope that there are amazing women to work with out there and that is AMAZING!

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 319 admin

    What a beautiful appreciation post @Isurika Sevwandi Prof. Rekha sounds like a great academic, mentor, and human being. I am very happy for you - happy that you've had the opportunity to have this one positive and inspirational relationship as an academic. I've firmly believe that even one small act of kindness from a senior academic, supervisor, or mentor could make a huge difference to an early-career researcher's life. And from what you've shared, Prof. Rekha sounds like someone who loves her work, loves doing research, loves mentoring other researchers, loves giving back to the academic community. It also made me think of our earlier posts where we asked open questions about what researchers would look for in a mentor. In this case, it appears that all the items in your list were checked. I agree with everyone here. It makes a HUGE difference to have a mentor who is true to the main purpose of the relationship - the main purpose...mentoring, guiding, and leading by example. 😀

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    My heartiest thanks to @Gayatri Ramachandran, @Vivien Kretz for adding much love to this thread continuously and I am humbly happy that you loved my inspirational figure and continue pouring love and gratitude to her along this journey of posts. I do hope this inspiration will continue to grow further and that she will continue doing her research, teaching, mentoring, and leadership for a long time with health and contentment.

    I could not agree more with @Jayashree Rajagopalan regarding "even one small act of kindness from a senior academic, supervisor, or mentor could make a huge difference to an early-career researcher's life" because I have been there both positively and negatively, and have experienced the emotional roller coaster that many of us have already ridden. Since they are way senior with knowledge and experience, I have always felt reluctant to approach them with integrity because we just tend to "act/ pretend smart/ decent" in front of them instead of being ourselves. This was totally changed with her because she literally made adequate space mentally and physically for me (and I believe it is more or less the same for many other junior colleagues like me) with an always widely opened door literally and figuratively (actually her office door is open often times and her heart's door is open from dawn to dusk). This is essential to build and nurture lasting relationships in any form as both parties are equally committed to being vulnerable for developing mutually understanding relationships.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin

    This post is making me very happy! I especially love the comments and gratitude that have been rolling in for Prof. Nianthi! ❤️

    @Isurika Sevwandi I am so grateful to you. In a single week, you've shared so deeply with us, both positive and terribly difficult experiences in academia. It has truly helped me understand the effect a supervisor's actions and behavior can have on a supervisee and how even "little things" (which in reality are not so little) can make a huge difference. Thank you so much for your honesty! 🤗

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    No pretensions in front of the supervisor- Rightly pointed by @Isurika Sevwandi and @Vivien Kretz. The best gift a researcher can gift another is this! Honesty is always THE best policy. It might come with its own set of setbacks but your conscience is clear that you did it with the best intentions, for you and the other. Thats it! How the opposite party, be it a colleague or a supervisor takes it, is a test of their character and morality. My ex- supervisor taught me these tiny bits of wisdom through negative feedback mechanisms, but little did she know the positive lessons she was teaching me indirectly!😉 For that, I am grateful to her. @Isurika Sevwandi and @Andrea Hayward - we both had a share of disappointing mentors who taught us "how not to be a toxic mentor"😊

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin

    We both had a share of disappointing mentors who taught us "how not to be a toxic mentor"

    Such a brave and refreshing way of looking at it @Gayatri Ramachandran. And you're so right! I'd never want anyone else to be on the receiving end of such behavior and will do everything I can to create a safe and open environment when I'm given the chance to be a mentor ☺️

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    You already are doing that, in a most fulfilling way @Andrea Hayward!🤗. The MH operations is no small deal, you are doing a great job illuminating so many researchers' lives✌️

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin

    Thank you so much @Gayatri Ramachandran! I cannot tell you how much this means to me 😭❤️

    Lately, I've been struggling with whether I'm doing enough, why I'm doing what I'm doing, whether I'm making enough of a difference, and other similar questions. Your kindness and encouragement has given me just the jolt of motivation and reassurance that I needed. THANK YOU!