A Snapshot of My Doctoral Journey A warm cohort, a supportive environment, inspiring faculty-mentors and a campus that proved to be a nourishing cocoon are the highlights of her years of doctoral study at IIMB, writes Anjana Karumathil

As Professor Haritha Saranga called out my name from the podium, on a summer evening in April, and as I stepped up to collect my doctorate, I was overwhelmed at how miraculous that moment seemed. Shining robes, wide smiles, rounds of applause, and bright camera lights. How blood, sweat and tears of the past five years had instantaneously morphed into this precious paper in my hands! How the miracle of technology made it possible for my loved ones to be part of the occasion from thousands of miles away (and to call them to ensure they ‘watched it’)! Then, the congratulations and backslapping from friends and peers. More photographs. Questions about the future and assurances about how it is ‘set’. A day to remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

One ingredient in the doctoral recipe was my backbreaking effort, but an equally important ingredient was the supportive environment in which I found myself once I entered the program. I joined the program as a mid-career professional – older than the average age of the cohort, and was somewhat nervous about getting along and working with younger students (and in some cases, professors). However, my fears were unfounded: from the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed. The students in my cohort were warm and friendly, my hostel room was clean and comfy, mess food was healthy and hygienic. Coursework was particularly challenging for me given I’d been away from an academic environment for years; however, faculty members were supportive of my development and patient to teach me new ideas no matter how long it took for me to grasp them. Whenever I needed anything at all, someone was always available and willing to help at any time of day or night. It was because of this supportive ecosystem that I completed the program.

If I were to describe the role that IIM Bangalore played in fulfilling the doctoral dreams of this village girl, I would simply say ‘you cared’. Everyone at IIMB cared. And they demonstrated that in more ways than I can describe. Faculty members like Prof. Avinash Mulky went out of their way to help me understand complex statistical concepts. Prof. Deepak Malghan encouraged me to write a paper from his course even though I was from another discipline. Prof. Saras Sarasvathy cheered me up during difficult times by candidly sharing her personal struggles. Prof. Ritu Tripathi took me under her wing and reviewed endless drafts of my thesis and journal articles. Prof. E S Srinivas supported my career goals by introducing me to his network. Prof. Ganesh Prabhu offered his wisdom to improve my thesis. I have named just a few…

Then, there were the support groups. The security guard at the main gate who went out of his way to stop oncoming traffic so I could safely cross the road. The mess staff who always found ways to feed me on the occasions I came in hungry even when the mess was officially closed for the day. The health center staff, who called to inquire about my wellbeing after I showed up with a bad case of stomach flu. The library staff who raised an interlibrary request on their own accord when a book I wanted was not available locally. The gardener who was happy to explain to me the nitty-gritties of growing coffee beans in our garden when he noticed my interest. The hostel staff who always fixed things promptly no matter what time of day or night something broke. I saw this best when the pandemic broke out: while students from other institutions were being sent home during lockdown, I was safely ensconced in campus for a year, fed well, given masks, and routinely tested. It was a time of unprecedented ambiguity worldwide and the care I received from our management was the anchor that allowed me to focus on academics.

To all of you at IIM Bangalore, I say ‘thank you’. You were crucial ingredients in my doctoral recipe. The doctoral journey was a marathon, not a sprint. But with you by my side, I could run the miles and all the way to that stage. I am here because you were there, and because you cared.

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