Dr. Mona Suri
Dr. Mona Suri, Associate Professor, is the Academic Vice President at Royal University for Women (RUW), PFHEA, Higher Education Academy, UK, with a teaching experience of more than 31 years.
She completed her studies in Fabric and Apparel Science from Delhi University, India. She has been actively involved in research and teaching and has successfully supervised six PhD and 45 Master’s students. She has many publications, presentations and awards to her credit.
Dr. Mona Suri was teaching at Lady Irwin College, Delhi University, New Delhi, for twenty years and joined the Royal University for Women in September 2008 and in the last thirteen years, has been contributing the academic and corporate life of RUW. Before taking up the role of Academic Vice President she was the Dean for College of Art & Design for over six years.
She has played a key role in creating linkages of the college with International partners including West Virginia University, Embassies, Industry, visiting professors and Fulbright Scholars. She has been the Conference chairman for RUW biennial Conference on Women and Society since 2016, initiating annual Fashion show Modamist and Design Exhibitions at RUW. She has been part of many National Projects in Kingdom of Bahrain, including projects with the Supreme Council for Women and BAPCO.
Some Experiences of Teaching at Royal University for Women in Kingdom of Bahrain
Q.: You have spent quite some years at RUW! Can you please share your journey with us?
I joined RUW in 2008 as an Associate Professor in Fashion design, before that I had worked in India at Lady Irwin college New Delhi, since 1989. I have six PhD students who completed under me, and more than 45 Masters Students have finished their projects under my supervision. I am also a Principal Fellow of Higher Education Academy, UK. My journey was very exciting especially because I am always surrounded by young and energetic students. There have been challenges but interesting ones. At RUW I joined as pure academic and later was appointed the Dean of College of Art and design and then I became the Academic Vice President. My expertise is in fashion design but more from a technical perspective and I love the subjects related to research or research methods. In last thirteen years there has been ashift as I joined as pure academician and later as AVP was in academic administration. I have enjoyed both roles thoroughly.
Q.:From India to Bahrain! How do you find the culture difference as far as the students are concerned?
For me students are the same whether they are in India or are in Bahrain or in any other part of the world because the 17 years old student’s that come from school to the university have same feelings…. they have the same butterflies in their stomach… they are sad to leave their friends but at the same time they’re also excited to meet new friends in the university environment. Also, even for parents they share the same emotions.
When I came to Bahrain, I was actually anxious, that there is going to be a cultural change with language barriers, but to my surprise I realized that whether it is the parents or the students they’re just the same. I still remember an incident where one of my students and her father came to me and this girl had studied in another foreign university and then she had to complete her studies in Bahrain, and they chose RUW. When I met with the father and the student, and discussed how the student can settle down in a new environment, I could just imagine myself sitting in India and talking to some students there, and believe me, it was just the same feeling. So, to me whether in Bahrain or anywhere else in the world the relationship/bond the students and parents share with one another and with teachers is just the same.
Q.: What aspects should a student consider before she decides to choose a university to study at? Also, can you tell us more about what a student at RUW experiences?
In my view the students who are planning to join the university should consider
- Quality of education in the University (accreditations/ mappings, international standing)
- Academic facilities, Infrastructure, extracurricular opportunities, International linkages.
- Opportunities available at the university, so that they get more chances to bloom they also have various other ways of showing their talent and their other capabilities.
- Qualifications and Experience of Faculty members, who are more like facilitators and friends who are guiding you and who are supporting you to attain your goals.
- Where the alumnae are placed (if possible, talk to them) as they can give fair review of the university.
In my view since I’ve been at RUW for almost 13 years I realize that the students who join RUW are actually more mature they are more focused and they have also more skills that they have with them and again as a university RUW gauges these, balances the skills of the students and wherever there is a gap we try to fill that up with various other activities that we offer.
Another difference that I see in the in the in the students who come at RUW is that most of the students that I have seen across are independent learners. They just need to get an idea and then they take it from the concept and they start working on it independently. Just to give you an example that in the past I had one student who was working on a fashion project where she was trying to create a textile design of Arabic calligraphy and while she was working she tried to make sure that she did a lot of prototyping work at her level to see that how these things can be done and finally she fetched for herself from Bahrain and from Dubai to get these fabrics printed on silk and finally she made her ensembles beautifully for her fashion collection.
Similarly, there was another student who was working on a bridal collection and in order to do that her inspiration was from Bedouin jewelry, and she did this whole thing of getting this material embroidered from KSA from Bahrain and then finally creating their own ensembles.
So, I think being independent learners is something which is again a very positive for the students who are with us because ultimately, they want to excel in whatever they have chosen as their career path whether it is Business, or it is art and design or it is law. Again, as a university RUW is facilitates this kind of independence. We also have a lot of facilities which are available to students in terms of well-equipped studios, online portals, clubs etc. Students can actually start their own club in whatever they feel like working (Environment club, debating Club), Gym, competitions etc.
Q.: What is your contribution to the academic life at RUW in general in the past years and specifically in setting up RUW Women’s Research Centre?
Well talking about my contribution to royal university for broadly I worked on the curriculum development when we started initially we had our curriculum from the Middlesex University but then every four years we are doing a curriculum review as a periodic cycle through which we try to make sure that the curriculum is updated, current, robust and fit for purpose.
Secondly my role is to make sure that every program has a linkage with the industry. So, we have made our internship program as a mandatory course for all programs at RUW and this enables the students to actually work in the industry and see how they operate and it gives them a hand on experience. Also, the graduation projects are also linked with the industry again when I talk with industry these industry for us could be a bank it could be an NGO, it could be a governmental organization, or it could be any employer in any area of specialization that we have at the university.
Thirdly it is the active international affiliations and partnerships that we have so we have international partners like West Virginia University, Bangor and with various universities through which we are giving an excellent exposure to the students whether it is a summer course or a faculty exchange program or the student exchange. This international dimension also adds a lot of value to the student’s holistic development and global citizenship.
With regards to the RUW Women’s Research Centre, it is a collective vision of RUW from the past many years. The biennial International conferences that were started planted the idea. The International Conference on Women in Society which was held in 2016 and the second one in 2018 talked about Role of Women in Society and higher education. The third conference was planned in 2020 but because of COVID it didn’t happen so we’re hoping that now it will be happening in 2022.
This was an idea that we had actually from the last few years and we initiated this idea in the past that how can we actually set up a center at RUW which is a women’s Research Center which caters not only to the needs of Bahrain but also to the entire Arab region and I’m very proud to say that with our long standing association with SCW and then with another partnership with ESCWA we’re in the process of setting up a women’s Research Center at RUW which will be the hub for all women related research in futures to come.
Q.: What kind of achievements the students had at RUW?
Our students at RUW are very energetic they’re very driven and they’re super talented. We give them opportunities to showcase their talent in
- INJAZ company competition is what someone such competition where the students have create very well we have been participating in this competition from the last almost 5-6 years and we have won the prize for the best company we have got the prize for the best product for the best social impact not only within Bahrain at a national level but also at a regional level as well
- Our students have performed very well in the national skills competition and we have got gold medals for interior, fashion graphic design also we participated in the world skills competition and we again got a medal
- Students have been participating in the Trade Quest competition which organized by Bahrain Bourse and our students have been awarded for second prize and third prize in the past
- Individually the students have worked very well to get the best microenterprise award, in hackathon so they have all worked very well in the way areas of law fashion graphic interior business and so many other places
Q.: What is your final advice to all students starting their university life?
In my view students should:
- Talk to people around you (parents, friends, and teachers) before choosing your university or program. These 4 years of study is your investment …
- Choose your friends carefully who support you and challenge you to do better.
- Have a clear aim as to what you want to achieve in life and work towards it.
- Enjoy your life at the university…. You live only once.