Finding the gems that shape the industries of tomorrow start with the educator. Dr Gita Pendharkar from RMIT University, who snagged the Mentor of the Year Award at this year’s Women in Industry Awards 2018, shared her thoughts with Manufacturers’ Monthly on how she guides her students.
In her role at RMIT, Dr Gita Pendharkar is a senior educator at the School of Vocational Engineering Health and Science. Her role mainly involves teaching and mentoring activities for the students.
When asked what is at the centre of her core teaching beliefs, she told Manufacturers’ Monthly that she believes that mentoring and education are the most powerful weapons and therefore, should be handled and delivered for the right use.
“For me, mentoring means, investing your time to understand and respond to the needs of students, show them various pathways in their life, boost their confidence by making them believe that they can achieve their goals, give them true feedback on their work and celebrate their success,” said Gita.
“I have mentored lot of the international and local female students from India, who would be very comfortable talking to me and discussing their educational needs and other aspects of life. They have all succeeded and have respectable jobs in their fields,” she said.
The road driven together
According to Gita, in her 26 years of academic career, she has mentored a diverse range of Tafe, undergraduate and post graduate students from universities in India, Zambia, and Australia (both RMIT and Monash University).
“While the students always had a positive teaching and learning experience with me, the students have given back abundance of knowledge in return and made me wealthy (in knowledge),” she said.
“Many of my students have remained in touch with me after their graduation. Discussing and sharing knowledge with colleagues have always helped and made me think in broader terms,” she said.
Innovation for the future
While Gita was at RMIT, she led two funded projects using Action and Research in Teaching and Learning which introduced innovative approaches that are currently implemented at the school. She was the Project Leader for developing course material for flexible learning in 2009 at RMIT University.
Besides the above projects, she has also been awarded the “Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship Award” by the American Australian Association in 2012, which she regards as another highlight of her career. Because of the prestigious nature of this award she was able to travel to the University of Delaware to carry out post doctorate research in Robotic Exoskeleton.
In addition, she has also received a number of other awards for introducing innovative teaching practices at RMIT University, Manufacturing Skills Australia (MSA) award, International Specialised Skills Institute (ISSI) award, all of which have contributed to her incredible career progress and work.
The issue of diversity
To Gita, diversity means to have a workplace with people from different race, religion, socioeconomic and ethnic background.
“At RMIT, we have a very diverse team of staff and we welcome students from all different backgrounds. Gender diversity to me, means to have an equal representation of men and women at the workplace,” Gita said. She believes that although the universities are trying to get the gender balance, they still have a long way to go, especially in engineering related areas and mainly for senior management roles.
“I am working in education industry and innovation is the most important aspect of education. Hence, workplace diversity is the only answer to bring that innovation which would lead to success,” she said.
A special moment
“The Women in Industry Mentor of the Year Award is indeed a very special achievement for me as it was highly competitive to get this award. It is an excellent recognition of my 26 years of hard work of teaching, mentoring and academic services to the community,” said Gita.
She says that she is extremely elated to have made RMIT University proud because the whole of Australia is talking about RMIT being one of the top universities to have the best mentors and teachers in their schools.
“Recognising capable and successful women in various industries (especially traditionally male dominated ones) is an excellent step towards promoting gender diversity in Australia and these awards are a great platform to achieve this. I would like to give thanks to the organisers, sponsors and everyone involved in making the ‘Women in Industry Awards’ a success,” she said.