“Learning should never stop”

Profile of Dr Seema Salgaonkar’s journey as a professor and writer of female-focussed political insights in Goa

Dr Seema Salgaonkar is a professor and heads the Department of Political Science at the Government College of Arts, Science and Commerce, khandola-Marcela, Goa. She studied at New Goa High School, Mapusa, where she participated in various extra-curricular activities; and was judged the best allround student during her tenth standard. She completed her higher secondary and graduated from Dhempe College of Arts & Science, Miramar and was a State Ranker for 12th Arts. Dr Seema thoroughly enjoyed learning different subjects such as economics, psychology, history and political science. For her post-graduation,she opted for Political Science and was awarded a Ph.D. in 2001 by Goa University, where her dissertation was on the topic, ‘Women, Political Power and State in Goa.’

Dr Seema’s father, Madhukar Kulkarni, was a highly learned man and she grew up in an environment that was conducive to learning and acquiring knowledge. “When I was in the eleventh standard a neighbour of mine, who was in the tenth standard, needed help in Hindi; and although a bright student she was not confident about her performance in the language. So I decided to guide her by giving her classes and she ended up doing well in her finals. This inspired me to take tuitions for high school students and my teaching journey got a gentle push. Besides earning some pocket money, it also gave me a sense of gratification. After completing post-graduation there was no looking back. I strongly feel that even if I had to do medicine, engineering or law, I would have still chosen teaching as my profession. There has not been a single day when I have felt otherwise. I feel I am a good teacher, who wants to learn every single day and impart that learning to others in every way possible,” she says.

Dr Seema began her teaching journey as a lecturer in political science in 1991 in Government College, Quepem. “The college was established in 1989 and we all had the responsibility to build the college and help it grow. The students came from remote places, such as Morpilla, Dhabal, Malkarnem, etc. and many of them were first generation learners in their family. It was a herculean task to help these students realise their dreams, but we did it with a smile on our face and hope in our hearts,” she says.

She travelled everyday from Porvorim to Quepem which took up most of her time but she did not allow hardships to deter her vision and cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) in 1994 and registered for the Ph.D. programme. “I organised various programs for students, like study visits to Goa Legislative Assembly, offices of political parties, trade unions, panchayats, central jail etc. which gave exposure and practical knowledge to students. In 2010, I was transferred to Government College Khandola, where I worked to build the Department of Political Science in the college. Today, we have more than 200 students studying political science in our college. The last three decades of teaching has been a very fruitful experience,” adds Dr Seema.

After acquiring a Ph.D, she became a Reader in 2001. “The most coveted position in a college is that of a professor and one has to put in a lot of hardwork to reach that place. I work with the belief that I should do what I like and at the same time I have to like what I do. I have inclination for research which has resulted in writing researchbased papers in various reputed national and international journals and also contributed to chapters in various books,” she says. Dr Seema’s research proposals were accepted by academic bodies such as University Grant Commission (UGC) and Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Dehi and she was funded for undertaking major research projects. As a member of Board of Studies in Political Science she has contributed significantly to drafting the syllabus in the subject for undergraduate and post graduate levels. Dr Seema was an elected member of the Academic Council of Goa University for three years. Besides serving as Ph.D. examiner for various universities such as Savitribai Phule Pune University, Shivaji University, Kolhapur and University of Mumbai, she is also a recognised Ph.D. guide for Goa University. “All these efforts paved the way for me for being promoted to the post of Professor in our college,” she says. As a senior in the college, Dr Seema was entrusted with the responsibility of heading the Department of Political Science, a role which she has been handling with pride for a number of years. Her major focus lies in instilling an interest in students, for political science; and helping them develop analytical skills so that they can comprehend and critic the existing political system in the country, while working towards becoming good citizens.

Dr Seema specialises in women-related issues and grassroots governance. She organises workshops for women where emphasis is laid on hands-on training and tries to get financial assistance from major funding agencies; so that she can hold these workshops free of cost in order to benefit women in the best way possible. Currently, she is organising a National Workshop on ‘Mahila Sabhas and Bal Sabhas: A Platform for inclusion of Vulnerable Communities’ on 5-6th March 2024 at her college which is funded by Western Regional Office of The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) Mumbai.
She is a certified trainer of the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR), Hyderabad. Dr Seema is often invited by NGOs, educational institutions and corporate houses to address various issues on women. The Women’s Wing of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) recognising her contribution towards women empowerment, felicitated her in 2018 while JSW-Energy appreciated her engagement with their women employees. As far as grassroots governance is concerned, Dr Seema undertook a major project on understanding the role of Gram Sabhas in Goa. She is actively involved in training programmes for newly elected Panchas after every Panchayat election.
She has written a few books over the years and her latest book titled Goa @60: Transition of Goa Post Liberation focuses on Goa’s journey for the last 60 years post liberation. It emphasises on the transition the state has gone through, critique the processes and end transformations and tries to come out with concrete suggestions to build the roadmap for Goa @75. “While my earlier two books, Women Political Power and State in Goa and Awareness Level at Gram Sabhas in Goa: Analysis & Perspective, were more based on theorisation and had major components of statistical analysis, Goa @ 60 is written with a simple objective in mind that the book should make an easy read for anyone interested to know more about the state of Goa and its journey till date.” Over the years, Dr Seema has been inspired by various ideas as well as her peers and family. “The Gandhian theory of ‘Means & Ends,’ has been a guiding star for me in all my endeavours; and I also listen to Swami Gaur Gopal Das. My parents have supported me whole-heartedly and were a great source of motivation and courage. Behind all my success is my husband, Dr Pradeep Salgaonkar, who has always been there for me. I could not have done it without him, who blends the role of a critic, guide and motivator, persuading me to do better. My daughter, Deepsee, pushed me to write articles for local dailies and encourages me to write on a regular basis. I am blessed to have very supportive colleagues and awesome friends who have always appreciated my work and boosted my morale.”
Dr Seema would like to continue the good work that she is doing. “I want to contribute quality articles which can create public awareness and make people think. I am very keen on continuing a chapter from my latest book and I would like to study each of the twelve talukas in detail so that I can bring out the finer nuances of the rich cultural heritage of Goa. I am also interested on taking up a project where I can try my hand at translation. Mentoring Women Self-Help Groups (WSHG), in areas such as idea generation for business activity, marketing strategies, packaging and branding also figures in my future plans. I have a long-envisioned plan of starting an NGO for women and I want to slowly and subtly move from the role of a teacher and trainer to that of a facilitator, where I will be able to initiate the process of harvesting group wisdom and women will be able to take decisions for themselves.”
She concludes with a message to aspiring teachers. “First and foremost, there is no substitution for hard work. A teacher must encourage thinking and creativity in students through facilitative approaches. To have control and yet to have a conducive environment in the class, a teacher should seek synergy between authority and democracy. There must be inclusivity where even weak students are given due attention to help them overcome challenges. A teacher is always a learner herself, and this learning should never stop!”

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