Marian takes new strides for sustainable tomorrow, models on Cornell, ties up with Rust and Utah (Kurian Pampadi )

Text and images by Kurian Pampadi

Viswanath Pandit, father of the macroeconomic policy modeling in India, recently made a fervent call for sustainable development for the economic prosperity of the nation. He also lighted the lamp to inaugurate the activities of the Marian Centre for Sustainable Development at Marian College, the youngest autonomous College in the State of Kerala.

Rooted in Kashmir, Pandit earned his PhD from University of Pennsylvania under Nobel Laureate Lawrence Klein. He served as the director of the Centre for Development Economics at the Delhi School of Economics where eminent economists like Kerala's Dr. K.N. Raj, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Jagdish Bhagavati and John Dreze also taught. He served as vice chancellor of Satya Sai University in Puttaparthy before moving as advisor to the World Bank and the Government of Sri Lanka. He also won the Economist of the Year award instituted by Dr. PJ Thomas Foundation.

“Richard Easterlin, famous for the Esterlin Paradox was my professor at Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Pandit. “The Esterlin Paradoox states that life satisfaction increases as income increases but only up to a point, beyond which the marginal gain in satisfaction may be zero or negative. The way out is ceiling on desires and providing to others what you can—food, clothing, shelter, health and education,” he added.

“The very same idea is the driving force behind the Marian Centre for Sustainable Development,” responded Dr. T.V. Muralivallbhan, director of economics, at Marian College.

Drs. E.M. Thomas, (former professor and general secretary, Kerala Economic Association), K.J. Joseph, P.K. Viswanathan, K.M. George and S.K. Ray presented papers at the seminar on the problems of sustainable development in the face of environmental catastrophes.

Perched on the sylvan heights of Peermade at Kuttikanam in Idukki District, the 22-year old Marian college, run by the Catholic Diocese of Kanjirapallay, boasts of more than 2000 graduate, post graduate and research students, 125 teachers and an alumni of 3500 with chapters including in Dubai and Bangalore. The college offers six graduate and post graduate courses and another 13 under self- financing stream. Also an MBA program in the Marian International Institute of Management in the same campus. The college is fully residential.

Opened on August 11, 1995 with a roll of 180 students and nine teachers, the institution had Rev. Fr. Philip Vadakkekalam as the first principal. Rev. Dr. Roy Abraham joined as the first vice principal in March 1997 to be elevated as the seventh principal in May 2014 and eventually recognized as the Best Principal of the Mahatma Gandhi University. In May 2016, the University Grants Commission recognized Marian as one of the five autonomous colleges in the State--a rare honor as it is the youngest institution in Kerala to reach that level with institutions like CMS College in Kottayam which celebrated its bicentenary in 2015.

“Post graduate programs in social work, commerce, hospitality and management have been the crowning glory of the young campus apart from its notable strides in extra curricular and outreach programs under different departments,” said Principal Rev. Dr. Roy Abraham in a chat in his spacious office decked with an array of trophies the college has won. “We have hundred percent placements in all the programs.”

With an MS degree in hospitality management from the University of New Orleans, an MBA in HR from the Hindustan University, Chennai, and a PhD in rural tourism management from Mahatma Gandhi University, Rev. Roy Abraham has hospitality as his perennial interest. He was bowled over by the professionalism he saw in institutions like the Marriott, the world's largest hotel chain and Hilton International. The course he introduced is modeled on the program offered by Cornell University of New York, one of the Ivy League institutions in the US. Marian was the first in the state to introduce the innovative PG program. “The intake remains 25 for men and women. Since its inception in 2007, five batches have successfully completed MHM. All are well employed in premium hotels while a few have ventured into their own hospitality units.

“Comparison with Cornell ends there as we are a very small (27 acres but still growing) entity. Cornell colleges offer about a hundred courses and are spread in an area of some 5000 acres. Founded in1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the University is famous for the Cornell motto: “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study”.

“We are inspired by its motto. Hence we have also entered into tie ups with the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Rust College University in Mississippi, both in the US, and the University of Fraser Valley and the University of Lakehead in Canada,” said Dr. Roy Abraham. Marian also has entered into collaboration with the Mid Sweden University, Sweden and the Baekseok University, South Korea. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Mahindra Pride School of the Nandi Foundation, Hyderabad are also in league.

“The College really wants to be listed among the first twenty colleges in India in the next three years with students and faculty coming from all over India and abroad. Also we look forward to becoming a University in nearest opportunity available,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

Marian has started in right earnest. Many of its faculty are drawn from senior and experienced retirees from prominent institutions. For example, Dr. T.V. Muraleevallabhan, one of the very recent additions, is a political economist with a mission, wants corporate social responsibility taught and practiced with spiritual insights into India's hoary past. He has a masters in economics as well as political science. 'Green policies and sustainable development in Kerala' is his doctoral work. He has presented papers in Salt Lake City, Montreal, Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur. No wonder Modi government has made him a director of the Union Ministry of Steel's corporate think tank—MSTC.

The list of scholars who visited the campus to interact and inspire the students is impressive: Dr. Poornima George, Ryserson, Canada, Dr. Gemma Beckley, Rust, Mississippi, Dr. Christina Gingery, Utah, Dr. Harsha E. Chacko, New Orleans, Dr. Sunny Luke, Columbia, Tinu Kurian, Cambridge, Richard P. Brown, Beuarmine, and Dr. Najma Hepthulla, New Delhi to name a few.

In the midst of the visit, we had a lively photographic session with the young and vibrant economics students focusing on applied economics. Principal Dr. Roy Abraham, manager Rev. James Kozhimala, planning and development director Dr. Jose James, economics director Dr. T.V. Muraivallabhan, HOD Suzanna Oommen and her colleagues Raisa Elsa Joseph, Minu Sadasivan and Geril Scaria George joined in. Fr. Soby Kannalil, coordinator of the communication and media studies, rushed in carrying his Canon D70 and D80.

Before parting, I bumped into Ajith Fredjeev Dinakarlal on the faculty of social work. He joined the campus after a stint as journalist with the Madurai unit of the Indian Express, from where Keralites used to get the copies of the paper once. He comes from a family of scholars. His father Dr. Dinakarlal Thevarmany was dean of English at Scott Christian College, autonomous, in Nagarcoil and mother Dr. W. Mary Premalatha retired as professor and HOD of English at Holy Cross College, Nagarcoil. Armed with an MSW and an array of related diplomas, Ajith joined Marian to teach and pursue his doctoral research on the problems of social workers. I also met his wife Aparna Fredjeev, a effervescent linguist, who handles public relations at Marian.

Pleasant surprises were old friends Dr. Jose James, former registrar of MG University, who is an imposing presence with his wide experience in India and abroad as a teacher and a sportsperson. He said a library of international ambiance was nearing completion at Marian. It was modeled on what he saw at the National University of Singapore. M. Vijayakumar, director of communication and media studies, who is retired from the Karyavattom campus of the University of Kerala, was the other long lost friend. Also made friends with the department's veteran advertising specialist Dr. Michael Puthenthara and Management Institute’s faculty member Dr. Syriac Joseph Vempala.

What does Marian do for the community, apart from the Community College functioning in the campus under an IGNOU scheme? A lot, said Dr. Roy Abraham. The Department of Extension Services is seized with the sad plight of the tea estate workers living not far from the college and is often visiting them to lend a hand to ameliorate their plight. Programs for the local women and children are the next priority.

Marian is a source of inspiration for many in different ways. To cite an example, Dr. M.D. Baby, a professor of the M.Com-PGDM department, is fast completing a beautiful resort between Murinjapuzha and Panchalimed on his five acre ancestral plot, just a few km away from the campus. He has named it 'Heavenly Bliss'.

(Credits: images 1, 9 and 10 by Fr Soby Kannalil, Marian)

Young, aspiring economics students of Marian with their mentors

Dr. Viswanath Pandit inaugurating the activities of the Marian Centre for Sustainable Development.

Rev Fr James Kozhimala, Drs. EM Thomas, Viswanath Pandit, Muralivallabhan, S.K. Ray, Suzanna Oommen, Roy Abraham

At the learning curve at Marian.

When faculty members got together.

Dr. Michael Puthenthara, Rev Dr. Roy Abraham

Dr. Syriac Joseph in front of the Marian Institute of Management

A typical Marian class room

Prof. Suzanna Ommen interacts with her students

When cine actor Asif Ali, an alumni, brought his first child to the campus; Sister Sonykutty Varghese fondles the new born.

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