Professor Spotlight: Dr. Purna Banerjee

Emily Chudzik, News Editor

What matters the most to Dr. Purna Banerjee, associate professor of English, is her students. She loves to watch them grow and flourish, and feels a strong sense of pride when they accomplish their goals.

“My proudest accomplishment is my ability to connect with students at a more personal level. They know me for who I am, and I know them,” Banerjee said. “The day I lose that ability is the day I stop teaching.”

Dr. Banerjee was on a leave of absence last semester in order to teach at Presidency University, the oldest institution in Kolkata, India. She taught English literature for a year and a half before coming back to Millikin. Currently, she is attempting to establish some kind of exchange program between Presidency and Millikin. Banerjee has taken students to India with her four different times in past years.

Lauren Wood, Millikin graduate and former student of Banerjee, accompanied her on a summer immersion to India in 2007.

“Since graduation, I have continued to seek Dr. Banerjee’s advice and encouragement on personal and professional issues,” Wood said. “Like many students who joined the India Summer Immersions or took her courses on campus, she introduced us to ideas and perspectives that we normally wouldn’t have come across living in the Millikin bubble.

“She has taught me that when I am challenged with ideas and perspectives that are culturally different than mine, I should not instinctively dismiss or devalue the different views. She has encouraged me to become more culturally aware and globally involved.”

Dr. Banerjee came to Millikin immediately after acquiring her Ph.D. She turned down nine other job offers, because she fell in love with the people and Millikin’s commitment to its students. “Millikin has been my family and my home away from home. I have spent ten years away from my family [in India], but when I see my students, I know it has meant something,” Banerjee said. “I love being in the company of students and the back and forth intellectual conversations.”

Rahul Sinha, Millikin graduate and former student of Banerjee, said, “I have known Dr. Banerjee since [the] spring of 2008, when I was taking one of her classes on Bollywood cinema. As an instructor, she was simply amazing. She was always very helpful and made sure her students succeeded. She has always been there for me as a mentor and always encouraged and supported me during difficult times.”

When asked what her favorite class was Dr. Banerjee said that was like “asking a parent who their favorite child is,” and that whatever class she’s teaching at that moment is her favorite. She did share her favorite moment in the classroom: “When a student has that ‘lightbulb’ moment, where they can connect their own culture, experiences, and learning to what we are learning- that’s my favorite moment.”

Dr. Banerjee is passionate about promoting diversity and the education of other cultures. She also loves to teach students from differing backgrounds and majors. She truly believes that her students are what is most important. She respects them for the individuals that they are, and wants nothing but the best for them. In response, her hard work and dedication shows through the wonderful things her students have to say about her.