What’s the connection between accounting and Hindu Studies? At Massachusetts Bay Community College, it is veteran educator, Dr. Mona Khaitan.
Since 1993, Dr. Khaitan has been teaching accounting at MassBay to both business and accounting majors and in 2006, started double duty by opening minds and educating students in Hindu Studies as well.
Students lucky enough to be enrolled in her accounting courses have the opportunity to experience a touch of Hindu culture as Dr. Khaitan opens most classes with a five- or ten-minute guided meditation. Students are invited, but not required, to participate.
“A few years ago, I began to invite my students to participate in meditation at the beginning of each class as it helps with focus and concentration. The fact that they now ask for it in each class, tells me they find it useful,” Dr. Khaitan said.
Dr. Khaitan knows well the benefits of meditation and Hindu philosophy. Born and raised in India and educated in West Africa, Northern Ireland, and the United States, her Hindu roots remained a constant throughout her nomadic life.
Dr. Khaitan describes herself as “numbers-oriented and a student of mathematics.” She earned a master’s degree in accounting from Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL and received her CPA certification from the State of Illinois. For a few years, she worked as an internal auditor for a Fortune 500 firm. A hallmark of their company culture included volunteering, so as part of community service, she taught at the College of DuPage, a community college. To her surprise and delight, she enjoyed it immensely.
“It was rewarding for the soul,” she said. “When you have a good class and students who understand a difficult concept, it’s tremendously uplifting.”
Her husband’s career brought them to the Greater Boston area and Dr. Khaitan began teaching accounting at MassBay. After two years as an adjunct professor, she was hired full time.
By her own admission, she is a “tough” professor. “Everyone knows my courses are hard, but when you leave my class you are trained and have learned a lot.”
Her students are given a detailed syllabus with a strict schedule of what to expect in the classroom. “When I get a class of new students, they are like a blank slate. My accounting course is linear—A leads to B, B leads to C. Students need to understand the sequential chain, just as you can’t jump up and skip stairs on a staircase.”
Her students can expect four to eight hours of homework each week and a required take-home exam to be completed as a group. The purpose of the exam is two-fold—to encourage the practice of group work, as well as to teach the subject matter in preparation for the final exam.
Dr. Khaitan explains, “In the business world, people work in groups, and this exam helps to foster students’ social and interpersonal skills. To complete the exam, they must interact and work together. If they do, then they perform well on the in-class exam and find it is easier to complete. Their confidence and self-esteem rises. They think, ‘I can do this.’ There is nothing like success to make a person more successful.”
Success for her students comes in many forms. While some earn their associate degree in business or accounting, others transfer to four-year, top-flight institutions such as Babson College or Bentley University.
“My students are true examples of our motto, ‘Start Here, Go Anywhere’.”
Dr. Khaitan had been teaching accounting at MassBay for a few years when the events of September 11, 2001 occurred. Over the following months, she found herself at a bit of a philosophical crossroads.
“I decided I needed to explore the philosophy of my religion and the only place to do that was at the Hindu University of America,” she said.
During a 2005 sabbatical, she saw the successful publication of her doctoral thesis, “Right Action — Key to Liberation and a Part of All Paths in the Bhagavad Gita” and received her doctorate in Hindu Studies in Yoga Philosophy and Meditation.
Dr. Khaitan is currently working on a new project entitled, “Meditation: Key to Dissolving Stress.” This paper provides information and discusses different types of meditations available.
“Meditation is key to dissolving stress, but people could spend a lifetime trying to find the right mediation. I have identified and categorized how each meditation is practiced.”
Her MassBay Hindu Studies courses, in which she explores topics such as reincarnation and karma, have proven to be popular at MassBay, she said.
“My students are thirsty for this knowledge. They lap it up. It really resonates with them. It is something they love. I have had a lot of feedback and it has been particularly positive. Elite schools have always offered these types of courses, so I’m thrilled to be able to teach these courses here at MassBay.”