Dean, School of Arts and Sciences
Director, Office of Undergraduate Education
Dr. Akhila Ramnarayan has over twenty years of experience in literary research, teaching, and performing arts praxis. Her creative and scholarly interests span the literature and performing arts of the global south, the role of metacognition in learning and performance, writing studies, and postcolonial/decolonial/transnational feminisms.
Dr Ramnarayan earned her PhD in English from The Ohio State University in 2006. Beginning her academic career as Assistant Professor of English at the University of Dayton in 2005, Dr Ramnarayan subsequently relocated to India in 2011 in order to immerse herself in theatre and allied performing arts closer to home.
A key member of Chennai-based theatre group JustUs Repertory since 2007, Dr Ramnarayan has performed in lead roles in internationally acclaimed plays such as Water Lilies, Night’s End, When Things Fall Apart, and What She Said. She received national recognition for theatre (acting) as the 2013-2014 awardee of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar from the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s apex body in the performing arts. In 2015, she scripted Don Quixote – the first ever stage adaptation of Miguel Cervantes’s Spanish classic in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music idioms – for Sahrdaya Foundation, a Chennai performing arts collective she helped launch in 2011.
A singer and songwriter originally trained in the Carnatic idiom, Dr Ramnarayan has independently written and produced, as part of the musical collective Akhila & the Alchemists, a full-length indie rock album titled Woe Begone (2021), a 3-song EP titled The Waves (2022), and three additional singles in 2021-22. Her second original album, a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Doug Carraway, is slated for release in late 2023.
Dr Ramnarayan has taught at the Asian College of Journalism as Guest Faculty and headed Learning and Development at the IT firm Pramati Technologies. She has served most recently as Associate Professor of literature at Krea University, where she was the founding Chair of the Division of Literature and the Arts at the School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences.
Bringing together her varied interests in literary scholarship, writing, and performance praxis, Dr Ramnarayan is currently working on a collection of essays that straddles creative and academic genres, combining scholarly research questions with experiments in creativity, pedagogy, learning, and performance relevant to our times.
At Sai University, Dr. Ramnarayan is committed to exploring interconnections and synergies across disciplines/schools as well as new avenues in teaching, learning, research, and praxis in higher education.