Photo of Rekha R. Srinivasan

Rekha R. Srinivasan, James S. Swinehart Professorial Teaching Fellow and senior instructor in chemistry, receives Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Rekha R. Srinivasan has been no stranger to winning teaching awards since arriving at Case Western Reserve University in 2005. From the Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching she earned in her fifth year to the 2015–16 Faculty Advisor of the Year Award from the Women in Science and Engineering Roundtable and a 2016 J. Bruce Jackson, MD, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring, her list of accolades runs long.

Now, she’ll add another award to the list as she earns the Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching once again. This year’s award will be presented during the College of Arts and Sciences’ undergraduate diploma ceremony Sunday, May 21.

As was the case in Srinivasan’s first nomination, students praised her for her fierce dedication to not only chemistry, but to them and their futures. They expressed thankfulness for a compassionate and passionate professor who “cares about her students on a personal level,” an instructor who invests considerable time and energy into those students and who has a “focus into developing students beyond her course.”

“She somehow manages to tie chemistry course content to everyday life,” one student wrote in nominating Srivrinasan. “She gives advice to her students and encourages them to stay passionate.”

Another said: “She is witty, full of energy, and engaging during every class…She continuously strives to put a smile on our faces…gives life and career advice during class and reads us inspirational quotes to help us on our college journeys and beyond.”

Srinivasan began her teaching career in her native India after earning master’s degrees in organic chemistry and analytical chemistry, before earning a PhD in chemistry from Case Western Reserve in 2003.

“I am humbled and elated,” Srinivasan said after being named as a 2023 recipient.  “I always said to myself that I would make every effort to keep growing as a teacher and mentor. To win this award a second time and to have this connection with another generation of students makes me feel that I am on the right track!”

Srinivasan said that the challenges of teaching have changed dramatically over the last few years—something she addressed in a remarkably unique fashion during the pandemic by offering a virtual cooking class for her students (and their families). 

“I feel that to reach out to students of today, we have to recognize that the challenges they face are very different from those faced by students a few years ago or for that matter before the pandemic,” she said. “By understanding and acquiring tools to help our students handle these challenges, we can be more effective educators.”

About the award

Created in 1964, the Wittke Award for Undergraduate Teaching is named for Carl Frederick Wittke, who, from 1948 to 1963, was professor of history, chair of the Department of History and vice president of Western Reserve University. Faculty members who teach undergraduates are eligible for the award, which recognizes excellence in their efforts. Undergraduates nominate candidates; a committee of students interviews nominated faculty members and recommends winners. Two faculty members receive the award each year.