Rekha Srinivasan honored with Jackson Award

Rekha SrinivasanSenior Chemistry Instructor Rekha Srinivasan believes a university is responsible for educating students in more than academics.

“Students are adults, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need occasional advice and support,” she said. “My job is to make sure they are able to be successful as people. I’m there as long as they need me to be. It’s a commitment I’ve made to their growth as individuals.”

For that commitment, Srinivasan has won a 2016 J. Bruce Jackson, MD, Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring.

The Jackson Award celebrates faculty and staff who have guided a student in his or her academic and career paths, fostered the student’s long-term personal development, challenged the student to reflect, explore and grow as an individual and supported and/or facilitated the student’s goals and life choices.

Srinivasan said she was deeply moved when President Barbara R. Snyder came to her organic chemistry class and announced she’d won.

But, the instructor said: “The nomination is more important than the award. Everyone who is nominated has done something phenomenal for their students.”

A fourth-year business major who graduates this month nominated Srinivasan.

“I had heard of Dr. Sri, whose perceived image of the ‘intimidating and tough professor’ reminded me of an instructor that I had had in high school,” he said. “Although she met these expectations, she demonstrated an immense capacity to care for her students reaching their maximum learning potential.”

The student asked Srinivasan to be his adviser and soon declared chemistry his major. His long-term goal was to study medicine.

Srinivasan, who makes a point of setting all else aside and really listening when a student comes to her, discussed his plans with him.

“I do remember that a big part of him knew that being a doctor was not what he wanted,” she said. “He was holding on to it for reasons other than passion for being a doctor. I challenged him on that and reminded him that it’s all right to take time to figure out what he wanted.”

She told him that thinking it through now rather than later in life would be easier. They had many conversations about his future, and she stood by him as he explored some options.

“Dr. Sri has maintained a delicate yet consistent balance between supporting my actions and challenging my decision-making processes,” the nominator wrote. “Over the course of my four years, I have shifted from pre-med to pre-law to now business. And while they have not been the easiest decisions for me to make, Dr. Sri has shown understanding and provided resources along the way to help guide me.”

One result, the student said, is confidence, independence and decision-making skills that will be useful in the professional world after graduation.

“I feel extremely comfortable confiding in her both my struggles and accomplishments,” he wrote. “By being open-minded and direct, Dr. Sri and I have developed a relationship that I firmly believe will only strengthen in the future.”