(January 21, 2022) Statistics and maths evoke an ardent response from Indian professor Pallavi Chitturi. The research professor with a firm hold on data, predicts and forecasts diverse viewpoints. Teaching statistics at the Fox School of Business, Temple University, and EMBA programmes in Philadelphia and Bogota, Colombia, is a calling that she has embraced with immense grace.
As research professor, she has written several research presentations at national and international conferences, and also published a book, Choice Based Conjoint Analysis – Models and Designs. The recipient of the Musser Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, for Pallavi, learning is an evolution.
The Andrisani-Frank Undergraduate Teaching Awardee and the Crystal Apple Teaching Awardee, Pallavi was also given the Executive DBA Faculty of the Year Award. The Dean’s Teaching Fellow for innovation in teaching and excellence has decades of mentoring and dedication to her subject and students, in equal measure.
At heart, Pallavi loves teaching, and adores her subjects. While maths and statistics are horrors for many, she was a natural. In school, she recalls her teachers repeatedly advising her to pursue engineering because of her passion and aptitude for maths. Unsure about what she wanted to pursue, the one thing she knew was – it would not be engineering. A vague notion of being a teacher, just like her mother, guided her.
The Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi BA (hons) student in mathematical statistics was bowled over by her professors’ zeal and knowledge —- emulating them was her aspiration.
“LSR being an all-women’s college, the faculty was also all women. They were brilliant, accomplished with PhDs from universities across the country. They were exceptionally good at their subjects and enjoyed teaching. They helped me resolve my dilemma: I was going to teach maths/statistics, and I was going to get my PhD before that,” reveals Pallavi Chitturi in an interview with Global Indian.
It was maths and more maths as her journey began. “Mathematics, combined with opportunity – I was lucky to have some wonderful mentors who lit up my path with so much grace,” adds the Indian professor.
“Ever heard of Ikigai — the Japanese philosophy? What you love, what you can be good at, what you can be rewarded for and what the world needs — if these four can intersect, then you can be successful at whatever you choose as your career. I loved maths, I was good at it, and could be rewarded for it. So, my choice of career was clear even before I had earned my PhD,” says the brilliant professor who finished her MA at Delhi University, got married and left for the US. She joined University of Texas, Austin for post-graduation, and a PhD in statistics. “My mentor and guide was the renowned Prof Peter W M John – known for his work in statistics. It was sheer good luck to be mentored by him,” the Indian professor recalls.
As faculty at Temple University, she found herself in the august company of Dr Damaraju Raghavarao, chairman of the department. “Dr Raghavarao was someone whose research papers I had read at DU —- now I was working in the same department. He published a paper with me, and worked with me on the publication of our book, and papers. He need not have worked with me, a junior faculty, but he was such a wonderful mentor. It was a pleasure learning from him,” explains the statistician who cannot forget the impact of Prof John and Dr Raghavrao.
The teacher who connects with students
“I enjoy the subjects, and I enjoy teaching. Students connect with that. Some must think I am crazy – How can anyone love maths so much? Maybe because I try to make it relatable. In one teacher evaluation, a student wrote, “I never thought I could like maths so much till I took your class,’” says Pallavi, grinning from ear to ear.
Students were often bewildered by her accent — Is it Brit, Indian or even a Texan twang? Nevertheless, they love learning from her. As a professor, she was asked to teach at Temple University in Rome and Beijing – a respite she enjoyed.
On bringing up her boys
Shifting to the US was smooth as her upbringing – her father, a retired major-general and mother, a teacher, and their Army life prepared her what was to come. Her sons Akshay and Abhinav grew up in the US with Indian ethos as Pallavi’s parents and in-laws visited often, and she would visit India twice a year. She loves music and the arts and indulges in them in her free time.
Plans for the future
The Chitturis are a teaching family – Pallavi at Temple University and her husband Ravi at Lehigh University (teaching marketing).
For Pallavi, there is a “lot more to do” as she believes teaching can be carried forward in three different modes – research, contributions and service. Her elder son, Akshay just got married to his colleague, and the professor-mother is thrilled. Pallavi believes teaching can be carried forward in three different modes – research, contributions and service. “There is a lot more to do,” she concludes.
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