Dr. Mandjiny wins teaching award
By Tomeka Sinclair, Around the Town Editor
Department Chair of Chemistry and Physics, Dr. Sivanadane “Siva” Mandjiny, was announced the winner of the prestigious UNC Board of Governors 2015 Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The BOG award is an award given annually. A tenured professor from each of the 17 UNC schools is selected to receive the award. The winners will receive a medallion and a $12,500 cash prize.
Mandjiny will serve as the UNCP marshal and president over ceremonial events. The award will be given at the spring graduation ceremony on May 9.
Dr. Mandjiny has been teaching in the Department of Chemistry and Physics since 1996 and has been the department chair since 2011. He said that students, faculty and staff have all helped support him and it isn’t just his award.
“I am standing on everybody,” he said. “It is not me.”
He said his wife and brother have been great supports and without them he wouldn’t be here and had achieved what he has achieved educationally.
Dr. Mandjiny said he was surprised and honored to receive the award.
“It was a great surprise because it’s not an easy award,” he said.
Dr. Mandjiny said that he received an email from the chairman of the search committee saying that he was nominated for the award and asking if he accepted the nomination.
“I said ‘yes’ because it’s a great honor,” he said.
Dr. Mandjiny said that he didn’t expect to win because he was nominated back in 2009, but he submitted his portfolio anyway.
He said, while on a family emergency in Boston, he received a call saying that he was one of the two finalists to receive the award.
Dr. Mandjiny said that members of the committee got his class schedule and sat during his classes every week. He said he was told he won while he was eating lunch in his office.
“Something in my portfolio was eye-catching for them, but it wasn’t eye-catching to me,” he said.
Dr. Mandjiny said he’s also surprised at all the support he’s getting from students and colleagues. He said every day he is overwhelmed with emails and Facebook messages congratulating him on his award and expressing how much he has done for them.
“It really makes my day to see all of the support,” he said.
Dr. Mandjiny speaks four languages: English, French, Tamil and he taught himself Hindi. He went to a prestigious school in India and studied in France where he received his doctorate in three years.
He said when he started teaching, students had a hard time understanding him and they were not doing well in his class. He said his knowledge and teaching level was so high students could not grasp the concepts.
He said a friend came to him and told him he should slow down and get on the student’s level.
“Once I did that, all my students loved it,” Dr. Mandjiny said.
Dr. Mandjiny now makes sure he gets to know his students on a personal level. He said that it’s important to show students how they can use chemistry and physics in their everyday life or they won’t grasp it and see it as a necessity. He said that is why it’s important to figure out the “psychology of the student.”
“You have to understand who the student is sitting in front of you,” Dr. Mandjiny said.
Dr. Mandjiny said that UNCP is “it” for him. He said he plans on staying at UNCP until he retires.
“I feel I belong to this community,” he said.
Photo by Shelley Martin. Dr. Siva Mandjiny goes over material on the white board in one of his classes.