Get to know your Provost -Meet Meera Komarraju

By Jamilah Lewis, Staff Reporter

Updated 10/12/2020 at 7:37 a.m.

Meera Komarraju is the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at SIU. She oversees the academics of the university and the recruitment of international students. 

She received her Ph.D in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Applied Social Psychology from the University of Cincinnati in 1987 and Osmania University, Hyderabad India in 1983.

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Komarraju has also taught in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Komarraju has been the provost since April 2018. Prior to serving as provost for academic affairs, Komarraju was also a professor, dean and associate dean at SIU.

The Daily Egyptian sat down with Komarraju for a question and answer session so students could better get to know their provost.

DE: How was your experience when you first started working here?

Komarraju: “I had transitioned from being a dean of the college of liberal arts, and before that, I’ve been the chair of the department of psychology, and in between, I’d also serve as associate dean of the college of liberal art,” Komarraju said. “So when I came here, what I felt is that to some extent it was kind of like scaling up because what I did in the department was only psychology majors.”

Komarraju talked about how it’s one college, but then as the provost, you’re sort of taking care of all the colleges. So you start off small and then “you” just keep getting bigger and bigger.

DE: How long have you been working at SIU? 

Komarraju:  “I came to SIU in 1986, and I worked for the first year on a part-time basis. I was still finishing up my Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati. I had a two-year-old [while she was working] and then I stayed home for three and a half years and had my second child,” Komarraju said. “And then I came back and I taught part-time. And in 2005, I started my formal role as a tenure faculty member in psychology. So it’s just been 15 years that I’ve been a full-time employee.”

Komarraju said what drew her to SIU was employment. Komarraju came here with her husband and had been rising in the ranks ever since then.

DE:  How have your duties changed from your first year as provost compared to now during COVID-19?

Komarraju:  “Under normal circumstances, the job is quite challenging because SIU is a very large university,” Komarraju said. “We have lots of colleges, lots of programs; and then with the pandemic it passes through the aspect of uncertainty because you don’t have all the information, but you’re making decisions for things down the road.”

Komarraju said by studying the available information, looking at what other universities are doing, and drawing on the wisdom of people on campus, the university had to make decisions. So what was unusual was making decisions about how the school is going to continue with their academic mission despite COVID.

In terms of delivering the academic mission, it was about striking the balance between what the students wanted and what the instructors wanted Komarraju said.

DE: Were there any major problems that you ran into because of COVID-19?

Komarraju: “We did a survey of the students and we did a survey of the instructors, and the majority of the students said ‘we want to come back to the campus,’ ‘we like to be in the classroom,’ ‘we want face-to-face instruction,’ ‘we don’t have good access to technology,’” Komarraju said. “The instructors were- some said ‘yeah I want to be in the classroom,’ ‘this is how we teach,’ and others were like ‘I’m not ready to do that’ because of uncertainty. 

Trying to find balance between professor and students’ wishes on how to conduct classes was one of the challenges of the job, Komarraju said. 

DE: Has COVID-19 been affecting the school’s income?

Komarraju: “Certainly, COVID has increased costs,” Komarraju said. “Cleaning supplies, the masks, these are unexpected costs. We’ve been buying laptops to loan to students, we’ve bought so many webcams, invested in Zoom licenses.”

DE: Have international students’ admissions been impacted significantly this year?

Komarraju: “The US consulates did not open to give their visa interviews,” Komarraju said. “So students that may have gotten admission and received their paperwork, but they couldn’t go get the interviews to get their visa to come here. Some students who are already here who had traveled home, and then they had to come back. There are not too many like that because the travel happened around the pandemic time, so not many have traveled.”

Komarraju said that coming to campus didn’t affect returning students much, but did impact international freshmen trying to come to campus for the first time. A few were able to make it but most made the decision to study online.

DE: For the spring semester, will everything function the way it has been for the fall?

Komarraju: “We’re using the same model for the spring. So we ask instructors to indicate their preference on how they want to teach,” Komarraju said. “The only difference is that in the fall because things were happening in the moment, instructors had continued to tweak their preference close to the beginning of the semester.”

What they are doing in preparation of the spring semester is asking professors since the instructors have gone through one semester of it, to kind of indicate and stick with it, Komarraju said

 Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @jamilahlewis

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