For the first two minutes of every class, Shanthi Muthuswamy, Ph.D., leads her students through breathing exercises before they begin conquering engineering problems.
“Connecting with their breath every day for a few minutes gives them control over how they respond to stressful situations,” she said. “Being mindfully connected with our breath decides how effective we are as engineers, as humans.”
This exercise is just one of the ways the associate professor in the Department of Technology — who has taught at NIU since 2010 — helps her students find their focus not just in school, but in life.
“She genuinely cares about her students and wants them to succeed,” said Todd Meyer, an undergraduate major in Industrial Management and Technology. “Dr. M is a great teacher and an even better person. She really made an impact on me at a crucial point of my life.”
Muthuswamy can empathize with those taking her classes because not that long ago, she was a student at NIU, earning her master’s in industrial and systems engineering in 1998.
Dr. Murali Krishnamurthi, vice provost for Faculty Affairs and a distinguished teaching professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, now works with Muthuswamy after first meeting her in 1996 when she came to NIU for graduate school.
“She truly cares about her students and NIU, and she goes above and beyond the call of duty to help them — she even brings food for students from time to time so that they are not hungry when taking her classes,” he said. “She is passionate about teaching and seeing students learn and succeed, and that clearly comes across when anyone meets her.”
In 2015-16, Muthuswamy earned the faculty of the year award for excellence in undergraduate education in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. She also previously served as interim associate dean in the college.
Assistant vice president of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Monique Bernoudy lauds Muthuswamy’s efforts enhancing retention and closing equity gaps on campus, as well providing cultural sensitivity workshops for teaching assistants and tutors on creating inclusive learning environments.
“Her commitment to students, diversity and equity at NIU is exemplary,” Bernoudy said.
For Muthuswamy, coming back to NIU has been returning home. More importantly, she sees her work as an opportunity to help Huskies thrive just as NIU faculty once guided her student journey.
“When I came here from India, NIU embraced me like a family,” she said. “Now it’s my turn to pass on the baton to my students to live their best possible life.”