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A Lifelong Commitment To Education: Four Decades Of Teaching And Beyond

Dr. Meledath Govindan

A Lifelong Commitment to Education: Four Decades of Teaching and Beyond

Dr. Meledath Govindan
Professor Emeritus
Fitchburg State University

 Retirement often marks the end of one chapter in life and the beginning of another. After forty-six years of teaching chemistry and serving as an administrator at the university level, I embarked on a new journey. Instead of bidding farewell to education, I chose to remain deeply involved in various educational initiatives and organizations, serving as a testament to my enduring passion for learning and teaching. This essay explores my journey through academia and my continued dedication to education in various roles within the American Chemical Society (ACS), the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP), the New England Association of Chemistry Teachers (NEACT) and the North South Foundation.

My academic journey commenced as a chemistry Ph.D. student and teaching assistant, where I took my first steps into the realm of education. These initial years were characterized by both the joy of teaching and the invaluable experience gained from guiding and mentoring students. These early years instilled in me the belief that education is not merely a profession but a lifelong commitment.

Over the next four decades, I dedicated myself to the university as a faculty member rising through the ranks of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor and finally the Department Chair. My classrooms became arenas where I imparted knowledge, nurtured critical thinking, and inspired students to explore the fascinating world of chemistry. Each semester brought new faces, new challenges, and new opportunities to make a difference in the lives of young minds.  Along the way I was able to provide opportunities for students to conduct collaborative research and gain valuable skills needed to work in the chemical industry and graduate school. I also helped many students to achieve their goal of entering health professional schools by serving as their pre-med advisor.

Retirement has allowed me to spend more time on my volunteer activities.  I serve as the Councilor for the American Chemical Society (ACS) from the Central MA local section. As a Councilor, I represent the interests of ACS members, advocate for policies supporting science education, and participate in decision-making processes that influence the direction of the organization. This role allows me to be a voice for educators and researchers alike, ensuring that the ACS remains at the forefront of chemical education and research. I am on the Executive Committee of the Central MA Local Section, where I contribute my expertise and experience to the advancement of chemical education at the regional level. As a member of this committee, I work with fellow professionals to organize events that promote chemistry education and foster a sense of community among local chemists.

Within the ACS, I also serve as a member of the Society Committee on Education (SOCED). In this capacity, I actively contribute to the development of educational initiatives and resources aimed at enhancing the learning experience for chemistry students and post-doctoral researchers nationwide. SOCED's commitment to innovation and excellence in education aligned perfectly with my own vision for the future of chemistry education.

I have continued my involvement in NEACT, a 120-year-old organization of chemistry teachers at the high school and college level.  I have served the organization in several capacities including the Central Division Chair, President-elect and President.  I now serve on its executive committee as a Trustee of Endowments and help with its activities including the annual summer conference. 

In addition to my involvement with the ACS and NEACT, I took on the role of a volunteer pre-health advisor for the NAAHP – National Association of Advisors of Health Professions. This allows me to guide aspiring healthcare professionals on their educational journeys, helping them navigate the complex path to medical, dental, or other health-related careers. My experiences as an advisor allows me to share my insights, provide support, and motivate these students to pursue their dreams in the healthcare field.

Retirement from active teaching also gave me more time to dedicate to other volunteer activities. For more than two decades, my family has been volunteering for the North South Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on educating children both in the U.S. and India. I serve as the technical lead for the educational contests of the Massachusetts chapter of the foundation.  This involves finding the venue to conduct the events, scheduling the contests, recruiting volunteer judges and technical coordinators, and coordinating the activities on the days of the contests.  The most recent chapter contests were held at Fitchburg State University in April 2023.  On two occasions, I served as co-technical lead for the national finals of the North South contests that were held at MIT.  This organization has provided me with the opportunity to serve the Indian American community here and to help fund scholarships for students with financial need back home in India.

In addition to more volunteer work, retirement has allowed me to enjoy leisure activities that were not possible or were limited when I was working.  These include doing NY Times puzzles and crosswords, watching more cricket and tennis on TV, doing more gardening and exercise. While I am part of a lucky few who found joy through my paid work, I know that isn’t the reality for many, and the ability to have this chapter in my life to nurture my passions and happiness via unpaid activities, and also engage in health-related activities, is truly a luxury. 

In summary, retiring from four decades of teaching at the university level did not signal the end of my involvement in education. Through my roles with the ACS, NAAHP, and the North South Foundation, I continue to invest my time and energy into educational endeavors that span local, national, and international boundaries. My lifelong commitment to education remains unwavering, and speaks  to the enduring power of learning and teaching to shape lives and communities. As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded that retirement is not an end but a transition, an opportunity to continue contributing to my community.

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