“Immigrants in America” is one of Neerja Chaturvedi’s favorite courses to teach at St. Thomas Aquinas College because it offers students from different ethnic and racial backgrounds the chance to discover themselves, learn about their family history, and better understand one another.
“The study of the past provides the necessary framework to examine the present,” Neerja says, adding that her field of study has broadened the scope of her research and teaching to explore inequalities associated with race, class, and gender. Her primary area of research is colonial and post-colonial history. Her current project takes a look at the more recent past, examining how globalization has affected societies and cultures.
Neerja has made many contributions to STAC during the past two decades she’s served as a faculty member, including the many courses she’s taught—from Hitler’s Germany to Writing about History—as well as new courses she has created, including Apartheid: Discrimination and Reconciliation; and Racism: Global Perspectives. She was also invited by President Daly to join the Social Justice and Equity Forum and proposed an interdisciplinary minor in Human Rights and Social Justice, which is in the process of being approved.
“The program seeks to teach students how to use an interdisciplinary approach to identify problems and solutions and to become informed and empathetic global citizens,” she explains. “It is fulfilling to teach students about the world, help them develop their critical and analytical skills, and introduce them to social, political, cultural, and economic issues that surround us, especially human rights and social justice concerns.”
Neerja earned a doctorate in history at Michigan State University and a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in history at the University of Delhi. She grew up in India, in the Himalayas, where she learned to dance (Kathak) and play the drums (Tabla). She credits her parents for encouraging her curiosity to learn and experience new things. “They introduced me to the life of the mind,” she says, “literature, philosophy, and creative writing. They taught me to enjoy everything.”
At STAC, Neerja most values the autonomy she has to design courses and share research interests with colleagues. She co-created and organizes the Faculty Research Retreat, an event that has been held every year for 17 years (with the exception of 2020), to enhance interdisciplinary dialogue among the faculty.
“It has led to faculty collaboration in developing courses and producing research papers for publication and conference presentations,” she says. “I have developed lasting friendships at STAC. One constant has been the freedom to explore new ideas in pedagogy and research.”