VERMILLION, S.D. – Kadarkaraisamy ‘Kadal’ Mariappan, Ph.D., a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of South Dakota, is the 2017 recipient of the Outstanding Instructor Award presented by the College of Arts & Sciences.
After joining the chemistry department as a post-doctoral fellow in 2002, Mariappan began teaching laboratory courses as an instructor in 2005. He became a lecturer and chemistry teaching laboratory coordinator in 2007.
Mariappan teaches large lecture courses for students who are not majoring in chemistry and may have limited background in math and science.
“How do I make chemistry interesting for those students? The very first meeting of class I go over the importance of chemistry concepts,” said Mariappan. “For example, I show them how the water molecule exists in liquid form because of one simple chemical interaction.”
Mariappan says his approach to teaching the chemistry survey course for non-majors has spurred a greater interest in chemistry for some in his class. “There are usually a few students who change their majors to chemistry after the class,” he said. “That means somebody listened.”
With large lectures that start at 8 a.m., Mariappan also must encourage students to make it to class at an early hour. Short quizzes on the previous lecture or readings ensure that students show up and Mariappan lets students discuss the questions and answers during the quiz. “They can work as a group to find the best answer,” Mariappan said. “I tell them that education is not about grades, but about training themselves to think.”
The Outstanding Instructor Award is given annually to a faculty member in the College of Arts & Sciences who demonstrates outstanding classroom teaching and mentoring of students. The winner receives a cash prize, made possible through an annual gift of the Johnson family. Mary Elizabeth Johnson is a USD graduate in mass communication who served as Chaplain at the Mayo Clinic for over three decades, working closely with women experiencing health issues and loss. Johnson completed graduate work at Seattle University, and served as an adjunct member of the Mayo Medical School.