Paving the way
Shivanthi Anandan, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, charts the course for success with her plans for academic excellence.
Once Shivanthi Anandan, Ph.D., walked in through the gates on Olney Avenue and heard the College Hall bell tower ring out over campus, she was at home at La Salle University.
“This is a wonderful urban campus, an oasis in Northwest Philadelphia with spirituality pouring out from the bells that ring every quarter hour. That spirituality connected me directly to the university’s mission and brought me in. And of course, the students hooked me and pulled me in deep,” she said.
Anandan began her role as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs in August 2022. She brought decades of higher education experience with her, most recently as Drexel University’s vice provost of undergraduate education.
La Salle’s newest Provost said she was drawn to this position because of the Lasallian mission and the University’s tradition of providing a strong liberal arts education. In her role, Anandan provides leadership to academic programs by overseeing curriculum, academic standards, and program creation, while also optimizing systems and processes for academic affairs. She also promotes faculty development, instructional and learning support, and student academic success and achievement, among other responsibilities.
Hometown: Philadelphia for the last 25 years, but Anandan was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Favorite things to do in Philadelphia: Theater, museums, and thrift shopping
Best thrift find: Tiffany necklace and Baccarat vase
Hobbies: Gardening and reading mystery novels
Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Family travel: She gets her air miles in visiting her son and other family in Ca. and Australia.
Social media savvy: Anandan regularly posts about La Salle’s success on LinkedIn.
“I want our teaching excellence to be elevated further so we are recognized as one of the premier educational institutions in the region, nationally, and globally,” she said.
She’s also working on other initiatives outside the classroom including a partnership with Gabrielle St. Léger, Ed.D., Vice President of Student Development and Campus Life, to lead a student persistence and success committee. The committee will hear from all corners of the University on items pertaining to academic successes, residential and campus life updates, and has been promoting the use of Starfish. Starfish, a digital platform, allows students to receive a variety of resources related to student academic success. It allows for appointment making, goal setting, tutoring, financial assistance, advising and more and connects students directly to their advisers, faculty and success coaches. This platform is a critical tool in aiding in the persistence of our students.
“That’s an initiative that I think is going very well and gathering steam,” Anandan said.
Anandan is also leading the charge on appointing two new academic deans—one for the School of Arts and Sciences and one for the School of Business. She sees this as an opportunity to recruit leadership talent for the university. And with the collaboration of staff, students and faculty, these searches should begin shortly.
In a few years, and while still serving as La Salle’s Provost, Anandan hopes to reenter the classroom, offering a few courses and directly joining the charge of fostering academic excellence. She received her Ph.D. in biology from University of California, Los Angeles, and a bachelor of science in botany from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. She is also the recipient of the Charles R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation’s Excellence in Teaching award.
Anandan’s area of expertise is as a plant biologist with specialties in microbiology, algal systems, and photosynthetic organisms. She’s previously enjoyed being in the classroom teaching courses centered around plants and microbes in society.
“I want our teaching excellence to be elevated further so we are recognized as one of the premier educational institutions in the region, nationally, and globally.” — Shivanthi Anandan, Ph.D.
The energy and the challenge students provide excite Anandan the most. As Provost, she’s already interacted with several groups of students, calling the La Salle students “resilient, spirited and determined.”
“My favorite saying to students is that I did not have a straight path here,” she explained. “I had a ‘curved’ path with many decision points, turns and forks in the road. Looking back, I’m so glad I experienced different opportunities. I’ve enjoyed most of them and learned a lot from them. Sometimes, In the moment, at a decision point or fork in the road, maybe it was like, ‘what?’; now I can say that my path let me make decisions at every point that suited me.”
And as the first woman of color to serve as University Provost at La Salle she points out that it illustrates to students that their University is a welcoming place to all, and one that will prepare them to do whatever they want in life.