The Professor Chronicles: Debika Sihi
July 22, 2021
July 22, 2021
How long have you been teaching or working in the field of education?
I’ve been a professor at Southwestern University since 2013, but I also taught when I was in my graduate program at the University of Texas, so probably about 11-1/2 years in total.
What inspired you to work in higher ed?
When I was in undergrad at UT, I was a tutor for women’s athletics. Since they traveled so often for away games, they would have mandatory tutoring sessions. I realized that whenever I taught, I learned better. I also realized I really like helping others learn because I also learn from them.
What is something students would be surprised to know about you?
I’m actually really introverted. I get nervous every class, and I always worry about if I was clear, if I mumbled, or if I confused my students. The students at Southwestern are such kind and compassionate people who are eager to learn that it makes someone who’s naturally nervous being in a big group feel comfortable.
When not working, you can find me …
Hanging out with my most adorable dog, Biscuit, and my favorite two cats, Stevie and Kallie. They’re my favorite things ever. I’m also a huge foodie. I love to try all kinds of food. And because I love food, I’m also a big runner, so I try to run at least three to four times a week.
If you could have a drink at the Cove with anyone in the world, living or dead, what would the beverage be, who would the person be, and why?
I like the Cove’s soft-drink selection because I can mix together different drinks. The five-year-old in me likes to put cherry and Coke together, so I’m for sure going to take advantage of that. As for who I would drink with, I think it would be my maternal grandfather. I never got to meet him. He passed away right before I was born, but my mom talks about him all the time. He was a principal at a high school, and she always says he loved his students. I think maybe some of that got passed down to me. Although I guess if it’s a drink with my grandpa, I should opt for tea or coffee—something better than swirlies at the soda machine.
Describe your dream vacation.
It’s changed over the years. It would have been somewhere with great food (obviously I’m food motivated) and where I can relax and unplug. However, as my sweet dog has gotten older, now it’d be a vacation where I could take Biscuit with me. It’s not so much the place but whether or not the dog can come.
If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
Time travel. I think we don’t get enough time with the people we love. I would go back to 2013, my first year at Southwestern, and see my first students. I would love to go back and be able to hug them, my grandpa, or hug my Chihuahua, Percy, who passed away.
When you reflect on your time at Southwestern, what comes to mind?
How generous people are: generous with their time, generous with how kind they are. I remember when I started here, everyone told me it was a community, and it actually is true. I think of my coworkers, and they’re so kind. Then I think about the students and how sweet they are. There are students who are compassionate and do so much. Most of our students have undergone personal and professional struggle, but they’re still so kind and generous.
What’s your favorite thing about working with your students?
How brilliant they are. There are things that they bring to the classroom that I have no idea about. They have so many different life experiences. I’m so impressed with their brilliance and how they approach things in their lives. My favorite thing is to see how they grow and how they tackle problems. I’m so heartwarmed that they’re good people who are going to go out into the world and do amazing things.
What advice would you give students today?
Be adaptable. As we’ve seen this year and last, things change a lot, sometimes for the better, but sometimes they seem challenging. The more adaptable you can be and the more you can think about how you can use change as a learning opportunity, the happier you’ll be.