Q&A with Girija Nagaswami, Ed.D, professor of English, 2021 recipient of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching

Winners give a presentation each spring to Community College of Philadelphia faculty and staff. Watch Dr. Nagaswami’s Lindback Lecture, Path to a Growth Mindset: A Personal Narrative, and learn more through Dr. Nagaswami’s Q&A:


What are the reasons you have dedicated 30 years of your career to the College and its students?

I began my teaching career at CCP and never looked back. The student populations at the College are amazing, resilient and inspiring. The students’ desire to learn and accomplish their academic goals despite all the hardship they go through in their complex lives are the main reasons that have sustained my interest and dedication to teach at the College. It is always a gratifying experience to be part of my students’ journey to success.

What is different students' educational needs now compared to when you started teaching?

The needs of students have not changed radically since I started teaching. The purpose and goals of the students remain the same, which is to earn college credentials that will lead to limitless possibilities. What has changed over the years is how they would like this learning process to occur. The present-day students are immersed in a technological and fast-moving world. Therefore, they prefer a multipronged approach to how lessons are delivered to them. My students 30 years ago would not have preferred an asynchronous modality for an English course; my present-day students prefer to have such options not only in terms of how courses are offered, but also how course materials are delivered. I know it is my role as a faculty member to adapt to my students’ expectations.

What courses have you taught, and what are you currently teaching?

During my three decades of teaching at CCP, I have taught all levels of ESL courses, from the high beginner to advanced level, English Composition, Developmental English courses, and Learning Community courses such as English Composition, College Reading, Psychology, Developmental English, Sociology, Public Speaking, and First Year Experience courses. Currently, I am teaching a First Year Experience course. 

What does it mean to you to win a Lindback Award?

When I first started teaching here, I would have never imagined that I would receive this award! Receiving the Lindback Award to me is an honor, and joining the ranks of other Lindback winners is a very humbling experience. More importantly, it is a recognition of my students’ success because it is my students who have constantly inspired me to strive toward excellence. This award has inspired me to continue to pursue excellence in teaching and never doubt what my students can accomplish. 

What is a "growth mindset," and why is it important? How can we cultivate a growth mindset? 

“Growth mindset” is a concept formulated by Carol Dweck, and when this idea was introduced it was in relation to students’ learning and success. It was important for students to develop a “growth mindset” so they focus on their efforts and not consider failure as a reason to give up but rather to renew their desire to learn and strive toward success. In recent years, Carol Dweck has helped us to examine the same concept in relation to educators and how it is equally important for all educators to practice a “growth mindset.” Over the span of my teaching career, I have learned the importance of acknowledging my “fixed mindset” toward my teaching and my students’ learning, and to develop a “growth mindset” for the benefit of my students. Practicing “growth mindset” is necessary for all of us who are associated with an educational institution as it enables us to accept all students and believe in them, in order to guide them toward their path to possibilities! We all can cultivate “growth mindset” by constantly reflecting on our practices, acknowledging our “fixed mindset,” and keeping students’ success front and center of all our intentions. 

What do you want people to have taken away from your lecture?

My lecture was a personal narrative about my journey in developing a “growth mindset” and how my students were mainly responsible for my growth. I sincerely hope my lecture inspires not only faculty members, but also everyone at the College to practice “growth mindset” for the sake of our resilient and brilliant students. Our students deserve this from us.