Dean of Curriculum and Academic Services Savi Iyer has been at Geneseo for nearly 23 years, but her journey here started over 8,000 miles away. “I actually lived in one city until I was 23. I did my undergraduate in physics in India,” Iyer said. “It was a three-two program—two years of master’s. So I completed that and then applied for grad school to the [United States] and came from Chennai, India—which is this huge, 10 million [people], big city—to Ames, Iowa for grad school.”
Ames is home to Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory—a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory affiliated with the university. Iyer received her master’s in physics from Iowa State before earning her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I just applied to a bunch of physics programs and they gave me a teaching assistantship and tuition waiver and I’m like, ‘Alright!’” she said.
Iyer explained that she didn’t start her undergraduate thinking that physics would be her path.
“I wanted to do math; they didn’t have enough seats in math, so they were like, ‘Well, if you start in physics, in 30 days, we’ll look at everything and you may be able to transfer’—transfer meaning change your major,” she said. “I walked in to my physics class and they were looking for a class representative, so, I don’t know why, [but] they picked me—I’m taller than average, maybe that was it. So now that I’m class representative—whatever that means—I started making friends … and I’m thinking, ‘Really? Should I move to math?’ So, when they asked me if I wanted to move to math I’m like, ‘Nah, I’m good.’”
Iyer joined the Geneseo faculty in fall 1993. Her husband had a job in Rochester and teaching at Geneseo was a great fit for her.
“I called around to a lot of departments, called Geneseo physics department and they were like, ‘Yeah, you can come and teach for us,’” she said. “One of the main reasons I wanted the teaching position was to get an email account so I could continue working on my thesis, which was actually on a server at Pitt. And in those days, we had dial-up at home—it was a small computer and it was nice to have the Geneseo account.”
After her first semester of teaching at Geneseo, Iyer was awarded her Ph.D. and has been here ever since. Now, as the Dean of Curriculum and Academic Services, Iyer oversees “everything curricular.” She was instrumental in bringing in the Degree Works degree evaluation software to replace WebCapp. She emphasized that Degree Works better enables students to help themselves on the road to graduation.
“These days, students are very good at self-help,” Iyer said. “If you know what you need to do, you’re good, and that wasn’t very clear before we had Degree Works.”
With a son graduating from The Ohio State University in May and a daughter at Pittsford Sutherland High School, Iyer is still able to find some free time to do the activities she enjoys.
“I sing; I’m actually trained in Indian classical music—that’s probably one of the ways that I still try to keep in-touch,” she said. “We’re trying to do some more [traveling]. We went to Italy; of course, we’ve gone to India many times with the kids … so, we continue to do that. Gardening is another thing I like to do when the weather’s good.”
This school’s faculty and student body are lucky to have such a dedicated woman maintaining the academic prestige of Geneseo for so long—and hopefully for many years to come.