Meera and Venky Venkatachalam’s matching surnames are not a coincidence: they’re a married couple working at USD.
The Venkatachalams were married in 1984 and immigrated to the United States from India in 1987. They met working at an engineering company in India and came to the U.S. in order to pursue their doctorate degrees.
“I have now lived in the United States for 30 years, and I call USA my home,” Meera Venkatachalam said.
Meera and Venky Venkatachalam both earned their Ph.D. from the University of Alabama. Before coming to USD, the couple worked together at the University of New Hampshire.
When they started their family, Meera Venkatachalam said it was an advantage to be working at the same university.
“In the early days of when we were doctoral students, working in the same organization made it easy to look after our kids,” Meera Venkatachalam said. “When our older son was born, we were TAs and we had classes with 15 minutes between them. My husband would bring the baby to the department and I would come and pick him up after my class.”
However, since the beginning of their careers, the Venkatachalams have paved their own ways in the workplace.
“In the last 15 years, we really have worked independent of each other,” Meera Venkatachalam said.
When Venky Venkatachalam was offered the position of Beacom School of Business dean in 2014, the couple moved to South Dakota.
Meera Venkatachalam began working at USD in the fall of 2015. She started by teaching an organizational behavior class until she was offered the position of the associate director of the honors program. She teaches UHON 100, an honors first-year experience course.
Katie Yetter, a first-year student studying kinesiology and exercise science, is an advisee of Meera Venkatachalam.
“I think she influences students to do the best they can and to be the best person that they can be,” Yetter said.
Despite having their own identities at USD, the Venkatachalams find ways to share their time.
“(I enjoy) sharing experiences in working with the people at USD and being aware of so many highly dedicated and hardworking people at USD,” Venky Venkatachalam said. “I get to know about different parts of the USD life that I sometimes don’t get the opportunity to know.”
Meera Venkatachalam said she enjoys experiencing new things she otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
“I get to meet many people from the USD community, especially alumni, who are doing great things. That is always fun,” she said.
Meera Venkatachalam added that universities’ attitudes towards married colleagues often is a disadvantage.
“It is hard to have dual careers in the same organization. It is particularly hard to find two faculty positions in the same institution. Most universities for a long time were reluctant to hire career couples,” she said. “I know people who have had commuting marriages.”
The Venkatachalams are Vermillion residents. Although their home is only a short distance from campus, the couple commutes to work separately due to different schedules.
These busy routines, especially in the beginning of their careers, caused the Venkatachalams to find romance in the everyday.
“When we became parents, we were the only family our kids had. We had no extended family nearby. Taking care of our children and making sure we did everything as a family became very important to us,” Meera Venkatachalam said. “Now every dinner and event is date night because our children are grown up.”
Venky Venkatachalam said his students are his favorite part of USD.
“(I enjoy) meeting with our students and hearing about their life, accomplishments and aspirations, and working towards giving them an amazing learning experience so they can accomplish their goals,” he said.
Meera Venkatachalam said students are what make USD great.
“I enjoy working with the students,” Meera Venkatachalam said. “They are hardworking and they are very involved in the campus community. In honors, I see students from various disciplines and interests and helping them shape their skills and experiences is fun.”