There are many different paths to becoming a professor, but some are longer than others. For Murali Mantrala, chair of the department of marketing at MU, the journey began in India.
“I came to pursue research,” Mantrala said. “I had received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in India, and I came to America because I wanted to be a professor, and I wanted to do research in America. The U.S. had the best research. If you want to come up with new ideas the U.S. was so far ahead, and I thought, ‘I would be more productive here than in India.’”
When Mantrala left his home country, his wife came with him.
“I thought it would be a good idea to leave India,” said Surya Mantrala, the professor’s wife. “We’ve had so many different opportunities here in America than we would have there.”
Mantrala’s experience was not exactly like that of others who had come to America for education, as he had lived in the country before.
“I was a little different than most,” Mantrala said. “I was here as a kid, maybe that’s why I didn’t have too much trouble. My father got his Ph.D. at Duke and had a job at Princeton, which is where I went to grade school. I was very fortunate that I already had already experienced America.”
His family left America because his father wanted to help India build after getting independence from England in 1947.
“My father was very patriotic and India had just got independence 10 years before from England,” Mantrala said. “So, he wanted to go back and build up their science foundation. One of the labs in India gave him a job and he thought that he had to help the country develop by working in India.”
Despite originally being from a different country, Mantrala doesn’t feel like it has held him back in any way.
“It’s always a bit uncomfortable in the beginning to teach, but that’s not because of being from a foreign country,” Mantrala said. “Once you get over that, I actually never felt out of place. The fact is that if I ever felt bad, I could go back to India. Everywhere I have been I have worked with Americans, Chinese and Indian people. Other than teaching tough undergrads, I really had no other problem and I could do my research like anyone else.”
Leaving India for a better future not only impacted Mantrala but also the rest of his family.
“I’m very grateful that my father immigrated to America,” said Ashwini Mantrala, the professor’s son. “I like that I grew up in a more culturally diverse country, and that I had more opportunities than I would have in India.”