Mary Khetani, PhD

Associate Professor,
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
AWIS member since 2019

“AWIS gave me the shared space I craved to be imaginative and experimental in finding creative solutions to advance our shared purpose.”

Dr. Mary Khetani

What is your favorite word?


How do you define it?

To become is to evolve towards making your best, most authentic contribution to our world.

How has this word influenced or inspired your career, or is it a word chosen retrospectively?

This word reminds me that it matters less where you come from and more which direction you choose to go. The choices we make about who we are becoming are largely shaped by what we believe is possible. I have used this word when pursuing and providing possibility.

How does AWIS impact your career journey?

I found AWIS during my transition to post-tenure academic life. I have had credited leadership roles, through which I have been empowered to help positively shape policies and practices for member benefit. Through these opportunities, I found mentorship and sponsorship to heal and grow.

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned the hard way?

As a doctoral student, I completed fellowships through which I learned that 1) you don’t have to be in a position of power to express leadership, and 2) to lead is to have the courage to pursue excellence with integrity, honor purpose, and create legacy.

What are you currently reading or listening to?

I am still listening to my sabbatical playlist, and have admittedly had “All That You Have Is Your Soul” by Tracy
Chapman and “Chupke Chupke” by Ghulam Ali on repeat.

Describe an amazing opportunity in your STEM career.

I got introduced to the mentorship model when training in Indian classical dance. I was just beginning my STEM career at that time. My guru, Malathi Iyengar, chose to see me and create possibilities for me within her dance company and artistic career. I try to do my best impression of her when mentoring students.

Mary Khetani, ScD, OTR/L (she/her/hers) is a pediatric occupational therapist and rehabilitation scientist who has spent more than a decade growing her academic career at public R1 institutions. She is a member of the AWIS Chapter Advisory and Educational Awards Committees and past president of the Chicago Area Chapter (CAC). As a rising full professor at UIC, Dr. Khetani directs the Children’s Participation in Environment Research Lab (CPERL) that advances electronic options for driving quality pediatric rehabilitation services. Dr. Khetani has so far mentored and sponsored more than 30 women for research engaged careers, and co-published on their early efforts to build an anti-racist research lab and network. Dr. Khetani was awarded the 2021 AWIS CAC Motivator Award, as nominated by current CPERL members.