What do you do professionally? I’ve always had a passion and drive to work with young people. I have spent the last eight years working in upper management with Global Encounters, a faith-based organization that puts on camps for high school students in East Africa and South Asia. Participants hail from more than a dozen countries, including the United States and Afghanistan. The program teaches sustainable service, development, global citizenship and global leadership through volunteer work and cultural exchange.
What do you do to vitalize yourself? First, I would say working out and going on runs. I turn my phone off, and it’s just me and my music for an hour or so. The second thing: I’m an avid basketball fan so being able to watch the game – I really appreciate that time. The third thing is being able to travel. I love to be able to get on a plane, look out the window and realize how this is really amazing that we can do this. The long flights never bother me.
What is your favorite book or podcast? I’ve read all of M.G. Vassanji’s books, and every now and then I’ll reread them. He writes a lot about the Indian diaspora in East Africa and their migration to North America. In terms of podcasts, Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye has a podcast, Getting Curious, that I listen to.
What was your favorite part of your SMU experience? Probably student activities. What SMU allows you to do is feel very empowered to create new experiences. I feel like I spent a lot more time in Hughes-Trigg than in some academic buildings. Through student activities, I was able to get real-life experience. Whether it be event planning, financial management or working with HR and different types of personalities, it really helped grow and build what my style would be as a professional and provided me with a network of friends – lifelong friendships.
Do you have any favorite charities or volunteer commitments? The Human Rights Coalition is one that I support quite a bit. Obviously, SMU is on the top of my list. I believe in giving back, whether it be the Crain Leadership Endowment Fund or the Asian Council or one of the impact scholarships.
What countries have you visited or lived in? Was one your favorite? My overseas travel really started after grad school. I always had a fascination with going to London and wanted to experience the architecture and, as a fan of The Crown, the monarchy. My travel has been through work or out of curiosity. At last count, I’ve been in 33 or so countries, mainly on the African continent and Asia, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Japan. I have worked in East Africa and Vancouver. As far as favorite place, I’m a water guy so I would say Zanzibar. The island is incredible and has one of the best beaches I’ve ever seen.
What is your tie to East Africa? Two hundred years ago, my family migrated from a small village in India to Zanzibar. From there, my familial roots moved to the northern part of Tanzania and then to Mombasa, Kenya. My dad was born there. My mom was born in Rwanda and spent most of her time in Congo. My heritage is very much East African and Indian. The best part of going back, especially Nairobi, is that my dad’s cousins still live there. I absolutely adore them. I stay with them and enjoy home-cooked meals – a fusion between East African and Indian food. Kuku paka – chicken and coconut curry with eggs, served over rice – and fried fish curry with a tomato seasoning are two dishes that come to mind.
Favorite quote? One that stands out happens to be the quote for our graduating class. It’s from Mahatma Gandhi. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” In the work that I do, it’s so relevant to be able to empower the kids with that quote, because they have the opportunity to be that change. Aside from the empowerment, there’s a responsibility that exists, because we all have the opportunity to make humanity better.
Is there a particular life’s purpose or motivation that drives you? If I have the opportunity, I will always want to work with young people. They have the ability to provide me with perspectives that I may not be familiar with. Selfishly, that is growth for me. They have the ability to change the world that they live in and to really discover their power. If I can help guide, I think for them and the people that they are around, it becomes an exponential movement toward becoming a more “cohesive humanity.”
Do you have any reflections on your year as API chair that you would like to share? I am completely humbled by the opportunity to serve over the past year as the chair. My humility is embedded in the conversations that I’ve had with people. So many API alumni are so grateful that this particular affinity group was started. It’s a way for people to come together. It’s a way for more seasoned alums and younger alums to find out what’s happening on campus. The phrase that I’ve heard over and over again is that “it gives us a place where we can come together.” Within the API community, we have a responsibility to continue to give back to the campus and the students. It doesn’t have to be financial. It could be sharing knowledge and time: a mentorship or calling the students that have been admitted. There are so many opportunities to get involved at SMU. When we do, it makes our campus stronger, and it makes our students stronger.
To learn more about API of SMU Alumni or volunteer opportunities, visit smu.edu/alumni.
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