Being a Desi Higher Education Administrator is only one intersection of my identity. It is a combination of my Desi Identity and my #SAPro Identity, that make me the administrator that I am today.
My Desi Identity:
Being a Pakistani-American born to immigrants who moved to the United States in 1984, Desi culture was embedded into my daily life. From grocery trips to get halal meat to watching Desi movies at the nearest movie theater that played Bollywood movies, my Pakistani identity and values were instilled in me by my parents. As I grew into my teenage years, my interest in my Desi roots developed as did my identity as a South Asian. As I entered college at Temple University, I connected with the Desi community. My identity as a Desi grew through my membership in a Desi dance team, culturally based student organizations, and South Asian Interest Fraternity.
My #SAPro Identity:
My story into Student Affairs starts with the tragic loss of my best friend, Kammini Ragoopath. After losing Kammini my undergraduate career changed drastically, but through the collaboration of my supervisors in Residential Life, the Dean of Students who worked with my professors, and Counselling Services on campus, I was able to cope and move forward to graduation. Seeing this collaboration across campus, in order to ensure my success, motivated me to be a Student Affairs professional. From this experience, I have learned to thrive as a professional, in times of crisis, and remain student-centered.
The #HigherEdDesi Intersection:
Like many South Asian families, my family too has a variety of doctors, lawyers, and business people. However, my positions in Residential Life were not new to my family; my uncle and my cousin, both had positions in Housing and Residential Life as they pursued their degrees in business. What separated me from my uncle and cousin is that I wanted to make a career out of my passion for students. Although my family didn’t know what I would do with a Masters in Higher Education Administration, I remained focused continued to work in Residential Life and Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.
My time in the graduate program opened my eyes to my #HigherEdDesi family. Meeting Rabia Khan Harvey and Sadika Sulaiman Hara who connected me to other Desis in the field, I no longer felt alone as a #HigherEdDesi. Like Juhi referenced, role models like Mamta Accapadi, Ajay Nair, and Vijay Pendakur, set an example for Desi’s in the role of Senior Student Affairs Officers. I love when I reunite with them at NASPA; however, these spaces where I surround myself with other Desi professionals are more of an opportunity to rejuvenate my soul. This renewal is needed after working at a university with little diversity.
Being #HigherEdDesi at a university where students of color are continuously marginalized, I lose the specificity of being a Desi professional and become one of the few administrators of color. However, in order to successfully support any of our marginalized students, it is important that I still remain cognizant of my various identities and any privileges that I hold. Understanding these facets of my identity while understanding the identities of the students I serve, I act as a sounding-board in an attempt to empower students of color whose marginalized voices are often silenced on college campuses. It is a part of my role that I would not change, and is a part of my identity that impacts every aspect of me as a #HigherEdDesi.
My #HigherEdDesi identity is one that is a minority on every college campus, but that identity becomes even more powerful and impactful when it empowers other voices to be heard and brought to the table. I value my identities and love the ways that they have afforded me opportunities to connect with students.
This post is part of our #HigherEdDesi series, which aims to share the stories of what it means to identify as “Desi” and working in higher ed. We hope to provide a context of how we came into Higher Education and what that journey looked like for each one of us. For more information, please see Juhi Bhatt’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!