International student of the year breaks down barriers

November 11, 2013

Hearing aids don’t simply amplify sound. They process and make sound more understandable to humans.

The more functional they are, the more likely people are to use them to engage in the world around them, says Ramesh Kumar Muralimanohar, a CU-Boulder doctoral student in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences who researches how humans perceive sounds.

His academic work to break down audio barriers could be a metaphor for his humanitarian work to break down international barriers.

Ramesh, who is CU-Boulder’s 2013 international student of the year, is from the city of Chennai in southern India. He’s been on campus since 2005. He earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering at CU-Boulder and expects to complete his Ph.D. in hearing sciences in the fall of 2014.

“We want to give back as much as we receive,” said Ramesh of international students and his own volunteer efforts on campus. “We get education, we get research opportunities, many of us get jobs and this is one of the ways that we can give back.”

During his years at CU-Boulder, he’s helped revitalize the previously inactive student chapter of an organization called AID India, which works for education, health, natural resources, agriculture, women’s empowerment and social justice initiatives in India. The student chapter is called AID Colorado and brings cultural events to campus. 

“I think as a group we all feel responsible for the place where we live and the place where we come from,” said Ramesh, who credits the group rather than himself with being a steward of international understanding.

About 15 members of the CU-Boulder campus community lead the student chapter and about 70 to 80 students help conduct the group’s various events including fundraisers, lectures and more. The group also volunteers locally and recently participated in Boulder flood relief efforts as well as an anti-slavery campaign.

Ramesh says raising awareness about some of India’s greatest problems through AID Colorado is not a one-way street. It also has benefits for the United States and campus.

“We have similar large-scale issues and whatever happens there affects here and whatever happens here affects there,” said Ramesh. “I think going beyond sharing surface information about our countries and cultures, and making conversations about touchy subjects possible is important.”

In addition to his leadership with AID Colorado, Ramesh has shown dedication to welcoming other international students and helping them navigate campus and the Boulder area, according to CU-Boulder’s Office of International Education.

He also is dedicated to his students as a mentor and lead teaching assistant in speech, language and hearing sciences. He offers extra study sessions and convenient locations for office hours on campus.

Ramesh says he initially didn’t know he wanted to be a teacher, but that he enjoys being able to show students real-world implications of their studies. He also is inspired by his department.

“I can see how much effort people like the professors put into their work and how much the department puts into getting students what they need,” said Ramesh. “That is a big push for me, to be a little like those people.”

CU-Boulder’s Global Citizens awards ceremony recognizing outstanding contributions to international understanding by members of the campus community is held annually in conjunction with International Education Week.