A sense of fellowship and belonging with others is important for a happy life. Finding and becoming a part of a community provides support and perpetual growth. This need for community becomes increasingly stronger in college, especially for international students.
Pradyumna Rao is a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) earning a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering. As an international student from India, he struggled to find social groups that were a good fit for him. Pradyumna yearned for an on-campus organization that supported students of South Asian descent. He believed he was not alone in this struggle and began searching for an organization to bring to CU Boulder.
In August, Pradyumna opened the first college chapter of the American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin (AAEIO) at CU Boulder. Currently, the chapter has over 200 members and is committed to empowering students of Indian origin in academic and professional success!
Pradyumna’s Journey with AAEIO
Pradyumna was born in Thirthahalli, a small village in India, and was raised in several places across the Middle East as a result of his father’s job. As an adult, Pradyumna decide to expand his horizons and traveled to the United States where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, he first experienced a lack of representation for South Asian communities within American student-run organizations. He elaborates,
“There was no overarching organization for international South Asian students or students of Indian origin.”
Once Pradyumna’s brother began undergraduate studies, the idea to build a community for South Asian students grew. Pradyumna watched as his brother encountered similar struggles finding on-campus South Asian or Indian communities. So, Pradyumna decided to take matters into his own hands and support his brother in navigating college life. Pradyumna comments,
“At that time, I was thinking ‘Why can't there be an overarching professional community for South Asian international students?’. There are huge organizations that have conferences every year, with chapters at universities across the United States. So, I decided to try starting one for India to see how it goes.”
Pradyumna researched organizations and came across the American Association of Engineers of Indian Origin (AAEIO). At the time, AAEIO was exclusively a professional organization with no presence on college campuses. Pradyumna contacted the organization and shared a three-part vision he created for the integration of AAEIO into college campuses:
Part 1: Create a fully operational chapter at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Part 2: Begin one additional AAEIO chapter at another university campus within two years.
Part 3: Expand to 15+ AAEIO chapters across various colleges and universities in the United States within five years.
In addition to this proposal, Pradyumna actively sought out a faculty advisor at CU Boulder to assist him with the development of the CU Boulder AAEIO chapter. He found Debanjan Mukherjee, a professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at CU Boulder.
CU Boulder's AAEIO chapter pillars are entrepreneurship, professional development, and advocacy. AAEIO serves as a resource and community for all students of Indian origin. The chapter’s leadership board is comprised of both students and faculty who have extensive engineering backgrounds and professional experiences. Members of AAEIO can utilize each other’s networks, knowledge, and resources as support to achieve academic and professional success.
Pradyumna’s struggle to find a community through his academic studies inspired his creation of the CU Boulder AAEIO chapter. He is encouraged to continue building AAEIO for his family, and comments,
“My grandparents were very adamant about making the most out of yourself and your profession. Creating AAEIO makes the most sense to me.”
Pradyumna’s grandparents were heavily involved in the Thirthahalli community. Even though they are both gone, their legacy lives on, and Pradyumna is reminded of their community ties whenever he returns to India. Creating this program and building a community is a tribute to Pradyumna’s grandparents.
Pradyumna provides the following advice for anyone else trying to build a community or organization,
“Keep trying. I think that most institutions are designed so that success is awarded while failure is not. Understand that you are going to fail and that embracing failure will be much more valuable than any success.”
AAEIO’s Upcoming Events
On November 14th, from 5 pm-6 pm, AAEIO will be hosting their Engage Series 2022! At this event, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with panelists:
Amar Vattakandy: Principal Electrical Engineer at Microsoft Inc.
Naveen Mysore: Principal Engineer, Intel Corp
Sandeep Bhushan: Director at Seagate Technology & CU Boulder Alum
Divya Bhat Bellur: Senior Software Engineer at Salesforce & CU Boulder Alum
Sreesha Nath: Assistant Teaching Professor at CU Boulder
Reena Kuni: Senior Test Engineer at Keysight
To attend this event at the BOLD Center at CU Boulder, be sure to RSVP and save your seat!
If you are interested in joining the AAEIO community, you may contact the chapter via email at email@example.com or fill out this form. You can also follow along on Instagram to see upcoming events!