Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fulton Science Academy Alumna Shinjini Das Takes the World by Storm


Fulton Science Academy alumna, Shinjini Das, grew up in Asia where she noticed a disproportionate school dropout rate for young girls. At the age of nine, she moved to America with her family and embraced tremendous educational opportunities, including three years studying at FSA. She credits her parents for instilling a strong love of learning and education for her, even as a toddler. While grateful for her family's support and the many educational opportunities afforded to her in America, she speaks passionately about how she wishes young girls all over the globe had the same access to education.

Currently a leading digital strategist at Iron Horse Interactive in California, Das is a celebrated writer, a coveted speaker, and a media phenomenon. She speaks regularly about the importance of STEM curriculum and, more specifically, the need for young girls across the world to have equal access to education. She also credits much of her current success to life lessons she acquired as a student at Fulton Science Academy.

Ms. Das' exuberance caught the attention of Usher’s New Look Foundation, where she now serves as a motivational speaker and brand ambassador. A President's Scholar and Industrial Engineering graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology who served as the Undergraduate Commencement Speaker, Das has been covered in a variety of magazines recently including Forbes and Incas well as numerous talk shows.

Despite a whirlwind schedule, Ms. Das graciously connected with FSA’s Advancement Officer, Megan Bowman, to discuss how FSA helped to mold the adult she is today, as well as how FSA's students can better prepare for the future.

Do you feel that your role as a student at Fulton Science Academy helped to facilitate the many personal and professional achievements that define you today as an adult? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely! One of my most formative experiences occurred in seventh grade when I served as Vice President of The Student Government Association. I was tasked with making a presentation to senior state government officials. The school also provided many other opportunities that imbued a sense of confidence in myself and my abilities. For example, participating in the Science Olympiad, as well as competing in regional and state level competitions as part of the school's Experimental Design Team. 

The size of the student body should also be mentioned. As my life progressed, I began to realize that a large reason why I was thriving was because of the individualized attention I received as a student at FSA. The teachers and administrators were very nurturing, as were my fellow students. I will never, ever forget this school’s commitment to make sure that its students had academic experiences that were both educationally challenging and personally meaningful.

Do you have any suggestions for today's middle and high school age students about preparing for college/university?

Focus on building your life's mission statement by identifying your purpose. Admittedly, it is a daunting task to find your purpose at age 15, but my recommendation to all of the middle and high school students out there is to consciously take time to reflect each and every day. You were born for a higher purpose, and it is your job to figure out what that purpose is. Unfortunately, your purpose is not going to magically appear at your doorstep, because you have to consciously devote time, energy, and attention towards uncovering your true self. 

Once you have found your purpose, align all of your activities, both in and out of the classroom, with that purpose so that when you enter university, you are not entering as someone who has no idea of who they are, but as someone who has invested a great deal of themselves towards developing a keen sense of self-awareness. The moment you have mastered yourself is the moment that each and every single door in the world, whether it be the doors to Harvard or Stanford, will open in front of you because the admissions office will recognize that this is an authentic person who knows what he or she will accomplish in the world with a degree from this university.

Recent emphasis on growing a well-rounded child has moved the traditional STEM-based curriculum into a newer model called "STEAM" which incorporates the arts into learning. What are your thoughts on this newer model?

The arts are an absolutely integral component of creating well-balanced and well-rounded individuals! I am an ardent advocate of incorporating the arts into learning. In fact, having open-minded thinking that is encouraged through the arts can complement the analytical rigor of a STEM based education. In my own life, I have intertwined a healthy focus on the arts via my background in public speaking, writing, dance, Spanish, French, Bengali, and beyond. In fact, this duality in nature has only enabled me to grow more fully into the woman I am today. I highly encourage students to develop their arts persona via pursuing passions both in and out of the classroom. When arts are combined with analytics, the combination of forces can create a real game changer. As I see it, both intersect to cultivate a supremely holistic and mentally agile mindset that can capture knowledge from all angles.

Looking back upon your academic endeavors, is there anything you wish you had done differently as a child/teen/young adult?

Great question! This is a topic I have reflected upon in tremendous depth. The truth is that I wish I had focused more voraciously on feeding my intellectual curiosity starting at a much younger age (e.g. middle school.) There is a tendency to focus only on subjects and topics that teachers say are important, but I would highly encourage each student at Fulton Science Academy to embrace the full range, breadth, and depth of all of the resources that are available to them in their personal and academic environments. Indulge those wonderful curiosities about the world and how it works.

The truth of human nature is that we are all very curious, but many of us tend to squash our own curiosity, and sometimes even by accident. Today, I make a concerted effort to read books on business, listen to podcasts about how things work, and regularly engage in conversations with people who are completely outside of my circle, because I value their perspectives. Absorbing knowledge from others who are different from you helps to strengthen and broaden your viewpoint. To any of the fabulous FSA parents who may be reading this, please support your child’s natural curiosities; incentivize them to ask questions, seek answers, and watch them soar!

You mentioned your fondness for the time you spent studying at Fulton Science Academy. Was there any one situation, perhaps even a funny one, which sticks out in your mind from your time here? Any pivotal moments? Or maybe just a comical memory that will resonate with today's students who are trying to navigate a very rigorous academic load while balancing family time, friendship time, and extracurricular activities.

Interesting you ask this question! My entire journey in public speaking actually somewhat began at Fulton Science Academy. As an eighth grader, I was randomly chosen to give the graduation speech. To this day, I still wonder why I was chosen, but I am incredibly thankful, because that opened all of the doors which have led me to today. I have never formally been trained in public speaking, and I just gave the speech like I would any other speech at any other point in my life. After ending the speech and walking off of the stage, I could not leave the room because every single parent in the audience told me that, "I needed to do this." I said, "Do what?," and they said, “Public speaking!" 

To be honest, I did not even know that public speaking was a standalone activity, but I later found out that Speech and Debate is a pretty big deal in high school, so I signed up for my very first speaking event in high school as part of the Speech and Debate team, and the rest, as they say, is history! The moral of the story here is never close your mind to options and opportunities that the world may be simply waiting to present to you. There is such a thing called destiny, so embrace it!

You have been featured in numerous national and international news outlets that have highlighted both your work in the digital world, as well as your passion for equal educational rights for girls globally. Could you speak more about your work in this area and, perhaps, how today's students at FSA can help make a dent in this very important issue moving forward?

I strongly and genuinely believe that when women achieve full intellectual, financial, emotional, and physical empowerment globally, the world will have been transformed. As women, we are extraordinarily multi-faceted, multi-talented, and ultimately, socially conscious beings who do want to drive positive change in our society. Unfortunately, there are still 62 million girls globally who are out of school, and this is dangerous, because when a girl is denied an education, she is absolutely incapable of standing up on her own, much less earning a sufficient financial worth to thrive independently. 
Highlighting this issue is so important to me, and I hope to my FSA family. Through my extensive global network, I have tried to share this crisis. Whether talking to global news outlets, addressing the United Nations Headquarters, or authoring passionate features in global publications such as The Huffington Post, I have highlighted the immense need for women to embrace their own ambition, and unapologetically write some of the greatest stories ever written. 

I would highly encourage all of the teenagers at Fulton Science Academy to champion girls' ambitions, dreams, and goals. It is my belief that only when girls envision themselves leading high-powered, productive, and fulfilling lives will the world change. I want the students to proudly support the accomplishments, achievements, and successes of girls; in FSA, in the region, in the nation, and worldwide!

Do you have a favorite quote that motivates you? If so, would you be willing to share it?
"Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." -William Jennings Bryan

About Ms. Das
Shinjini Das is a high impact-driven Industrial Engineer, strategic trilingual Multi-Media Personality, Keynote Speaker, and Huffington Post contributor with a client-facing digital strategy consulting background, experience driving global digital media analytics growth, and a deep understanding of data-driven decision making. Shinjini has a worldwide social media following of 96,000+ with interview features on national media outlets, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Sirius XM, and considers it an authentic privilege to impact her global audiences. She was interviewed in INC. Magazine as a Global Hero to share her thoughts on broadening access to girls' education and profiled in Forbes Magazine as an entrepreneur balancing a corporate career. Shinjini was deeply honored to have been invited to moderate a panel at the 2016 Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in recognition of her international advocacy work to achieve gender equality. Follow her journey @SpeakerShinjini. Portions of this article were extrapolated from other online media pieces featuring Ms. Das.