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Scholars Speak

In his own words: Shuvam Das

ISPP Scholar Shuvam Das

As an ISPP Scholar, Shuvam Das is appointed with the Illinois Board of Higher Education. His work is significant as he focuses on using data analysis to support educational equity in higher education. Shuvam shared some thoughts with me about the ISPP, and his work so far.

Why did you apply for the Illini Science Policy Program?

The immediate work opportunity as an ISPP Scholar with the Illinois Board of Higher Education following graduation coincided with my interest in public policies and making an impact in society. Specifically, making education equitable means making students and colleges accessible to grants, debt relief, and other means to help overcome the barriers of higher education for young adults.

Tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish as a result of being a 2024 Scholar.

I would have built and refined paths for grant data analysis relating to enrollments and student transfers by the conclusion of the academic year 2024, i.e., summer 2024. I would have played a critical part in documenting and reporting the semi-annual and annual reports that are to be made public and reported to the governor's office.

Tell us a bit about what you are working on for your host agency.

We are now organizing the financial reports, program reports, and scholarship information for each of the participating colleges in order to release the federal funding to them all. In addition, we are collecting information for the annual report and putting out the half-yearly public report.

Tell us a bit about what you are working with your Extension Mentor (or what you will be doing)?

My Extension Mentor, Zachary Kennedy, and I will be working to expand my expertise of interactive mapping, geographic information systems (GIS), and data management so that I may better support my host agency.

What does being in public service mean to you?

My bachelor's degree in India is the consequence of a public policy that funded my entire educational path with a scholarship at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Then I was given the opportunity to complete my master's degree at a world-class public university. So public service is extremely personal to me, and it is my way of giving back to society in whatever way I can.

What makes the work you are doing as an ISPP Scholar meaningful to you? 

What makes my work as an ISP relevant to me is that both extension and the host agency have worked hard to ensure that we work on a worthwhile initiative for the community. Worthy in terms of discovering solutions by taking a step back and thoroughly evaluating the challenges and gaps.

What is one thing that you have learned since becoming an ISPP Scholar that has made an impression on your transition from graduate student to career individual?

Success stories - Working on the other side of the stories, where you can actually experience the success stories of what people had to overcome just to finish their higher education, is a privilege and an opportunity. The impact will always be with me, and I am happy to claim that as an international student, I had an impact on a foreign state government.

Why is/are the issue(s) important to the communities with which you are working?

Higher education that is accessible and equitable to young adults will only result in a more knowledgeable youth population. They would have better professions and lifestyles, allowing them to better shape the following generation. Initiatives like this have the potential to alter the landscape of the city, state, country, and globe.

Who is impacted by the issue(s) you are working on?

Mostly young adults who could not complete their higher education because of their circumstances. Other stakeholders include college staff and management, who develop their courses and work around the clock to give the best way for students to obtain their degrees; and state and federal agencies, which help create policies and protocols to ensure that everything runs properly.

What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?

The dynamics with which I can collaborate on a project - Multiple teams are engaged in the effective completion of a project, and I have the ability to choose where I wish to work. Recently, I was involved in financial data projection, data manipulation, data validation, consortium organization, and qualitative report writing. Whatever I do, there is an incredible team to help me come up to speed and work better.

If you could do one thing through this program and think “Wow, I did that,” what would you like it to be?

'I directed a stranger to apply for the ECACE Scholarship.'

I was new to Chicago and settling in within the first few weeks; after running a few errands, I got into a cab - where I started having small talk with the cab driver and learned that he worked in the early childhood profession and had an interest in completing his college education. So I just emailed him a few links to places where he might apply for scholarships and debt relief. He was overjoyed and happy to learn about this project.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I will always be grateful to our wonderful supervisor, Dr. Evangeline Pianfetti, for placing me in this wonderful public job profile, where I get to learn something new every day and for being there for me at every step.

More information about the Illini Science Policy Program is available on our website. Keep reading to learn more about Shuvam's colleagues in the of 2024 ISPP Scholar Class.