Yesterday, a group of students gathered at tables in the Kim Koo Library to hear Nimita Uberoi ’15 share her belief in the importance of critical thinking and personal values.
Uberoi, an international affairs senior associate at the Obama Foundation, was the first speaker this year for the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs’ First-Year and Sophomore Speaker Series.
Edward Steinfeld, director of the Watson Institute and moderator of the discussion, began by urging students: “Please, please, please make (the Watson Institute) your home,” no matter the concentration.
“It’s important to attract lots of different kinds of talent to Watson and encourage lots of different kinds of people to address global challenges,” Steinfeld said in an interview with The Herald. “We want as broad a swath of Brown student community as we can attract.”
After introductions and two questions from Steinfeld, the floor was opened to students. In the hour-long discussion, Uberoi, who concentrated in Environmental Studies, touched on global issues, such as sustainability, and grappled with a variety of questions.
“I have not applied a single thing I have learned in coursework to my current job,” she said. “But what you do apply is the critical thinking, the ability to research, to write, to read and understand something, to have a dialogue and analyze something.”
Uberoi also emphasized the need to place values before some predetermined job or career. “If you’re too focused on the end goal, you miss the purpose and the reason for why you do these things,” she said. “Then you get into these positions of power, and you’re not focused on your values and why you wanted that in the first place.”
Yohan Mutta ’23, an attendee, appreciated Uberoi’s honesty. “Nimita spoke quite frankly. I thought it was almost like a heart-to-heart,” he said. “I appreciate how she was so candid.”
“For the Institute to create a series specifically geared towards first-years and sophomores, we feel like this is something for us,” he said.
The series is intended to connect first-year and sophomore students with young alums who are involved in public service. “The goal of this series is to take younger alums who have done amazing things already but, in many cases, are closer in age to students and hopefully inspire our students really to start when they graduate Brown to do public service,” Steinfeld said. The series, which is directed toward underclassmen, is part of an effort to attract students to the Watson Institute from the beginning of their University career, Steinfeld added.
But upperclassmen are still allowed to attend. Yesterday’s discussion, for example, attracted undergraduate students from all four years, though most were sophomores.
There are two more speakers lined up so far for the series. Sumbul Siddiqui ’10, Cambridge city councilor, is set to speak a week from Tuesday, and Lisa Caputo ’86, executive vice president of marketing, communications and customer experience for Travelers, a Fortune 500 company, will lead a discussion in February 2020.
“People want to make a difference in the world,” Siddiqui said in talking about her experience and her plans for the discussion. “It’s kind of confusing how you get there and what that means because it’s so broad.” Her path to public service, she said, was not linear. But it is unique for everyone, she added. “Public service is a path to consider because you can have a huge impact on people’s lives.”
When Steinfeld met with Siddiqui over the summer, he felt an opportunity to learn from her experience. “Whether somebody’s young … or old, there’s always the opportunity to be inspired by somebody who’s doing bold things and making a difference in the world,” he said.