Humans of Rutgers

(1/3) “I come from a family of math and science. My sister is the first Dr. Reji in our family and so that has set a really high bar for me. I was never a good student, terrible at math and science. I’d rather write or direct movies, so I was the creative weirdo that didn’t really fit in. But around junior year, I really picked it up. I took a class in the Spring of 2015 where I wrote a research paper about sexual assault on campus. And we had to try and propose how we could solve the problem. So in my research, what seemed to be continuous across all campuses was that the buddy system was still the best system. And I decided I would try my best to tackle the problem of sexual assault on campus by building a judgement-free, stigma-free buddy system on campus.”


“I grew up in a fairly nice household. But when we moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey when I was younger, it was hard fitting in as a kid. I turned to drugs and it took me down a very dark path. I kept doing drugs throughout high school, but I made it through. I got into college, I got a scholarship and it was all good. But everyone always told me, ‘Do well your first semester of college, it’s gonna start off your whole life,’ and I ended up getting kicked out and arrested. I was selling a lot of drugs. I got too deep into it and I kept doing it. I didn’t listen to what anybody told me. And of course I regret the decisions that I’ve made in my life, three colleges in three years, but I don’t regret the life I have now. Eventually drugs led to rehab. I never really thought I’d see myself there. But through meetings and relating to a lot of different people, I finally realized that I could end the misery now and start fresh. There’s still plenty of time.”

- Secrets from the Sole

“Christmas was my grandfather’s favorite holiday. He would have all of his grandkids around him every year. Earlier this year, we lost him to cancer and it was such a devastating loss for me and my family. This will be the first Christmas without him and it’s going to bring a flood of emotions for my family, which I’m not sure we’re entirely prepared for. Life is precious. And because my grandfather left a lasting impression on me, I wanted to go ahead and leave an impression on others too. That's why, for Christmas this year, I bought 200 cards and I’m having all different people fill them out for hospitalized children around the country.”

“I’m very big on my faith. I’m very into my spirituality. So I definitely believe in servicing and just helping others in general. I have my own hair and beauty business called #touchedbytianaa where I service my clients in my dorm. I do wigs, natural hair, or if they need their makeup done for an event or a night out, I do that too. Having them sit there for 3 hours, that’s a ministry in a sense. So part of the reason why I do this is because I believe it’s a service on my end. And I feel like when God gives you talents or gifts, it’s not just for yourself. I think that He gave me this talent and this gift to touch lives in a larger aspect. And I’m definitely looking forward to how He’s actually going to manifest that through this business.”

“My dad’s a painter, my grandma’s a painter and so was my great-grandma. But at Mason Gross, you concentrate at the end of your sophomore year, so I decided to do photography. I draw a lot too, and photography is my way of expressing myself through my work, but painting seems to be a skill that runs in my family. I’ve seen the work they’ve done. When I was in middle school, my grandma always said, ‘Do what you love,’ and I really loved art. And now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I love art, and now that I’m taking painting classes, I feel like I see my family’s work in my own. I think I have the same style as my dad.”

“About one month ago, my girlfriend came to see me from China to New York City and I made my proposal on the Empire State Building. And she agreed. We’ll get married after I graduate from Rutgers Business School in Newark. Her American name is Mary, so when she came to see me I said, ‘Mary, marry me.’ I’m so happy.”

“I just got out of a meeting with my academic advisor. She was telling me that out of the freshman who come in with my major of pre-veterinary science, only 20% graduate with, or continue that major. And it’s not easy, but just because others can’t do it doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It wasn't easy to get to the point where I am now. Living where I was, or at least with my family’s financial situation, there has always been ups and downs. But our drive to get better led us to where we are now, and it allows me to be in a place like this university to further finish my own goals. And now that my family situation is okay, I need to focus on myself. I’ve had an interest in this field for so long, since middle school. And now I’m halfway through college and I feel like it’s something I need to finish. Not to impress others, but to really prove to myself that I can do this.”

“I want to be a teacher, and I like being a student too. I like the unique relationship that forms with your favorite teacher, it’s really something special. One of my high school teachers, Ms. Powers, she taught me philosophy during my senior year and I loved her because she was super understanding. I feel like the beginning of senior year is a weird, tough time for high schoolers because you don’t know what you’re doing with your life. And I remember that she had a poster up and it said, 'Try, and if you can’t try, be kind.' And that’s my thing. I try my hardest to do the best I can, and I try to do the whole 'kindness to everyone no matter what' thing too. And I think that’s especially important for a student-teacher relationship.”

“Way before I could drive, I was looking at cars. Always trying to figure out what I wanted to get. My dad has been into cars his whole life, and I always had toy cars ever since I was real young, so it really kind of started with that. Now I’m in the Rutgers Car Club, and we get together for meets maybe once a month or so. We’ve had some movie nights, an autocross event, and coming up pretty soon we’ll be going to the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia. We’ve got this drive we’re doing tomorrow too, driving about 250 miles through New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Should be real pretty. I might bail early though, there’s a guy with a set of wheels I’m trying to buy.”

"When you have three minutes to put together a costume for a Halloween party, this is what you get. I recently got this mask in New Orleans too and didn't really know what to use it for until now. I'm actually pretty proud of myself."

“Everything’s political. There’s politics in the workplace, there’s politics in the school place, and you have to know how to work your way around that. And I think that’s what political science really offers. There's the experience that comes from the real world implications. It’s a much more valuable skill, I think, than any so-called textbook learning; to go out there and learn how to persuade, social interaction, and when it comes down to business, how to get what you want. It’s mostly strategy, choice and it’s psychology, really; how to deal with people. I’ve worked in Trenton, I’ve run local campaigns, it’s dirty. And everybody’s dirty laundry is fair game, it’s out in the open. But a textbook can’t tell you what this guy’s next move is gonna be. A textbook can’t tell you how you should formulate your ground game, how you should come up with campaign points and target certain demographics. So that’s the way that I see it. There’s no way to learn that from any book, you know what I mean?”

“My younger sister had just turned nine when she was hospitalized for a severe diagnosis. There were times when she was in severe pain so my mom would have to stay with her all night. My dad would go to work and when he came back home, he would pick me up and we would go visit my sister every day. She always said, ‘I’ll get through this, I’ll get through this,’ and she did. She’s almost 3 years younger than me, but most of the time I feel like she’s my older sister. She’s the one that gives my family hope and always sees the bright side of things. Now she’s applying for college and she’s actually applying to become a nurse. Because of everything that happened to her, nurses really had an impact, so she wants to go to the Rutgers School of Nursing.”

“We woke up at 6 AM today to come here and set up for HackRU. There were a bunch of hiccups at the start, but now that hacking is underway, it’s smooth sailing from here on out. We’ve got team building going on, which is when hackers meet each other and form teams to work on new projects. We’ll have back-to-back workshops and tech-talks where people can take that knowledge and apply it to their existing projects or even start anew. Everyone’s hacking and learning and enjoying themselves. This is only doable because we have a great team of organizers working around the clock. Throughout our months of planning, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we still can’t believe it’s happening right now. It’s good energy, and we’re just happy to be here.”

“A lot of people think hacking has to do with computer security, or trying to steal people’s information. But it’s really about trying to find ways to solve problems. And it’s about trying to do it in a way that you think is best. It’s your solution to a problem as a opposed to a way of causing problems. This is something anyone can do. You don’t have to be a genius with this innate ability to use a computer to make something that you’re passionate about. And between helping to organize HackRU and HackHERS, just seeing people grow and get excited is what I really love. When they finally figure out what was wrong with their code, and they fix it with the help of someone else and their eyes just glow, that’s why hackathons mean a lot to me. It’s a grounds to really impact someone. Personally, I would not be a computer science major if it weren’t for hackathons. A student who didn’t know what they wanted to do all of a sudden switches to computer science because of hackathons and because they were so proud of what they built. At the end of the day, I think it’s really magical.”

“I started going to hackathons my junior year of high school. Since then, I’ve probably been to 20 of them, and I’ve helped organize a couple too. This year, I’m the executive co-director of HackRU so I help to manage all of the teams and oversee all of the action, making sure that everything runs smoothly. Throughout the years, going to hackathons has pretty much changed my life. I’ve gotten to meet more people, network and connect with sponsors, build projects and present them, and learn about programming and about myself too. I’m a sophomore, so I’ve only been here two years, but the HackRU community is really like family to me.”

“HackRU started 5 or 6 years ago. When it started, my older brother and a friend held the event in the basement of the Hill Center, in the dark hallways. And there were more pizza boxes than people at the time. Since then, it’s really blown up. Every university that has a budding tech community has a hackathon. And a hackathon is basically a collaborative programming marathon that takes place over 24 hours straight. It’s been such an experience. When I came to Rutgers, my older brother told me that I should get involved, but I didn’t know anything. I decided to go to my first hackathon and to get involved in the Undergraduate Student Alliance of Computer Scientists and HackRU, and since then it’s really become part of my identity. I know I sound like I’m romanticizing it, and I am. I’m sorry, I forgot the question.”

“I have a condition called Vitiligo, which causes loss of pigment in the skin. I’ve had it since I was five years old. My family is from India and this condition is really stigmatized there, especially for women. Throughout my life, my family attempted to use Hindu astrology and alternative medicine to try and cure my Vitiligo and other chronic health conditions, but obviously that didn’t work. They would scrutinize my skin on a daily basis and blame me if my skin wasn’t regaining its pigment. They were concerned about me being part of Indian culture and also not being accepted in America either. But more importantly, my fundamental ability to be an Indian woman was compromised. For a long time, I never talked about it because I didn't know how to and because my family wasn’t ok with me discussing it. It was only when I came to college that I started talking about it. I realized that there are a lot of people that can be going through the same thing or through something similar. And if you don’t voice what kind of struggles you’re going through in your personal life, you could be depriving someone else of having their voice heard too. Right now, I’m writing a novel based off my experience. It’s about an Indian-American girl with Vitiligo. I’ve had the chance to work with an editor from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It’s the same publishing house that’s published “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Holes”, and “Speak”. I have 170 pages right now. I'm both excited and scared about writing this piece. No matter what, I don't think I could stop writing this even if I tried."

“I’ve been coming to Rutgers football games on and off since the mid-90’s, and I bring my own personal antique firetruck with me to every game. I’ll always remember in 2006 when we beat Louisville. It was an amazing comeback, an amazing game and rushing the field like that is a memory you just don’t forget. I know it may not be the same today, but we’re going to get where we need to be soon enough.”

(3/3) "As a history major, I’ve been taught to question everything that you’re given. And to ask, ‘Who’s telling the story and what biases do they have? Why are they telling this story and whose story are we missing?’ And that’s the thing; so often in history classes, we’re missing the story. Most of the time, we’re taught from the white perspective or from the victor’s perspective. I think a lot of people feel helpless about the inequalities in our country and I, in a lot of ways, still feel very helpless myself. But I know that there’s something I can do about it, even if it's small. It's really exciting for me to look forward to the classes I’ll teach in the future and think, ‘I can use this type of primary source to tell this story, or I can point to a part of history and show that while the white men may have been on top, all of these other Americans were here too, and their stories matter just as much. It’s not just a white history, it’s everyone’s history.”

(2/3) “Now I’m in the Graduate School of Education and we’re having these discussions all over again in a lot of my classes; about race and religion and inequalities in our country and in our school systems. And I’ve realized that I had a totally different education than a lot of my classmates. Often I didn’t learn history from the white perspective. I was introduced to the civil war not through Abraham Lincoln but through Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. I read these incredible stories of human beings who lived their lives and overcame obstacles. I was fascinated by these stories. And so I was being taught this very important part of American history, not through the view of the oppressor but from the view of those who overcame. I remember feeling passionate about this from a young age, but was still very ignorant to the racism that exists today. And I think I still believed that it existed, but I didn’t know what it looked like. And I didn’t know how it was affecting me.”