Early in his freshman year, long before he was named a Truman Fellow, Amar C. Bakshi ’06 had an experience that today he says helped define his academic career.
“I was sitting there, in the front of the class, with no idea what I was doing—what classes I was going to take, or anything else—when [Professor of the Practice of Indo-Muslim Languages and Cultures] Ali Asani came up and sat beside me,” he said. “He asked me how I was doing, and I told him. He told me ‘I was in exactly your place when I was a freshman. Harvard is about figuring that out.’”
Three years later, Bakshi seems to have found his focus by blending his diverse interests in art, social theory, and public service—and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation has taken note.
Truman Fellowships are awarded to one college junior from each of the fifty states who displays “exceptional leadership potential” and who is “committed to a career in public service.”
Bakshi applied for a fellowship after completing an original project entitled “Aina Art,” which he said aimed to use “creative arts to bring communities together.”
The project took 12 Harvard students to Northern India to work on connecting local artists to school communities, thereby improving the arts and bettering local education.
Proud Dzambukira ’07, who collaborated with Bakshi on Aina said, “He’s a great person to work with and a very bright person. I am very excited that he is being recognized in this way.”
Bakshi, a joint Social Studies and Visual and Environmental Studies concentrator—an unorthodox concentration choice—said that art, social action, and social theory have always been interests of his. He credits Lecturer on Social Studies Kiku Adatto as an inspiring mentor who helped him merge his interests.
“Kiku Adatto is a very important academic influence for me,” he said. “She made me realize that the arts could be connected with activism and social theory.”
Bakshi credited several other professors, including Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Doris Sommer and Danziger Associate Professor of Government Devesh Kapur, as helping him integrate social and artistic ventures into his academic life.
Kapur returned the compliment, praising Bakshi’s creativity.
“Harvard has lots of great students. Amar thinks a little more outside of the box,” he said. “I think his project for the Truman fellowship was very creative and unconventional, and that is where he stood out most.”
The project will expand this summer, taking six Harvard students to Dzambukira’s native Zimbabwe while it continues its operation in India.
Bakshi will receive $2,000 toward his senior year tuition and $15,000 toward the graduate school of his choice on the condition that he spends at least three years in public service.
He plans tentatively to pursue a joint masters degree in international education and public policy at the Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard School of Education.
Bakshi praised the Social Studies Department, the Office of Career Services (OCS), and the OCS Fellowship Office with guiding him through his bid for the fellowship.
“I can honestly say that without these people’s help my proposal would not be what it was. I am very grateful,” he said.