2014 Boren Scholarships
Born to parents originally from Tamil Nadu, South India, Puja was already fluent in Tamil when she decided to apply for the Boren Scholarship to learn Hindi in India. Puja felt Hindi was an obvious choice based on her studies in International Development in South Asia at American University. She was drawn to the Boren Awards because of the flexibility of the program that would allow her to fully embrace Indian culture, lifestyle and languages. She found “there were few opportunities like [Boren] that allowed you not only to become fluent in a language, but also gave the flexibility to work on your projects, and follow up with you after your program with resources and guidance.” Puja stayed in the city of Pune, where she was at the Alliance for Global Education doing their Contemporary India program and concurrently taking intensive Hindi tutoring.
Prior to studying in India, Puja had done little work in youth empowerment, yet through her Boren experience she discovered new and exciting intersections between tech entrepreneurship and information technologies with her interests in international development. She was able to get involved in several major projects, including research on NGOs that would eventually lead to the construction of a cohesive curriculum based on development, skill-building, and educational philosophies. In particular, Puja had the opportunity to execute a public sector campaign that involved the upkeep of communal restrooms for the student community. Her team conducted informational interviews, encouraged local municipal corporations to get involved and created educational opportunities for the local community to learn about the importance of maintaining the communal facilities.
Eventually, she wants to tie in her experiences and research in youth empowerment, education, tech entrepreneurship and international development. Essentially her goal is to build a career that focuses on making employment and education more accessible by creating environments that encourage youth entrepreneurship. At the moment, Puja is completing her one year service requirement working for the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program. The PIF works with various federal agencies, including, the State Department, FBI and the Department of Defense to collaborate with a diverse group of technologists and innovators on creating solutions for some of the US’ biggest challenges. Specifically, Puja works on communications and branding through social media along with logistical support.