Amit Dhundi, a Rowan Global Ph.D. in Engineering student with a concentration in Chemical Engineering from Pitman, NJ (Gloucester County), shares his continuous work and contributions to Rowan as a graduate student and President of the Graduate Student Government Association.
Emerging from a family of academics, Amit is well-versed in the realm of scholastic success.
Amit came to Rowan as an international student from India in 2018, in which he graduated with a master’s in Chemical Engineering in 2020. Shortly thereafter, he joined Rowan’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Institute (AMMI) as a project manager before returning as a PhD student.
“That was a tough time to graduate because of the lockdown and companies were not hiring,” he explains. “I worked for a year as the project manager at [AMMI] and I later joined at the same lab as a Ph.D. student in the summer of 2021. So I became a student, an employee, and then went back as a student. Apart from that, I was also a student worker at the Chemical Engineering department when I was pursuing my master’s.”
As of now, Amit engages in research that is funded by the U.S. Army.
“My research involves the development of a new polymer formulation and fabricating 3D printed parts, which are really great properties for the Army. Specifically, my work involves synthesizing these different formulations in the lab, so this requires knowledge of chemistry.”
Aside from his ongoing investigations, Amit is also the President of the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA). Ultimately, the mission of the organization is to serve as the official voice and representation for Rowan University Glassboro graduate students at a university level. The GSGA is also a tool for graduate students as they navigate their educational careers.
“GSGA brings all of these graduate students from different colleges, institutions, and centers to a common place. It is a place for everything like graduate student concerns, needs, professional development, and also advocacy when it comes to some issues that they are facing,” Amit says. “Any graduate student from the Glassboro and South Jersey campuses are welcomed to be a part of this organization, regardless of their major.”
As an advocate for community, the GSGA championed Amit’s vision of collective ambition.
“I have been at Rowan for four years and I was always seeking a place for graduate students to gather and get to know each other — especially from different disciplines, backgrounds and colleges. I think it’s really great that we have so many different colleges. Rowan has such a vast campus where the students can come together and learn from each other through different experiences, backgrounds, mindsets and views on a situation. This was what I was seeking, which is what brought me to this organization.”
Due to the demanding schedules of graduate students, the GSGA holds virtual meetings every Monday at 4:30 p.m. to accommodate their members.
“Each meeting lasts at most half an hour. This is the best way to ensure that most of the graduate students can come together. I am always open to changing it based on people’s needs,” Amit shares. “It starts with something as simple as greeting each other and getting to know any developments about the student life here or their experiences they have had as a student or in the college. Also, if there are any issues or anything that they would want to be a part of the graduate community at Rowan, we see how the GSGA could help them.”
As President of the association, the catalyst that led to Amit’s role was roused through multiple agents.
“I have been in both roles at Rowan as a graduate student and as an employee, so I feel as if I have seen both sides. It’s important to me that I use this experience in order to chart out a better path that works for both groups. I think it’s important to be proactive and understand the concerns of others in order to come up with a solution. That’s one thing that I thought I could impact on the graduate community across the university.”
“Another thing is, I come from a family of academicians. My dad was a mechanical engineering professor in India and he was the Dean of the Federal Level Engineering Institute,” Amit shares. “My mom has a master’s degree in art and a degree in education. She was a teacher. I wanted to put to use the experiences that I had growing up and the experiences here for the betterment of the graduate student community.”
“This association is also relatively new, so while I’m here I will do my best. Also, I will be around for three years so I thought that I could give much more. I don’t have that deadline nearing me for graduation,” he says.
Since the organization is relatively new, Amit’s responsibilities as President include raising awareness of the GSGA to the graduate student community. His other duties include communicating with the university and administration about any issues, concerns, or developments that the community might be facing or want to see.
Amit’s commitment to the GSGA has yielded a multifaceted appreciation for the organization. Since graduate students spend more time collaborating with university staff because of the nature of their academic work, the GSGA aids in raising funds as well as increased recognition for the university. Additionally, the recent addition of the organization has incited a need for more involvement through a platform that allows for effective and professional communication. Amit views this demonstration for growth as the driving force for success.
“I think being a part of this process and development is like being a catalyst. I’ve learned many things about myself and it’s a great opportunity to communicate with so many people across the administration hierarchy and the graduate community. This helps me and will help other graduate students in their professional lives. It gives me an opportunity to come out of the Rowan College of Engineering and get to know people.”
When asked about his goals and aspirations for the future of the GSGA, Amit responds: “One of my goals is having more events in order to see a part of a larger community. The second thing is for the graduate community to come out of the shell of their respective colleges and departments to present an academically diverse group which can work together for the benefit of graduate students. Once the GSGA is active across the university, I think that would be the right time to reach out to the university administration for funding because we don’t have as much funding right now. This funding would be used for social events in order to come together and raise awareness about the association. This would just be the beginning of a long journey.”
To spur recognition for the organization, Amit strives to increase acknowledgement of Rowan’s graduate programs in ranks such as the U.S. News. This platform is recognized as a leader in college and grad school rankings.
“U.S. News is used by everyone who goes to university. For example, international students use this as a tool to see if a university is legitimate. Even students in the U.S. start the decision-making process about universities based on U.S. News,” Amit explains. “I know engineering graduate programs have been recognized, but as an association we would like all graduate degree programs at Rowan to be mentioned or listed in U.S. News. I believe this will not only help the incoming graduate students, but Rowan University will also benefit because its programs would get more recognition.”
A development in the awareness of graduate programs such as the GSGA would also suggest graduate student admittance into campus events. Throughout the year, Rowan University holds signature events and traditions such as the Hollybash. Started in the spring of 2016, this event is a full afternoon outdoor festival that features rides, lawn games, performances, food trucks, novelties and more. Hollybash also sponsors a large concert, which has seen guests such as Andy Grammar (2018) and Mike Poser (2017). Customarily, undergraduate students are the predominant attendees of this event.
“What struck me earlier this year is there is this thing called a Hollybash that we have on the campus each year and there were some graduate students, including myself, who wanted to attend it, but we were told that it was only for undergrads,” Amit shares. “I understood because undergrads pay fees for these activities and the graduate students don’t pay that much towards such events. I think the undergrads get two tickets, but I wondered what if graduate students were made available to a facility where we could buy those tickets at a discounted price because it’s a university event.”
Amit adds, “It would be so much fun for us to attend it as well and be a part of that university celebration. And then I realized that there may be other similar events. I think that if graduate students were expected to pay a certain amount to get in, I’m sure there are so many students who would want to be a part by buying these tickets in order to be active in the student life at Rowan University. Making this facility available is something I would like to bring up to the administration.”
In a dialogue about Rowan’s current focus, Amit advocates for an integration in which graduate programs are examined alongside the university’s undergraduate programs.
“I somehow want to be involved in making that infusion in which graduate programs are also considered. This is important because the university higher administration has said that we have really good plans and ambitions as a university,” Amit shares. “We started as an R3 university, which is a category for primarily teaching. We have now come to the R2 category, which is impressive, and which means that we are doing research and teaching. We are actually aiming for the R1 category, which is majorly a research university with some teaching. When you talk about research, you of course need graduate students because they are an important part.”
He adds, “I feel like it is high time for the university to make that infusion on its approach to communication. I think that graduate students make a big impact and we need to start making that change now.”
When asked what Amit would like others to take away from GSGA, he responds: “I would really like the graduate community to reach out. In the past the GSGA had one meet-up event, and I understand that it was a small event, but still it was a good occasion for graduate students from different disciplines to come together to get to know each other. We would like to have similar events in the future. I want to stress that we really value students from different disciplines and backgrounds. Especially because this is a new organization, we are looking for graduate students to join and come onboard with this association.”
If you are interested in joining the Graduate Student Government Association or would like more information, you can contact the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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