Amit Jani, SAS '12
Majors: Journalism; Political Science
Activities: Resident/ Apartment Assistant with Residence Life, Scarlet Ambassador/ Rutgers Tour Guide, Columnist and Staff Writer for the Daily Targum, Rutgers Toastmasters, Research Assistant with the Aresty Research Center, Residential Peer Mentor with the Achievement in Math and Sciences program (AIMS)
What attracted you to Rutgers University and the Honors/Scholars Program?
When I was a tour guide at Rutgers, I used to always joke that Rutgers was close enough for me to go home whenever I wanted in Jersey City but far enough that my parents couldn't surprise visit me. Rutgers was one of about 13 colleges I applied to throughout the country, most of which I visited. I wasn't exactly sold on Rutgers initially, but when I took an on-campus tour and spent time on campus, I was blown away.
Rutgers is special, because what other university allows you the option of making your college experience as large as you want with unlimited clubs, on-campus jobs, leadership positions and more, or as small and personal as you want. The professors are great, your fellow student cohort is one of the most diverse in the nation and you have amazing deans (looking at your Dean Lord and Kim-Lee). I've met some of my best friends, mentors and made professional connections at Rutgers that I still hold on to today.
The best way for me to describe Rutgers is to compare it to Disney World or maybe even better because it has four magical kingdoms and Rutgers has five. I loved that each campus was different, it's like you can be in a city, suburban or rural atmosphere all within a 15-minute bus ride away.
Making it into the Honors Program was very personal to me, because I didn't come in as an Honors student. I still remember my Senior Year of high school, in which all my closest friends made it into the National Honors Society, except me. Since that day, I made a promise to myself that I would work hard to make it into the Honors Program when I got into college.
Being an Honors Student within the School of Arts and Sciences helped me to reassess my self worth and enabled me with the confidence to take part in activities and academic endeavors that I might not have otherwise. I am proud to be a SASHP alumni!
Why did you choose your major and minor?
Similar to probably about 80 percent of incoming college freshmen, I was a pre-med major. I wanted to practice medicine because I thought I'd be able to help people by being a practicing physician.
However, through the many electives, extra-curricular activities and programs that Rutgers offered, I realized that I truly enjoyed current affairs and building relationships with people through politics. Political Science was so intriguing to me and I realized that a particular piece of legislation or community program would affect an entire state or even the country at the same time. Perhaps I was a bit idealistic in choosing this major, but I don't regret it one bit.
I never thought I'd choose a Journalism and Media Studies major coming into college, but I did know that I loved to write. To me writing was relaxing and poetic, sort of like painting a Monet with words. So my freshman year, I decided to be a Contributing Writer for the school's daily newspaper, The Daily Targum.
I absolutely fell in love with interviewing various sources, from an incoming college freshman to the college president, getting different perspectives, and then summarizing this into a simple piece everyone could understand. I had a blast with my journalism major and I still use the skills I developed through it in my career today.
Tell us a little bit about what you're doing now. What was your first job after Rutgers? Where you do you live?
My first job after graduating from Rutgers was a Fellowship with the Office of the Secretary within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. It was such an integral first step in my professional career, working alongside some of the most senior government officials and helping them to craft programs and initiatives that would help the elderly, low income and other demographics throughout the country.
I've since worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., as well as a Congressional Aide in Central New Jersey and now work for a political consulting firm. I currently reside in my hometown of Jersey City, NJ.
What has been your greatest professional and/or personal accomplishment since you graduated Rutgers?
One of the initiatives that I'm most proud of following my graduation from Rutgers, is recently starting a non-profit called the New Jersey Leadership Program (www.njlead.org). Through my experience in government and politics, I always noticed a lack of South Asian involvement both in elected office and on the staff level, especially compared to the involvement of South Asians in other fields such as medicine, engineering or the legal field.
So we started the New Jersey Leadership Program in 2015 to expose more South Asian youth to government and politics through a summer internship with elected officials, as well as leadership components including a weekly speakership series, networking events and career development workshops. We just concluded our launch year and were able to graduate ten South Asian youth ranging from middle school, high school and college students from our NJLP Fellowship Program.
Was there a class and/or experience at Rutgers that led you to pursuing your current career?
I remember taking an American Government class with Professor Ross Baker my junior year of college, which was instrumental in my career. He was able to get me an internship with Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. that summer in Washington, D.C. which ended up being a great experience and helped to establish my goal of working for Congress following graduation.
Without Professor Baker, I don't think I would have been able to serve two different Members of Congress or get many of the opportunities I have in government and politics.
What three words describe your experience at Rutgers and the Honors/Scholars Program?
Impactful. Lasting Memories. Educational.
How has your Rutgers and Honors education benefited you in your post-Rutgers life?
The single best benefit I have received from Rutgers and the Honors Program is the connections that I made and maintained through this day. Best friends I’ve made, mentors developed, professors and faculty I've kept in touch with, and the list goes on and on. I see the great accomplishments many of my peers have already made and know I can reach out to them any time of the day.
What advice do you have for our current SAS Honors Program students?
The best piece of advice I can give to current SAS Honors Program students is to get as broad of an experience during your college experience as possible; take classes that you might not have otherwise taken, do internships outside your field of study, join clubs you thought you would never join, join a fraternity or sorority, and take advantage of the diversity of friends you can make while at Rutgers.
You might not realize it now with the many stressors of exams and social commitments, but you'll probably never have as much free time as you do during college. So use it wisely and take risks, perhaps start a business from that great idea you had, create a non-profit to address whichever social issue you are passionate about, start a club or anything else you want to do. Don't wait to do it after you graduate when you can do it now.
As someone who graduated not too long ago but have a couple years of professional experience, I can say without hesitation that college has been the best four years of my life. Think about how you want to remember your Rutgers experience after you graduate and start doing it!
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