Glee club, Jazz Combos, Resident Counselor, senator, Route 9, Amherst Dance, Amherst Tour Guide, Physics TA and Ultimate Frisbee. Optimistic, energetic, friendly, thoughtful, intelligent. Add a major or two (Physics and Economics, to be specific), and you have Rohan Mazumdar. It’s hard to think of something he hasn’t done in his four years at Amherst College, and it’s amazing to think of what he has. Mazumdar is that student whose name is as ubiquitous around campus as he is — a force of nature that has taken Amherst by storm. It’s this force, passion and vigor for life, visible from his words to the grin that lights up his face, that will be sorely missed as Mazumdar ends his time at the College.
Growing up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Mazumdar was just as involved in high school as he would later be in college. Besides being involved in student leadership, playing soccer and running track, he eagerly participated in a plethora of musical activities. Following a science-heavy curriculum all throughout high school, he had been looking at mostly larger engineering programs for university, making his ultimate decision to come to Amherst a somewhat non sequitur one.
“Amherst was really the only liberal arts school I applied to. I was visiting the career counselor in my high school, and she kind of looked at my profile and said, ‘I want you to apply to Amherst,’ and I said ‘Okay, great. …what’s that?’” Yet, it was Amherst that would soon become where Mazumdar would spend four years of his life. Looking back, he said, “I kind of came in blind to the Amherst environment.”
This environment was one that initially made Mazumdar very uncomfortable. Everything about being at Amherst was outside his comfort zone and going to a small, liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts was someone almost no one in his school, or even his country, would do. It was a giant transition socially and culturally — so, naturally, Mazumdar faced some surprises.
Before Amherst, he had never heard an orchestra, a jazz band or any sort of choral music. He grew up in a place where sex was not talked about and sexual education was nonexistent because of the more conservative culture. Laughing, he remembered, “The SHE [Student Health Educators] skits were crazy. I was absolutely aghast, absolutely astounded. I just had my jaw open the entire time. It was absolutely hilarious.”
Despite the initial shock, Mazumdar quickly began to settle in. “Luckily, I found a lot of very awesome people early on — people to connect with, people who I am still friends with, who became my best friends during my time here.” He was struck by the overall friendliness and the willingness to share among the student body. He remarks that it was pleasantly surprising to find that students could be smart and involved in their academics without making it all about comparison and competition, like Mazumdar’s high school had been. When first facing the academics, though, he needed to leap over another hurdle.
Taking the Stage
Mazumdar was not used to intensive reading and academic writing and these became one of the primary challenges presented by his first-year seminar, Citizenship and National Identity with Professor N. Gordon Levin. His first assignment was a five-page paper, but before Amherst, he had never written anything longer than his college application essays. “I freaked out completely,” remembered Mazumdar. “I ran to the writing center many times for that essay.”
This class became fundamental in getting Mazumdar up to speed and pushing him to think about issues in the modern world. It was the first of quite a few classes he would take that would embrace the open curriculum available at Amherst.
While he did continue to be deeply involved with the sciences, majoring in Physics under Professor William Loinaz and conducting research after his sophomore year with Professor Jonathan Friedman, he decided after taking Macroeconomics with Professor Daniel Barbezat to tack on an Economics major to his already impressive résumé.
“Rohan would invariably come in to talk about his schedule for the next semester and be planning to take too many courses. Each semester I had to grill him about whether he thought it wise to take all those physics and economics classes,” recalled Barbezat. “[He is] a joyous overachiever.”
His overachieving did not stop at academics. “If there’s anybody who’s truly taken advantage of his or her time at Amherst, it’s Rohan,” claimed one of his best friends, Dana Kaufman ’12. Music has generally been an overarching theme, and he’s said to have been a constant figure in the music buildings these past few years.
One of the first things Mazumdar did at Amherst was join Glee Club once he saw their performance during orientation, and it became a constant part of his life for the next four years. He was business manager, president and community outreach manager and his “spirit and enthusiasm,” according to Mallorie Chernin, Director for Choral Society, “is one of his greatest contributions to Glee Club.”
During Orientation, Mazumdar also walked into a jazz jam session. He came out completely enthralled, having never been in a situation where musicians would just sit and “jam out.” Immediately enamored, he joined jazz as well, playing bass and guitar and getting together with other musicians to play at various events. His musical life didn’t stop here, however. He performed in “Sweeney Todd” for an interterm musical one year and joined Route 9 in his senior year. His solos have been numerous, but it is his contribution as a leader and advisor even in singing that has shown his generosity and importance to Amherst.
Indeed, it came as no surprise when Mazumdar was recipient of the Lincoln Lowell Russell Prize during Senior Assembly Awards, a prize awarded to “the senior who has done most to foster the singing spirit at Amherst.”
One of his biggest roles at Amherst is undoubtedly as a Resident Counselor. “The RCs in my building had a huge effect my freshman year and transition to college,” recalled Mazumdar. “I found RCs to be a great guide my time here and I wanted to give something back, so I applied to be a first-year RC.” As resident counselor, Mazumdar shone even more brilliantly as a student of the College.
He spent two years as a first-year RC, first in Stearns and then in James. “He kind of built up a whole community,” said Dylan Vasey, a second-floor resident who became part of Mazumdar’s community. “He’s very passionate and energetic about what he does, but he’s also very empathetic, thinking about other people and willing to be involved with other people and in people’s lives. Even though he was a junior and my RC, he treated me as an equal.”
As a first-year counselor, Mazumdar worked to help students transition into Amherst, move out of their comfort zones and excel, all the while giving them “delicious Indian food.” As an upperclass RC this year in King, he has supported his residents’ academically and socially, urging them to enjoy their last year at Amherst and helping them with their transition to life beyond Amherst. He’s been a leader on a staff of student leaders and a “tremendous resource to his residents and our department as a whole, despite being involved in a somewhat alarming number of extra-curricular activities,” according to Pamela Stawasz, Associate Director for Residential Life. It is no surprise that he was such an influential force to his residents, making life a richer experience for everyone around him.
His impactful presence at the College has made Mazumdar a figure that will be sorely missed by all. In his last year, Mazumdar has become a tour guide, taken a leap and joined Amherst Dance and become a representative of the student body as a senator. His extra-curricular activities have been as open and varied as his experiences here.
“It’s only sort of now, as I’m graduating as a senior, that I’ve realized how big an impact the liberal arts curriculum has been to me, especially when I compare my intellectual growth with people back home who went with more pre-professional programs. [But] the biggest part of being here has been the people. That’s been the richest part of my experience here.”
For him, it is the varying levels of interactions — late-night conversations with his closest friends, group discussions and debates in the classroom and everyday interactions with people one might see on a regular basis — that have taught him different things. Being part of a residential environment where people are willing to share and truly care about imparting something and receiving something back, he claimed, has been “huge in my development and maturity as a person.”
He has looked up to his seniors, gained insight from his peers and learned from the juniors that have come after him.
Amherst is a place that has taught Mazumdar to be comfortable with who he is, rather than to constantly try to prove himself. Because Amherst has broadened his visions, the way he looks at his future has broadened as well.
After graduation, Mazumdar will be heading to Connecticut to work at a consulting firm. When he thinks about what he wants the next few years of his life to look like, he said “There are a plethora of options at this point in time. I’m sort of still in the process