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Tuesday, March 7th

Academia, culture, and philanthropy are cornerstone of Rutgers tradition

Three decades ago, Prashanta Bordoloi, an international student from India, considered several state universities in the United States for his master’s in water resources engineering after reading a UNESCO publication on study abroad. After weighing many factors, Rutgers eventually gained an edge on the competition—for an often overlooked reason.

“It was the only state university named after a person,” he said.

The Cook College alum is now the outreach director and head of civil engineering at Assam Kazaringa University in Johrat, India. He credits the academic, philanthropic, and cultural experiences at Rutgers—and the dedication of the Rutgers faculty—as his inspiration to pursue his career in higher education. 

“I came to Rutgers from fall 1987 to spring 1989, majoring in water resources engineering and biological and agricultural engineering. I remember Mark Singley, a respected professor emeritus who, at the time, was guiding his 49th—and last—Ph.D. scholar. Then, there was Bill Roberts, who was a renowned expert on greenhouse technology, and George Nieswand, who introduced us to artificial intelligence.”

When he’s not teaching, Bordoloi’s working on creating partnerships with international institutions to help “bring experiences back to the classroom.”

“In the United States, I discovered big hearts,” said Bordoloi. “Apart from discipline and punctuality, I learned sharing and caring for the disadvantaged from the philanthropic spirit of the Rutgers community. I came to Rutgers in the 1980s to learn mathematical models to address wastewater flooding and erosion issues in my home state—people were becoming displaced because of it. Now, I address regional problems related to water resource engineering in India.”

Even in the 1980s, the issues that international students faced, were uniquely different from those that incoming domestic students must navigate. Bordoloi said he was fortunate to have a background in English, so many of the language issues experienced by international students didn’t inhibit his studies.

“In India, our medium of instruction is English, so I mingled quite seamlessly,” he said.

Even though language didn’t present an issue, another obstacle did. Though Bordoloi had traveled extensively to Europe for touristic and academic purposes, coming to the United States and Rutgers for four years taught him to overcome culture shock. 

“The U.S. is a material world, and the tone of spirituality rings like background music,” said Bordoloi, but reflected that his friends and classmates were quick to accept him into social circles, and it taught him to reciprocate the gesture, especially when it came to food.

“I met many friends and classmates…so, I accepted everything in the U.S. culture that seemed strange to me with equal grace,” he said. “Thanks to those experiences, people now consider me a man with an open mind.”

He recounted the simple experience of sharing a meal with nine other students who lived in his apartment.

“Being from America, many of them never had an Indian meal,” he said, “and they tried my curry and liked it! So, I showed them how to cook it themselves.”

Bordoloi is one of many international alumni taking part in a six-episode TV series, “Rutgers Around the World,” celebrating the university’s global connections and roots. The show, which will premiere for a 24-hour run on Sep.15, was created by Rutgers Global (formerly the GAIA Centers) and filmed at ITV Studio in Piscataway, N.J. Bordoloi, along with other international alumni, will appear on the show during an alumni party in India.

“I am very happy to be a part of Rutgers 250th anniversary. I get to be a part of the moment.”

All three university locations will celebrate the premiere at three simultaneous viewing parties. Interested attendees can RSVP at global.rutgers.edu/events/Rutgers-250.

Contact Carissa Sestito at csestito@global.rutgers.edu for more information.