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Passion for civic engagement and cultural education drives Killam Fellowship winner

Anusha Natarajan

History and sociology major Anusha Natarajan.

October 01, 2021

Anusha Natarajan is a dual major working towards a bachelor’s in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and a bachelor’s in sociology from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, as well as a student in Barrett, The Honors College.

Just starting her third year at Arizona State University, she has wasted no time building her resume with projects, scholarships, internships, clubs and research. 

“I am interested in a lot of things and just how society works in general, and I enjoy looking into how the past influences the present and future, in addition to learning more about the history of our world,” Natarajan said. “There is a plethora of research opportunities for me to be involved in, especially for foreign policy and law.”

Natarajan recently completed the Capital Scholars Program, a summer internship in Washington, D.C., through the School of Politics and Global Studies, where she was able to choose an organization of interest to work for. Natarajan chose to intern at the Madison Group, a lobbying firm dedicated to building relationships with clients from all levels of government. 

Although the internship was held virtually this year, she still had a great experience and developed new skills for her future.

“It was a great experience for me because I had not learned much about lobbying, and this internship really taught me more about it,” Natarajan said. “It definitely helped me keep up with the news a lot better because I was writing memos on the congressional hearings and my portfolio focused on education and the infrastructure bill.”

Now that she has completed the Capital Scholars Program, she is getting ready for her Killam Fellowship to begin in spring 2022. The Killam Fellowships Program provides an opportunity for exceptional undergraduate students to spend either one semester or a full academic year as an exchange student in Canada.

As one of four students from Barrett, The Honors College, to be selected for this fellowship, Natarajan will spend next semester in Ottawa at Carleton University to enrich her knowledge of U.S.-Canada relations in history and foreign policy.

“I am still in awe with this opportunity just because of the amazing professional and academic opportunities it provides me after I complete the program,” Natarajan said. “I am looking forward to seeing how the U.S. and Canada work together because it was not talked about a lot in my classes in high school.”

She applied to the fellowship as a freshman, thinking it would be a long shot, but after using the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement as a resource to guide her through the application process and several drafts of personal statements, she found the work worth it. 

“The application process really helped me learn more about myself and what I am passionate about,” Natarajan said. “It also led me to change my major to sociology. Overall, the application process helped narrow my focus on my passion on human rights, specifically in education and cultural diplomacy.”

In the meantime, Natarajan will serve as a research fellow for the Center on the Future of War, where she will be doing research on Indigenous culture and history for a book on Indigenous life in the U.S. and Canada.

Aside from her fellowships and internships, Natarajan is very involved at ASU. She works for the student-run newspaper, The State Press, as a diversity officer and helped lead a council on trying to improve diversity and inclusion efforts in the newspaper’s coverage. She also co-leads a coalition to improve university-wide civic engagement efforts.

She is also the editor-in-chief and co-founder of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies Digital Humanities Journal, an online journal for ASU students to publish their research in history, philosophy and religious studies, which launched in the spring. 

Her passion for civic engagement and cultural education led her to start an organization in 2020 called Culture Talk, which seeks to educate the larger community about culture in six areas: heritage, trends, history, law, geography and government.

“Coming into college, I became very interested in figuring out how I can do a better job in educating people more about culture,” Natarajan said. “This year, I have been focusing on trying to get clubs started in schools to bring these conversations on culture. We have also been working with the State Department, American Spaces in giving presentations to English-speaking clubs on topics such as heritage months and national holidays, like Juneteenth.”

With a busy year ahead, Natarajan is excited to continue these endeavors and hopes to get more people involved in education and discussions of culture. 

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