|Ruma Chatterji helps a boy fasten to his hand the butterfly he colored as part of Chatterji's science lesson.|
As recipient of the Civic Engagement Scholarship, Clarion University junior Ruma Chatterji has expectations to fulfill. The scholarship pays her tuition and fees for an academic year in exchange for service to the community. The scholarship was initiated by Al Lander ('74) and his wife, Jan, to encourage students to work with the community.
In applying for the scholarship, Chatterji proposed working with local first graders, introducing scientific concepts including conservation, simple biological processes and the evolution of animals.
“I’m not an education major, but I love children,” said Chatterji, an environmental biology major with minors in psychology and sustainability management.
She spent Fridays during the spring semester in the first grade classrooms of Clarion Elementary, where she taught lessons and reinforced them with projects and activities. Her time with the students culminated with an April nature walk, which brought to life the concepts they learned.
Chatterji is no stranger to volunteering her time. She works with AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs that engage Americans in intensive service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment. Through AmeriCorps, Chatterji serves as residential coordinator for Clarion’s Upward Bound program during the academic year.
She’s happy to give back to Clarion University and the community, both of which have been so welcoming to her.
Chatterji was born in New York City, where she lived until she was 9 years old, when her family moved back to their native India. First her sister, then she, returned to the United States for college. She researched and applied to schools with strong biology programs. She was accepted at 16 of them but chose Clarion because of the immediate connection she felt with the university community. Chatterji said right away they treated her like family, supporting and advising her.
Now, she’s more certain than ever that she made the right choice.
Chatterji is working with Dr. Suzie Boyden, professor of community and forest ecology, researching 10-year impacts on shelter wood and forest wood and comparing old growth and new growth forests, and she works in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Keth, professor of forensic and conservation biology, learning research techniques.
“My advisor wasn’t kidding when she said Clarion has a lot of opportunities,” Chatterji said. “Starting out as a freshman and getting to do research is something you don’t get a chance to do at other colleges.”
Outside of her academic responsibilities and service commitments, Chatterji is a community assistant at Campus View suites. When she finds spare time, there’s always a way to fill it.
“There’s so much to do on campus. I’ve never had to worry about being bored.”