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Award-winning stu- dent advocate Sumun Pendakur

recently Sumun Pendakur

joined Harvey Mudd College as the associ- ate dean for institu- tional diversity. Re- cently, as director for Asian Pacific Ameri- can Student Services at the University of Southern California, she helped develop Project Remix, which addresses the issues and experiences of those from bi-racial

and multiracial backgrounds. In 2010, Pendakur won the Stu- dent Affairs Administrators’ NASPA Gold Excellence Award for her work on the project. At HMC, Pendakur will collaborate with Associate Dean for

Diversity Darryl Yong ’96, Assistant Dean Angelica Ybarra and all members of the campus community to support “unsurpassed excellence and diversity at all levels.”

What was your educational experience like, particularly as an Asian-American woman?

structures that are supposed to be about enlightenment, I think you grow a lot. I didn’t figure out that I wanted to be in student affairs until a few years later when I realized I would have loved someone to have been an ally and advocate for me on my journey.

How have those experiences shaped you as a mentor and educa- tional leader?

My experiences have taught me a lot about listening and about knowing that students are in different places on their own de- velopmental journeys. It can be difficult to survive in traditional educational institutions because there are so many norma- tive patterns of behavior and expectations. A lot of that comes around class as well as social and cultural capital. Some students have access to that, and some don’t due to a variety of historical circumstances. Helping students figure out more about themselves and the

world around them as well as how to make an impact in the world is very exciting to me. Also helping students to really ar- ticulate what it means to be a student of color, a queer student, a working-class student—any of these constructs have meaning, and they impact our lived experiences. Tose are all identities that, to me, are sources of strength. But for some people, they could be seen as a barrier or a weakness.

First job: Personal shopper at a grocery store

A lot of my educational experience was forged out of a combination of fantas- tic teachers and also conflict, particu- larly in college, when I was really com- ing into my own as a student activist and finding my voice as a person of color, as a feminist and as a political being. I came up against the administration when we were struggling for ethnic studies at my undergraduate alma ma- ter, particularly Asian-American studies, and tried to find a place to say, “our stories and our history are part of this American tapestry, so why aren’t we represented?” In that environment, where you question the educational

Glad I did it, but wouldn’t do it again: Took an 11-city tour in India,

plus Singapore in just 30 days. Planes, trains, automobiles and rickshaws.

Absolutely exhausting, but totally worth it.

What do you hope to achieve at HMC? I think we have a tremendous oppor- tunity here at Mudd. We need to cre- ate more pathways to better recruit and retain African-American and other students of color, first-generation col- lege students, low-income students and other students who traditionally get left out of the education pipeline, particu-

larly in STEM fields. We also need to look at how our students on campus interact and learn from one another. Tat goes for faculty and staff, too. Also, regarding the culture on campus, when people think about Harvey Mudd, do they think this is a great place for people of diverse backgrounds to go and to get a top-notch education? And, if that’s not the case, what do we do about it?

Staf f News

FALL/WINTER 2012 Har vey Mudd College


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