For those who knew Miraj Desai as a student at Miami University, it will come as no surprise that he continues to pursue amazing learning opportunities in his post-Miami pursuits. A class of 2004 University Honors Program graduate and Harrison Scholar with a psychology major and economics minor, Miraj continues to provide a wonderful example of how honors students balance challenging academic work with plenty of extra-curricular involvement before turning these activities into lifelong pursuits.
Among his extracurricular pursuits while attending Ohio’s “Public Ivy”, Miraj was a member of the Indian Students Association, Residence Life-Community Outreach, the Scholar Leader Program, and the Urban Leadership Internship Program. He was also a dedicated member of the Lyceum, a university program focused on bringing cultural and intellectual programming to Miami.
Traveling at one point across the Atlantic, Miraj participated in the Selwyn Cambridge program, connecting him with interdisciplinary scholarly research abroad. He fully explored what the experience had to offer, including discussing his independent research with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. He also met plenty of interesting folks, joined the Selwyn basketball team, interacted with visiting Miami fellow William McGrew and other supervisors, and completely immersed himself in a foreign learning environment. This program especially allowed Miraj to visualize how he could influence real life situations that were important to him through social policy, scholarship, and practical action.
Returning to the States, Miraj connected with Miami Psychology professor Roger Knudson, who was instrumental in piquing Miraj’s interest in qualitative methods and the relationships between social structures and psychological processes. Instilling what Miraj calls the “scholarly bug” in him, Dr. Knudson helped Miraj blend his academic interests with on-the-ground, practical, clinical components where he could see his efforts take shape.
Since he graduated, Miraj has applied to a graduate program that integrates all his interests into one program as a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at Fordham University in New York. He has already completed his Masters with the help of mentor Dr. Frederick Wertz and has been a recipient of the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship and the Phi Kappa Phi graduate fellowship. For the past two years, when he was not teaching courses, Miraj worked with a non-governmental organization called Sangath to study autism in India. This offered Miraj the chance to research how parents indigenously understand and experience caring for a child with autism.
And Miraj’s future remains bright: he will soon complete a clinical/community internship at Yale, working in outpatient services at the Connecticut Mental Health Center. He plans to use this opportunity to explore person-centered, community-based approaches to mental health.
Reflecting on his experiences, Miraj notes the impact of Miami University and the Honors Program on his recent activities: “[For] a lot of the things I’ve been able to do in New York and grad school, Miami fostered the ‘habit’ of finding the things [I am] interested in and pursuing how to make them happen.”
He considers Miami’s learning opportunities – exceptional access to professors and plenty of constructive learning where one can learn his or her own abilities and limits and creatively adapt them to various contexts – a critical component to his current success.
Miraj remains close with many of his Miami friends and will actually be attending weddings this year for two of his past roommates – one of whom is a Miami merger! As Miraj finishes his current academic pursuits, he has left the door a little open for what the next few years will look like. One option is post-doctorate work in his current area of study: community- and person-centered psychology with a cultural focus. Overall, he would like to continue to work within a university setting with a strong emphasis on practical action and social change.
You can find more information about Miraj’s work with Sangath here: http://www.sangath.com/details.php?nav_id=39