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Shama Rahman '13 Named Fifth
21st-century Scholar

June 4, 2013

Shama Rahman

Name and Class Year: Shama Rahman, 2013
Hometown: Fresh Meadows, NY
High School: Townsend Harris High School, Flushing, NY
Major: Economics
Minor: Art History
Concentration: Museum Studies
Campus Activities: Marketing Assistant at Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA)
Communications Assistant for Smith College Narratives of Dress Symposium
Senior Interviewer at Office of Admission
Student Representative for College Council on Community Policy (CCCP)
Student Representative for the Technology Steering Committee
Student Academic Liaison for BRIDGE Pre-Orientation Program
Alumnae Reunion Ambassador
STRIDE Research Assistant in Philosophy
Former Chair of Student Museum Advisory Council
Former Chair of SGA Elections & Appointments Committee


Last Movie Seen in Theaters: Anna Karenina (with fellow 21st-century Scholar, Olivia Capello, and friends from Chapin House!)

Favorite Movie: Charade

Favorite Song: "Hit 'Em Up Style" by Blu Cantrell, as well as the cover by The Carolina Chocolate Drops

Smith House: Scales House

Last Book Read: Chasing Aphrodite by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

Favorite Book: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Hobbies/Interests: Photography, Modern Art, Social History, letter-writing, storytelling, and re-living the 90's through my music choices

Favorite Place on Campus: During the winter months I hide out in the atrium of the Brown Fine Arts building, halfway between SCMA and Hillyer. The minute it gets warm out, you can find me on a bench in front of Paradise Pond.

Favorite Campus Dining Location King/Scales (from a purely objective point of view)

Fondest Smith Memory So Far: Some of my favorite memories during my college years have taken place off-campus with incredible current Smithies and Smith alums. As a junior, I was lucky enough to gallivant around Washington, DC with a couple of my (now) closest classmates while we interned at various museums through Smith's Internship Program at the Smithsonian Institution. It was truly a semester to remember as we worked with premiere curators in the field, learned to live on our own with some interesting characters from around the country, took a class with one of my favorite Smith alums from the class of '95, and discovered a new city for four months.

This past January, I was fortunate enough to receive an International Experience Grant (IEG) from Smith to study museum marketing in Paris & London for two weeks, and again I was not alone in my adventures. My time in Paris overlapped with the breaks of two friends in the Paris JYA program and the travel plans of a third headed to Geneva for her spring semester, so I was able to discover another new city with three of my best friends. It was surreal to photograph rooms in Versailles, eat crepes in front of the Eiffel Tower, and scour outdoor markets in Montparnasse, but it was even more incredible to do it all with my neighbors from Scales House.

While in Paris, I met with multiple alumnae connected to the museum world, who were not only generous enough to help me with my research, but also invite me into their homes for meals. In London, the Alumnae Association helped me contact the Smith College Club of the UK, who funded most of my travel grant and also invited me to present my museum research at their annual dinner. The alums were warm, brilliant, inviting, and nostalgic for their own days living in the Quad and sunbathing on Chapin lawn, which proved to me that the Smith community truly does extend beyond our physical campus.

Favorite Quote: "A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it." —Rabindranath Tagore

Where did you grow up and what was life like there?
I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and lived in Harare, Zimbabwe for a couple of years before I moved to Queens, NY. I have lived in New York City for most of my life and my schooling, so I definitely consider it home. Living in Queens is an experience that typical "diversity posters" try to emulate — one where you are exposed to people of all different cultural, socio-economic, political, and religious backgrounds. Our incredible public transportation system makes it easy for many to have access to great cultural institutions, taste authentic food from around the world, and avoid learning how to drive, which is why I still do not have a learner's permit. I wouldn't have wanted to live anywhere else and plan on moving back after graduation.

Describe your family.
People say it takes a village to raise a child and my family definitely adheres to that philosophy. Although I owe everything to my parents and their incredible support, I also owe a lot to my uncles, aunts, and grandparents who have helped get me to this point in life, emotionally, physically, and logistically.

My mother is the hardest working, most comforting, and smartest woman in my life. She successfully started her own small business with my father and has worked nearly every day since we moved to New York City to give us as comfortable a life as possible. My dad is my primary sounding board and the biggest supporter of my dreams to explore the unknown. I would not have had the courage to take risks if he didn't push me to be ambitious, so I am eternally grateful for them both. My older sister makes up the last part of our foursome, and she truly embodies the meaning of dedication to her field. I could not have asked for anything more in both my nuclear and extended families, and for that I am truly grateful.

What was high school like? Who inspired you?
I was extremely fortunate to attend a small, humanities-focused magnet school in New York City with great facilities and motivated students. It was a constant balancing act to juggle schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but my experience both in and out of the classroom served as great preparation for my undergraduate career. I also had a debate coach and a handful of English teachers who truly inspired me to continue my interest in writing and were big driving forces behind my decision to attend Smith.

What Smith professors, coaches or advisors have inspired you?
I am so thankful for the mentors I have met and developed relationships with during my time at Smith from the moment I got to campus. My STRIDE advisor Jay Garfield helped me think broadly about my interests, explore the open curriculum with great recommendations for classes, and helped me secure my first marketing internship. I was grateful he and Professor Nalini Bhushan trusted a first year to go through the book publishing process with them, taking my feedback seriously along the way, and am constantly thankful they helped pave my path at Smith.

Barbara Kellum is my minor advisor and is one of the most positive people I have met during my time here. She has not only helped me do well in the classroom, but has been a constant source of support since I came back from the Smithsonian program last spring. She believes her students can do anything they set their minds to and has given me unparalleled advice about my assignments, postgraduate plans, time management skills, and life in general. Barbara came on a Saturday morning to watch me present at the Women for the World Conference, and then spent the weekend writing a recommendation for my application to study abroad during winter break. Her dedication to all students has inspired me to work hard and dream big, which I think is unique to our school setting.

Like Barbara, Jessica Nicoll, who serves as the Director of the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA), has come to see me present multiple times and has been a sounding board for all of my "professional" inquiries and dilemmas. When I was worried about securing something for the summer, Jessica sent me a list of helpful starting points in the midst of her busy schedule, and when I couldn't decide between two very exciting opportunities, she was there again to help me make my choice. My supervisor Margi Caplan (Marketing Director at SCMA) has also served as a great mentor within the Museum, giving me the chance to work as her assistant before I gained significant experience, putting faith in my abilities by assigning meaningful projects, and being incredibly excited about the opportunities I have been lucky to experience during my time here. She has always made herself accessible in both professional and personal ways, acting as a maternal figure while I am physically away from home.

There is one person who does not fit into a category of professor, coach, or advisor per se, but emulates traits from all three of those categories in her role as director of the Lazarus Center for Career Development. Stacie Hagenbaugh is one of the main reasons I am living my dream of working in marketing. During my first year at Smith, I told Stacie that I wanted to combine my interest in art and economics, but had no idea where to start. She helped me brainstorm ways to get my foot through the door and achieve my wildest dreams in a realistic way. She has involved me in multiple opportunities and continues to provide sound advice on my dilemmas, insecurities, and questions about my career path. Like all of the other incredible mentors I mentioned, she has been a constant source of encouragement, and I cannot imagine my Smith experience without her.

What are your plans after Smith?
Right after graduation I will be working as an independent marketing consultant for an arts organization called ARTstor in New York City. I am excited to start my post-graduate career in the field I want to ultimately end up in (arts marketing), but I am not afraid to take some detours along the way. I am passionate about using marketing as a tool of increasing accessibility to art and believe a great way to do that is by learning promotional practices from different fields, bringing what I learn from agencies and/or profitable companies back to the nonprofit realm. I hope to work a lot, break for business school, and return to the museum world after that.

Outside of my "professional" plans, I hope to travel as often as possible. I have a voucher for one free roundtrip Eurostar ticket that expires next January, so I am trying to plan a trip in the fall around it.

What perspective would you share with alumnae?
My Smith experience has been magical throughout. I have been able to achieve things here that I never even dreamt of achieving - they were that extraordinary to me. Smith has funded all of my amazing work experiences, from providing a Praxis stipend that allowed me to work with a Smith alumna at Oxford University Press, to a Brown Grant through the Museums Concentration that allowed me to intern at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. If Smith had not helped subsidize my unpaid internships, I would have never gained the work skills I have been lucky to experience. Smith also helped me travel to Europe through the International Experience Grant, allowing me to explore a different part of the world that would have been financially impossible during my undergraduate years without generous support from pools of money on our campus. Help the dreams of future Smithies come true by donating to a fund that resonates with you and know that we are incredibly grateful for your generosity, no matter the size of your gift. I can say from firsthand experience that your donations truly make a difference.