Pulkit Datta (Class of 2008)

photo of Pulkit DattaOriginally from India, Pulkit Datta organized the film series "Bollywood Calling." Pulkit also was coordinator of the 2006 Ernst Fall Festival.

Update Fall 2011: After graduation, Pulkit attended NYU in film studies. His first documentary, The Forgetting Game, premiered in New York City in 2011 and was selected to be part of the prestigious New Filmmakers series at Anthology Film Archives.

"The entire environment—students, professors, staff, and even the history—of Western is geared towards coming up with innovative ideas and pursuing uncharted ways."

What helped you choose the Western College Program?

"I was attracted by the uniqueness of Western. Initially, the idea of creating my own major based on interdisciplinary learning seemed radical. But as I began reading about the program, I discovered that it was ideal for someone like me who has varied interests and wanted to somehow fuse everything together. So, I chose Western because I was driven by the desire to chart my own educational career."

What were some of the surprises that you encountered as you settled in the community?

"I came from pretty traditional schooling, so the casual atmosphere in the classrooms was what struck me first. At Western, the professors purposely create a level playing field so the exchange of knowledge goes in all directions. I've been in plenty of seminars where the professor admitted to learning something new from his/her students that day."

What have you enjoyed most about Western?

"I was surrounded by people who had one fundamental trait in common: the pioneering vision to create their own course of study. I made my closest friends here—individuals whose interests and opinions are fascinatingly diverse, yet who also harbor the desire to further expand their worldviews."

Reflecting upon your time at Western, what have you learned and what do you think the value has been?

"The most important thing I learned is the sheer importance and potential of thinking 'out of the box.' The entire environment—students, professors, staff, and even the history—of Western is geared towards coming up with innovative ideas and pursuing uncharted ways. This, I think, is an invaluable skill to have in today's world because it undoubtedly flows into every aspect of our lives—academic, personal, and professional."

Miami emphasizes the importance of being an 'engaged learner.' With that in mind, how would you characterize your interaction with your professors and classmates?

"I suppose the opposite of being an 'engaged learner' would be a passive learner. And being passive will never really do much good, in the classroom or outside.

"At Miami, and especially at Western, classes are very dynamic. I usually categorize classes as good or bad based on how interactive they are and how involved the students are in the learning. And at Western, the seminars and even the lectures were always engaging.

"Students are encouraged to be vocal, contribute to the syllabus, and just shape the course the way that it works for them. In most seminars I could have discussions with professors with no reservations about traditional hierarchy in the classroom. The professors are keen to learn and very flexible to change."

Have you had research/special opportunities made available to you through Miami, and if so, what was that experience like?

"One of Miami's strongest assets is the ever-increasing number of students opting for study abroad. I spent a semester in Brighton, England, and worked as a peer advisor in the study abroad office.

"The emphasis that the university places on giving students an international experience is truly commendable. The process of finding a suitable study abroad program is only getting easier and the number of choices is widening. I can confidently say I had a great time, academically and personally, in England."

How would you evaluate your education at Miami and the kinds of opportunities you've been able to pursue here?

"For a medium-sized, red-brick university campus planted in the middle of corn fields and more corn fields, Miami has an amazing wealth of opportunities.

"I believe my education at Miami was a healthy mix of structured foundations and creative freedom. Through Miami's curriculum, specifically at Western, I was able to take strides in learning outside the classroom using the critical thinking that we practiced so often in seminars.

"I was able to take leadership positions in student organizations, organize entire campus events from start to finish, and also build solid relationships with both instructors and fellow students to form a resourceful and helpful network."

As you reflect upon the courses you have taken to meet Western and Miami requirements, how would you evaluate them? Have any of them been especially valuable to you?

"Maybe I choose my courses well or I've just been lucky, but I enjoyed the vast majority of courses I took at Miami. And if I enjoyed a course that means I definitely took something away from it.

"Perhaps the most valuable have been those that were related to film, television, theatre, and literature. Since I focused on mass media (specifically film) during college, I gained a wealth of knowledge in some courses that cemented my desire to eventually become a filmmaker."

What extracurricular activities have you been active in through the university? Have you been able to take on leadership roles in these activities?

"I was extensively involved in numerous extracurricular activities. These include active involvement in the Indian Students Association, AIESEC (international exchange organization), MAFIA (student filmmakers association), Oxford Food Pantry, Western Community Council, Scholar Leader Program, Miami University TV, The Miami Student newspaper, the Human Rights and Social Justice Day planning, and several more."

[February 2009]