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Prajacta Kulkarni

Growing up, I was always taught the importance of education and was encouraged to get a post-secondary degree. However as a teacher, I realized that not all students receive the same type of support and encouragement. I honestly believe that with a little extra help and support, every student can be successful in college.

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and in 2014 I graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) with a Bachelor of Arts in English. I was fortunate enough to land a job as a high school English teacher. While working with my students, I realized that there needs to be a stronger support system for students as they transition into college. This lead to my search for a master’s program that focused on student support in college and ultimately my move to Seattle.

While attending graduate school here at UW, I worked as an academic advisor at Seattle Central College advising a wide range of students on a daily basis. I graduated with my M.Ed. in 2017, and I am excited to be back on campus as part of Academic Support Programs.

Fun Facts: I love to travel, read, cook/bake, watch sports, and hang out with my friends and family.

Please stop by, and let me know what I can do to help you here at the University of Washington. 

(206)-543-7547

pkulka@uw.edu

Prajacta Kulkarni: Leading with empathy, equity, and inclusion for students of different identities and backgrounds

[Writer’s Note: Prajacta was appointed the CLUE Program manager in Oct. 2017, but her commitment to creating an inclusive environment for students has been a part of her mission for much longer! We did a Q&A with her to learn more about what brought her to CLUE, her past experience in academic support, and what she hopes to accomplish in this role.]

What brought you to CLUE as a program manager?

Prior to being a grad student, I taught ninth grade English at a low income school. My students really opened my eyes to the fact that when students go to college, not everyone gets the same resources that they need. Additionally, students don’t always know what resources are available to them … This school district was definitely an eye-opener, and I realized that I would be better suited to help students graduate from college or transition to college instead.

I like that UW is a really big research university, and I like that they not only pay attention to their grad students and PhD students, but they also pay attention to their undergrad students and freshman students. Retention from freshman to sophomore year is usually the hardest to achieve. Having support services like CLUE or FIGs helps create a smaller atmosphere for students and makes them feel welcome at a really big university like UW.

What are your motivations for working with first-year students? 

That goes back to the students I was teaching. A lot of them were the first in their family to graduate from high school, so they would be the first generation in their family to go to college. Working with these students, I realized that they don’t have anyone to rely on when it comes to asking for help or signing up for classes. I want to make sure that first generation students know the resources available to them, and do everything I can as an educator to make sure they’re successful.

Do you have an education philosophy that you keep in mind and bring to this role?

My biggest one is to not let my differences or beliefs get in the way of helping students. I believe that every student deserves the best education that they can get, so I try to put my biases aside. Equity is also an important value of mine, especially working in the environment I did prior to grad school. Making sure that every student has access to the same number of resources is not enough. I focus on being aware of that and making sure that I am diligently making choices to help every student thrive.

What’s your role in supporting students of color, and how does this relate to your identity?

My parents are from India. Especially with Asian parents, there’s this set mindset that you’re going to go to college and choose a STEM major. I want to show students of color, especially SE Asian students, that there are so many options out there. Freshman year is a time to explore different options. Society has specific views for people of color, so it’s important to tell students, ‘it’s OK if you want to do something outside of what’s considered ‘normal.’ You only have one life, so you might as well make the most of it.’

My parents did a good job about this. They told me, ‘whatever you choose, give your 100% and that’s all we can ask. This was something that made me more confident.

If I can be a source of motivation or guidance for students in the same way, I’d be grateful for that

What kind of experience do you want to create for students?

When we do drop-in, you never know what students are coming in … the most important is making them feel welcome. There can be a negative stereotype associated with getting help, but we believe that getting tutored is a proactive way to seek support. We’re here to help people figure out how they learn best and take these strategies and be successful on their own. It’s like teaching in that way.

What do you like about CLUE as a student resource?

I really like the impact CLUE has on UW, which I realized when I was looking at the number of check-ins we had. If we can get more student and professors aware of what we do, it’s going to help a lot more students. I also like that CLUE is a late night study space because not every student has time between the hours of 8 and 5.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add or share?

When I get really stressed, I walk around the CLUE space and listen in on the different conversations. It helps me get a visual of how students we are helping. Even though back end and scheduling can be challenging, seeing all the students we’re helping and knowing that we were able to help keeps me the big picture in mind.