SAJA Announces 2017 Scholarships and Professional Development Fund

The South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) has announced the winners of 2017 SAJA Student Scholarship and Professional Development Funds. For the Student Scholarships, SAJA accepted applications from high school, undergraduate, and graduate students while working journalists were eligible to apply for the Professional Development Fund. A committee of judges declared the following applicants successful:

Undergraduate and Graduate Scholarships ($2,000 per recipient)

Padmini Parthasarathy, University of California Berkeley

Padmini Parthasarathy is a freelance writer and writing teacher based in New Orleans. She will be attending the University of California, Berkeley in the fall and pursuing a narrative writing track. Padmini writes about social movements and resistance and is continually fascinated by the politics of personhood. She is a first generation Indian-American, raised in Connecticut and educated at New York University. Her work has appeared in The Times of India, Huffington Post, Lenny Letter, and, among other publications. 

Astha Agarwal, University of British Columbia 

Astha Agarwal is a journalist, activist, and spoken word poet. Since 2014, Astha has been studying Economics at McGill University in Montreal, where she has reported for the McGill Tribune on issues including violence against indigenous women, support for refugees, and the state of democracy. She was named Massachusetts High School Journalist of the Year in 2014 and is a 2013 alumna of the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference at the Newseum/USA TODAY in Washington, D.C. Astha is excited to continue pursuing her lifelong passion for journalism and effecting social change, as a Masters student at the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in Vancouver.

Mehrunisa “Nisa” Khan, University of Michigan

Nisa is a rising junior at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has recently been accepted to the School of Information, and is planning to study both User Experience and English. Outside of school, Nisa is the Senior News Editor for the student-run, independent newspaper The Michigan Daily and is currently the 2017 Summer Editor in Chief. 

Aantaki Raisa, University of Florida

Aantaki Raisa will start her second MA in Health Communication at the Journalism School of University of Florida this fall. She is from Bangladesh and currently lives in Brooklyn. While working as community reporter in New York City, she discovered the struggles of the non-English speaking immigrant communities due to cultural, linguistic, and social differences in almost every aspect of life-healthcare, legal matters, or even grocery shopping. This motivated her to study in an  area that  develops communication strategies for different types of communities, especially in healthcare systems. Besides voicing the stories of the minorities, Aantaki loves writing, reading, traveling, photography, and movies. She is a big fan of life and wants to explore as much of it as she can. Twitter: @aantakiraisa

Disha Shetty, Columbia University 

Disha Shetty is a Health Correspondent for DNA in Mumbai. She has written about the spread of drug-resistant TB in rural India and followed closely the case of female foeticide in Maharashtra's Sangli district among others. A strong believer in Universal Health Care, she hopes to write more about maternal health in particular in future. She will be attending the MA in Science, Environment and Medicine Journalism program at Columbia University in the fall. She holds a Bachelors of Mass Media from Mumbai University and PG Diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. She was the recipient of REACH Media National Fellowship in 2016 and EurekAlert Fellowship in 2017.   

Srinivasa Padmavathy Sri Satya Kandala, Dartmouth University

Satya Kandala began writing at the age of 18 and has since written for numerous reputed news organizations such as The New York Times, The Economic Times, The Hindu and Scroll. Keen to delve into various forms of narratives such as short stories and non-fiction, she is beginning her MA in Liberal Studies in Creative Writing at Dartmouth College in the fall of 2017. She hopes to become a writer who excels at various forms of storytelling and is able to tell the extraordinary stories from her part of the world to a worldwide audience. 

High School Scholarships ($2,000 per recipient)

Tara Madhav, Palo Alto High School

Tara Madhav is a graduating senior at Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, California. Tara is passionate about telling the untold stories and shedding a light onto narratives that are hidden in plain sight. As the Editor-in-Chief of her Pacemaker-winning school magazine Verde, she has written and helped publish several investigative features, including a recent piece on an Office of Civil Rights investigation into the Palo Alto Unified School District. Tara has won awards for her writing from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the California Press Women’s Association and the Journalism Educator’s Association of Northern California. She is also the president of her school’s Model UN Club and the managing editor of Proof magazine, her school’s fine arts magazine. Tara will pursue a degree in Political Science and History at UC Berkeley in the fall. Twitter: @tara_madhav

Raqshan Khan, Tamalpais High School

Raqshan Khan is a high school senior from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California. She will be attending San Francisco State University in the fall to pursue both computer science and journalism. She is currently an Editor-in-Chief of her school publication, The Tam News, and for the past two years she has lead The Tam Broadcast Network (TBN), the fairly new video branch of The Tam News. Raqshan is passionate about social justice, especially racial inequality and inequity, and often channels that through journalism. She co-founded The Students of Color Club and Restorative Justice Club at her school in order to tackle issues of racial inequality and the punitive school system. Raqshan hopes to combine her interests in computer science and technology with her love for journalism and storytelling in order to bring about new forms of storytelling and enact change in the world. Twitter: @Raqshi_K

Anusha Shrivastava, SAJA President, congratulated all winners on behalf of the SAJA Board. “SAJA is committed to promoting high-quality journalism by providing scholarships to journalism students and supporting the professional development endeavors of working journalists,” she said. She urged friends and donors to support SAJA’s work through generous donations so that SAJA is able to provide financial assistance to journalism students and working journalists.

The SAJA Scholarships are made possible through generous contributions from the Krishna Kumar Gaur Scholarship Fund, the Arun I & Asmita Bhatia Foundation, and numerous individual and institutional donations. To donate to SAJA and help future scholarship classes, please click here.

Meet Our 2016 Scholarship Winners!

Graduate Scholarships - $5,000

Kazi Elman Awal, City University of New York

Kazi Awal is a

Master’s candidate at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalis

m in New York City. He is a native Brooklynite currently studying data visualizatio

ns/interactives and health and science reporting.  Fueled by a keen interest in finding the numbers that matter, he digs up data to unearth stories. He can also be found out on the s

treets, toting a DSLR, capturing moments unique to life in the insomniac city. Outside of journalism, though, there is nothing he enjoys more than the combination of good food, g


nd films, and gre

at friends.  

Aditi Malhotra, Columbia University

Aditi Malhotra is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau. She joined the Journal in New Delhi in December 2012, six days before news broke out that a 23-year-old woman had been raped by a group of six men in the city, suffering injuries so severe that she succumbed to them. Aditi delved deep into the crime and worked on some of the award-winning coverage of the Journal on crimes against women. Besides crime, she has reported on a wide-range of topics from human rights to education, health, technology, arts and culture. Beginning this fall, Aditi will be pursuing the MA program at Columbia Journalism School. She will be specializing in health and environment reporting.

Pathik Root, Columbia University

Tik Root is a freelance journalist. He’s worked in Yemen, Spain, Rwanda, Russia and the US covering everything from Al-Qaeda to youth issues and faith based environmentalism. His work has appeared with The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The Economist, among other outlets. He holds a B.A. in International Politics and Economics from Middlebury College. This fall he plans to pursue an M.A. in Journalism at Columbia University, with a concentration in Science, Health & the Environment.

Nani Sahra Walker, University of California, Berkeley

Nani Sahra Walker works as a filmmaker, user experience designer and social entrepreneur. She was awarded the San Francisco FilmHouse Residency for her feature documentary "Other Nature" (2012) on third gender rights in Nepal and received an MTV Video Music Award (2015) for production design in Fall Out Boy's music video "Uma Thurman." Nani reports for AJ+ as a freelance video journalist. In 2015, Nani founded, a non-profit aimed to empower displaced populations with training and education. She is currently exploring virtual reality storytelling and content strategy at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. 

Undergraduate Scholarships - $3,000

Nitisha Baronia, University of California, Berkeley

Nitisha is an undergraduate Regents' and Chancellor's Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Nitisha began her writing career with India West Newspaper as a high school student, and has loved journalism ever since. She currently serves as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Berkeley Political Review, the only non-partisan political publication on the vibrant campus. In addition to writing, Nitisha works as Policy Coordinator for the ASUC Student Advocate's Office, advocating for student clients on campus. She is passionate about Asian American civil rights issues, and hopes to use her scholarship to bring untold narratives to the journalistic spotlight.

Aruna Dutt, University of Western Ontario

Born in Washington, D.C. and growing up in Canada, Aruna's interest in journalism and social justice evolved as she traveled to developing countries, leading her to combine these passions by pursuing a double major in Media in the Public Interest and Global Development at Western University. She spent two months at the United Nations bureau of the Interpress Service news agency, reporting on various LGBT, gender, and aboriginal issues, international politics and human rights. Now she is a junior, returning to New York to report from the United Nations bureau, and is taking over as Editor-in-Chief of her college magazine, The Regis.

Sudhanshu Kaushik, New York University

Sudhanshu Kaushik is currently pursuing an international relations degree and a degree in journalism at New York University. He founded a nonprofit, Equality Initiative, which provides education to children in rural India. He also founded a South Asian Literary and Journal magazine alongside a YouTube news show, Mann Marzi. He’s currently working on a documentary on the Haryana Panchayati Amendment Act called Swaraj. He wants to be happy yesterday, caffeinated today, and helping people tomorrow.

Aditi Mayer, University of California, Irvine

Aditi Mayer is a sophomore at UC Irvine double majoring in Literary Journalism and International Studies. Her work as a photojournalist is largely motivated by issues of social justice, women's rights, and the South Asian diaspora. This Spring, she will be traveling to La Paz, Mexico to cover issues relating to girl's education and urban development. In addition to freelance reporting, she runs her own blog,, which highlights her photography, travel, and the intersection between style and social action.

Jasmine Rashid, Swarthmore College

Jasmine Rashid, born and raised on Long Island, graduated from Farmingdale High School and currently attends Swarthmore College, class of 2018. At Swarthmore College, Ms. Rashid is exploring academia through a variety of lenses, including Peace and Conflict Studies, Sociology, Political Science, and Behavioral Economics. From an early age, she has been dedicated to working towards justice in marginalized communities, and focuses much of her writing, passion, and action on exposing racial inequities, advocating the importance of gender equity, and detailing narratives of those strategizing against violence in South Asia and the global community at large. Additionally, Ms. Rashid is the creator of VISIBILITY Magazine, an online publication produced by the Swarthmore Intercultural Center.

Devi Shastri, Marquette University

Devi Shastri is a junior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she studies biomedical sciences, journalism and neuroscience. As a first-generation Indian-American, she takes pride in her ties to her Indian (Gujarati) roots and the Chicagoan lifestyle she was born and raised in. An aspiring science writer, she enjoys translating complicated topics for the general public. She aims to add a human element to every story and believes that scientific literacy is essential to social equality. She has interned for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, Marquette’s O’Brien Fellowship and will spend this summer in D.C. interning with Science Magazine.

High School Scholarship - $2,000

Elizabeth Varghese, Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School

Elizabeth Varghese is an Indian-American high school senior from Plainview-Old Bethpage, NY and will be attending the George Washington University’s 7-Year BA/MD Program in the fall. She is currently the editor-in-chief of her school’s newspaper, the Hawk Eye, and a writer for Brown Girl Magazine. Elizabeth is passionate about gender equality and social justice, as well as exploring the unknown through science research. She has spent many of her summers working in laboratories studying a variety of disciplines, from bioengineering to molecular biology. Elizabeth is also a Bharatanatyam dancer who loves to read during her spare time.

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