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Candidate Statements for 2013-14 SAJA Board

2012-11-17 3:23 PM | Jigar Mehta

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Nausheen Husain


Though I started as a New York-based SAJA member, I am running for the SAJA board from the West coast.  I studied Journalism and Middle Eastern Studies at NYU and am now a graduate student of journalism at  University of  California ,  Berkeley . A 2011 recipient of the SAJA internship fund, I have a special interest in covering issues relating to  South Asia  and the American Muslim community. I have reported for a variety of organizations, including Oakland North, Suburban Life Publications, the Huffington Post, Newsweek International and Reader’s Digest.


Since I will be based in  Berkeley ,  California  for the next two years, I’d like to represent SAJA in northern California  by planning and implementing events for students of journalism, media and communications. Since most SAJA members are based in the northeast, I am specifically interested in promoting SAJA membership in the West and making this organization a resource and asset for the West-based South Asian journalist community. We need more events, collaboration and programming in the West to grow our establishment.


As a student, I will have access to the student population in northern  California . In the past three months, I have already made connections with  Berkeley ’s South Asian and Muslim communities, and there are many student journalists here looking for guidance and opportunities for networking. I’d like to be a point person for these students and I know I can do that with the support of the wider SAJA community. I would like to serve on our board to create a wider and more connected SAJA.

To learn more about me, see my resume and read through my clips, please visit my online portfolio.


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Shefali S. Kulkarni


I joined SAJA in 2003 as a graduating high school senior embarking on a career in journalism. Since then, I’ve worked at a variety of media outlets-- from Dallas Morning News to The Village Voice to my current job as a reporter for Kaiser Health News in  Washington   D.C.  And my participation in SAJA is an integral part of my journalistic path.

As a college student I attended the national conventions in  New York . I blogged about a variety of South Asian-relevant topics like the 2008 presidential election, Desi women in the fashion industry and a Q&A with singer Jay Sean. I turned to SAJA for resume help, to meet inspirational leaders in the media industry, and to get unique story ideas.

As a graduate student at  Columbia   University ’s  Journalism   School , I organized SAJA meetings, trips to The New York Times, a multicultural potluck and brought speakers like author Basharat Peer.  Today, I help SAJA student members find internships and jobs through our growing Facebook group, promote SAJA events through social media and volunteer for various SAJA events.

In  Washington , I coordinate with board members of SAJA to organize happy hours and talks, helped with our first DC-based national convention, judge scholarship applications and network with local journalism schools.

As a board member, I would revamp SAJA’s blog ( and increase student involvement. Furthermore, I’d promote the benefits of SAJA using social media, face-to-face networking and collaborate with other minority journalism groups as well as other South Asian groups to help expand our membership. I've seen SAJA grow, not just in numbers, but into a well-respected organization. This organization plays a vital role in my career, but I want to ensure that it will continue to help aspiring journalists.


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Jigar Mehta


I am asking for your support in 2012 SAJA Board election. It would be an honor to continue to serve our membership. During my previous two terms on the board (including two years as President), I've helped to revamp many of the core SAJA programs from the awards to reporting fellowships to our annual gala. Also been involved with the redesign of our fundraising efforts to focus more on challenges, we are about to launch our second one, the SAJA Broadcasting challenge.


My association with SAJA started when I was a grad student at UC Berkeley. After attending my first convention I became a life member. I went on to be a SAJA Reporting Fellow, creating a multimedia story about the aftermath of the 2005 Tsunami in  Sri Lanka . After helping at local SAJA events and participating in membership outreach, I decided to accelerate my involvement by joining the board.


As our industry faces challenges, it is important for SAJA to evolve and stay relevant. As we approach our 20th anniversary, I want to help drive the conversation of what SAJA looks like in the next 20 years for our members. I hope you elect me to the board so I can continue to work for you – the members.


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Raakhee Mirchandani


I'm Raakhee Mirchandani and I'm asking for your vote in the next SAJA election. I'm currently the Fashion Editor and Deputy Features Editor at the NY Daily News. When I'm not playing with shoes inside the fashion closet, on-set with Snooki or Steve Madden or waxing poetic about lip gloss, chances are you'll find me hunched over my laptop handling SAJA business. No, really. I field hundreds of SAJA-related e-mails a week and I love it.

In 2011, my first year on the board, I helped plan the convention and gala awards dinner, SAJA's marquee event. As convention co-chair I helped organized everything from a full-day of panels and speakers to logistical issues. This year, I was instrumental in helping to bring the SAJA gala and awards ceremony to D.C. With my convention co-chairs Amita Parashar and Sharaf Mowjood, we were able to take the event to the nation's capital and engage SAJA members in a whole new way.


Our decision to move the awards ceremony out of  New York  and program an Oscar-style ceremony that included awards presentations from some of the country's leading South Asian journalists including CNN's Ali Velshi, Frontline's Azmat Khan and the NFL Network's Aditi Kinkabwalla is an achievement I am particularly proud of. If elected for another term as a SAJA board member, it is my goal to continue to widen SAJA's reach while continuing to find new and creative ways to engage our  New York  members. I think that monthly mixers, including resume workshops, mock interview sessions, social media seminars and job fairs are critical to SAJA's continued success. And together with my fellow NYC SAJA board members, I'd like to take responsibility for reinvigorating the NY Chapter. I would also like to find a way to grow SAJA's usefulness amongst mid-career journalists.


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Sharaf Mowjood


When I first ran for the SAJA Board, I wrote that my family is full of doctors, Sri Lanka Muslim doctors to be exact, and added that I often have to field the question, “So when are you going to medical school?” Now after two years on the SAJA board, I don’t get that question as much, instead I am asked, “So when are you getting married?”  I’ve worked with some of the brightest, most talented, and award winning SAJA journalists, and yet that’s the question I get the most. The emergence of SAJA within South Asian communities has not only created an institution for young aspiring journalists to tell their stories, but also a place for journalists to connect, inspire, grow and help one another. This to our parents raises the marriage possibilities!


Working for NBC News, I am grateful for this opportunity to ask for your support in seeking another term as a SAJA Board member. Since I was first elected two years ago, I have helped raise over $10,000 for scholarships and fellowships; I’ve brought in new donors from the east and west coasts; and I’ve organized new programming including an exclusive private viewing of the new Islamic Art Exhibit at the MET (complete with curator discussion moderated by CNN’s Ali Velshi), a book reading of “Love Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women,” and assisting in gathering a variety of guests for the banquet and convention.


However, I am not asking you to support me for my past accomplishments.  We all have accomplishments and my colleagues running for this board are among the most talented and amazing individuals I know.  I ask you to support me for what I want to continue to bring to SAJA.  For the next two years, I’d like to not only continue fundraising and bringing in new donors but also to develop a long-term fundraising and major gift giving strategy. Accomplishing this will mean less talking and more listening to what the community, the South Asian diaspora, wants in how their stories are told and how they want SAJA to empower journalists to tell those stories affectively. 


My commitment is to furthering SAJA’s goals and making the organization the best that it can be.


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Amita Parashar


I'm a producer at National Public Radio's Tell Me More, a national program based in  Washington   D.C. , and I’m running for re-election to SAJA's board. As a member of SAJA’s board for the past two years, I co-chaired this year's awards dinner and gala, held in D.C. for the first time. In addition to the gala, I’ve organized a number of events for the D.C. SAJA community, including a book talk by NPR's Steve Inskeep. I believe that I’ve fostered a strong community of journalists in the nation’s capitol and I look forward to continuing to grow SAJA’s efforts outside of the  New York City  area. I would also like to bring the SAJA newsroom tours to  Washington   D.C.  to allow young journalists the opportunity to meet top journalists and see where they work. 


Nationally, I've administered SAJA's student scholarship program for the past two years, most recently awarding $50,000 in grants. I’d like to help SAJA continue to serve our students’ needs through this program and also through mentorship and by growing college chapters. SAJA is an organization that draws strength from its membership. If elected for another term, I’d like to help that membership stay connected and widen our reach even further.


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Ravi Shankar


I would be glad to serve as a member of the SAJA Board as I believe I represent an important though under-represented part of the organization's constituency. I am a lifetime member of SAJA but a practicing poet and an Associate Professor of English at  Central   Connecticut   State   University . I have published or edited 7 books and chapbooks of poetry, including the W.W. Norton anthology "Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from  Asia , the Middle East & Beyond," called a "beautiful achievement for world literature" by Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer. This collection includes numerous South Asian and South Asian American poets, from places such as  India ,  Pakistan ,  Sri Lanka ,  Bangladesh ,  Nepal ,  Tibet , the  Maldives   Island , and  Bhutan . In putting this anthology together and traveling the world to meet with the contributors, I gained a good sense of the kinds of issues that these communities have and it would be my honor to help represent their voices and interests on the the SAJA Board.

As the founding editor of the international online literary journal, Drunken Boat [], I have published many South Asian authors and artists, I have also judged numerous contests for fellowships/awards and scholarships in the past and being based in Connecticut, I feel I could bring a perspective to the Board outside of those who live in New York City. I am also close enough that I would be available to be present at SAJA functions. I'm also deeply committed to social justice and to helping South Asians cope with the often misguided representations of themselves in the mass media and am particularly sensitive to helping cover South Asians in the arts. It would be my honor to serve you as a Board Member for the upcoming years.


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Sree Sreenivasan


It's been my honor to serve SAJA for 18 years and I have the nerve to ask you all to let me serve SAJA for two more. SAJA is already one of the most dynamic groups in American journalism, but it's poised to move to greater heights. I am excited about the energy and achievements of the current Board and am looking forward to working with returning and new members to set the stage for SAJA's next phase, especially as we hit the 20-year milestone in 2014. As co-founder and former president, I know where we have come from, and I want to work with the next Board to see where we can go. If elected, I would focus on these two areas: raising funds so we can give out more scholarships and mid-career fellowships; and mentoring the next generation of SAJA - and journalism - leaders. Succeeding in these areas will require time and energy and I am willing to give both, working closely with the rest of the Board, the members and the larger journalism community to succeed.

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Saumya Vaishampayan
There is a lot of talk about how the journalism industry is changing. I’d like to play an active role in making sure that our members –especially those still in school – are equipped to rise to the challenge. I believe that starts with engaging students who are in high school or pursing undergraduate degrees. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with alumni from my university who were kind enough to tell me about how they got their start in journalism, and I wouldn’t be here today without them. A professional organization like SAJA is so much better equipped for this type of mentoring; I think it just needs a board member who would make it her priority. I would actively reach out to our younger members to see what type of programs or mentoring would be the most useful and then facilitate communication with more experienced members. As a board member, I would like to expand existing programs like SAJA@Work, which provides access to editors and producers, and organize more informal networking events.

I’m a recent graduate of  Tufts   University , where I studied quantitative economics and was the managing editor of the student newspaper. I am currently interning with the investing team at Bloomberg News in  New York .

The many hours spent working in my college newspaper office – the basement of the coffee shop – sparked my passion for journalism and I’m eager to bring this to a board position at SAJA. Please email me at if you have questions, comments or if would like to commiserate about the difficulties of spelling out your last name over the phone.

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Aarti Virani


As the daughter of Indian immigrants, born and raised in  Japan  and educated in  America , I aim to bring a panoramic and global perspective to the SAJA board. Currently, as an arts, culture and entertainment writer covering the New York metropolitan area, I regularly contribute to publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure and Vogue India, keeping a vigilant finger on the cultural pulse of the South Asian American community. I have tackled a broad range of subjects, including the predominance of Gujarati Americans in the U.S. motel industry, the "Hollywoodization” of Indian production companies, and South Asian American TV and film personalities wanting to take on roles that aren't just steered by ethnicity. Most recently, I joined forces with the South Asian Women’s Leadership Forum (SAWLF) to craft a series of profiles spotlighting the many fascinating women that make up the groundbreaking non-profit.


If elected to the SAJA board, I would be thrilled to organize more events that connect seasoned journalists with newcomers to the field, providing younger members with a closer, behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the news business. In an effort to encourage more South Asian Americans to pursue journalism, I would also be interested in facilitating outreach to schools and universities, including my alma mater, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Most of all, I am eager to direct my energy to make SAJA a network and resource that ensures mainstream news media organizations provide fair and accurate coverage of the increasingly diverse South Asian American community - an issue that was especially relevant in the aftermath of the Wisconsin gurdwara shootings earlier this year. 


Ultimately, I am committed to helping South Asian Americans become active participants in the process of their own media representation and believe SAJA plays an instrumental role in that process. I would consider it a privilege to serve on the board.

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