Ritika is an accomplished student at UConn, majoring in Economics and minoring in Analytics. She also served as the President of the Indian Students Association and sat down with us to speak about her experiences!
Nishitha Edupuganti: Hi Ritika! Please introduce yourself and let us know how you chose what you are studying.
Ritika Bajaj: Hi, I am Ritika! I am a senior majoring in Economics with a minor in Analytics. I was initially on the pre-med track for the first two years, but I always had a business minor. As I started taking more business courses and did an internship during my sophomore year in Business Intelligence, I was just looking at what else was out there. So I switched to Economics, and I had enjoyed the introduction to Analytics, so I decided to add that in!
NE: What are some of the most interesting aspects of what you are learning?
RB: In my sophomore year internship, I was doing a lot of dashboarding and working with data visualization. Seeing how all that data actually means something, and how every time someone walks into a store and looks at an item or logs onto a website to look at a specific product, it is being studied to make the user experience better. Sometimes those results just look like a bunch of numbers, but they are important to making businesses stronger. Being able to come up with a story and tell that story is the most interesting part of what I am studying and working on.
NE: What are some cool projects or experiences that you have had the chance to work on?
RB: During my Business Intelligence Internship, I had to make a whole dashboard for the acquisition and sales of the company’s website. This project looked at common demographics, states, age groups, popular products to discover whether certain products were worth continuing. I also worked on another project with the Marketing Team to create a system that would state the status of the product’s lifeline when a certain product was entered. This was very new to me, so I remember having to do a lot of research on how to write different formulas and create the system!
NE: Can you talk about the internships you have had and how you got them?
RB: So in high school, I was in this program called the Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, where they made our learning more 21st-century learning as opposed to the traditional classroom style. This experience was where I was first exposed to working with data and training new teachers in the program. We used analytics to figure what styles of teaching were effective, what students were liking in the classroom, and how that could be implemented. I had built relationships throughout this time, and after graduation, I reached out to them to see if they had any spaces for me to be a part of it. So my biggest advice would be always be networking and following up with people around you! Even if you are a freshman or sophomore, go to the career fairs and learn how to present yourself and your resume, and if anything you will just make positive connections. Two summers ago, I interned at Bob’s Discount Furniture as a Business Intelligence Intern. And this past summer I interned at Travelers as a Product Management Intern!
NE: Are there certain people or resources you would recommend to students to help prepare them for career readiness?
RB: I definitely went to a bunch of resume-building workshops. In my freshman and sophomore years, I was a part of WIMSE (Women in Math, Science, and Engineering). Through this Learning Community, they brought us to the Center for Career Development pretty often for resumes and mock interviews. There are so many resources at the Career Center, so students should definitely use them to their advantage.
NE: What led to being a part of the Indian Students Association and why is it important to you?
RB: Since I was little, I have always been fascinated by my culture. I was born and raised speaking Hindi as my first language and didn’t really know any English until I started school. It felt like I had two different cultures and identities merging as together one! In the area I grew up in, there just wasn’t much diversity and there weren’t really many people who looked like me or spoke like me. So when I got to UConn, seeing all the diversity and cultures around me made me more passionate about my own. I joined ISA during the first Involvement Fair and I started to go to their events. I first went to garba and dhandhi decorating, and from there I just got more involved. I was elected to be the Freshman Representative and now I serve as the President! As a student of Indian heritage, our shared culture is so close to my heart and is my identity, just like it is for many other Indian/Indian American students. Having organizations like ISA on campus is really important for students who want to participate in events and to share our culture.
NE: How do you think diversity places into professional spaces?
RB: Initially, I thought diversity was just about someone’s ethnic background. But as I started to work in different places and talk to more people, I realized that diversity has more to with people’s unique experiences: the environment they were raised in or their set of skills that they have acquired through life. The beauty of cultural centers, whether it is through universities or companies, is that they are not just for the people who belong to that culture, but it is an open welcoming space for anyone to learn something new. Having spaces where people can express themselves (not just culturally) is very important to make sure that everyone’s identity is being seen and included.
NE: Do you have any advice for other students?
RB: For Economics students, I would say that Econ is such an ambiguous major and you can really take it in any direction you want. So I would say to cater the classes you take to your own interests! I have taken classes from Health Economics to Economics of Law, so you can get a lot of exposure in various industries from these courses, so choose what really draws you in.
For UConn students, just get involved! There are so many resources and organizations you have to utilize, that will make your college experience that much richer. I remember when I first got to UConn, people would tell me “It is a lot harder to make a small school feel big than it is to make a big school feel small.” Taking time to learn from other people and cultures around you is so important because you might never have this diverse pool of people around you ever again!
If you want to contact Ritika, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.