Lessons in Leadership, Daring
and Good Fortune
The streets of New Delhi, India, teem with more than 15 million residents in rickshaws and cars. The frenetic city was home to Uttiyo Raychaudhuri (MA,’03; PhD, ’06) before he exchanged careers and continents. Today, he sprints towards completing his doctorate in natural resources in only two and a half years.
Last fall, Raychaudhuri expanded his considerable talent for leadership during the Graduate School’s second Leadership Workshop at Amicalola Falls State Park. The annual retreat is an ongoing initiative that Dean Maureen Grasso developed for promising graduate students at UGA. The doctoral candidate, who coordinates UGA Studies Abroad in the South Pacific and Caribbean while teaching, says, “Dean Grasso works to bring out positive energy,” Raychaudhuri observes. “We all know who we are, but you need a setting like the Leadership Workshop to know yourself a little better.”
Scholarship comes easily for the man who left past accomplishments behind to follow his heart straight to Athens.
Four years ago, Raychaudhuri shared a savory tandoori dish with friends in New Delhi. He could not guess that he would soon be ordering the chicken Malai kabob he enjoys at Bombay Café in Athens. For in 2002, the slightly built architect with pale brown eyes and a fondness for crisply tailored suits still jockeyed between his offices in New Delhi and Calcutta.
|Raychaudhuri on Studies Abroad treks with students in the program. His doctoral research centers on protected areas management and environmental justice.
Raychaudhuri was disciplined and focused. Yet outwardly, he raced to keep apace, like everyone in New Delhi. His architectural practice thrived despite high fees – nearly double what other architects commanded – and his clients included Microsoft and Silicon Graphics. As Raychaudhuri’s work progressed, he absorbed both eastern and western influences. He admired how Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs incorporated water and other natural components. He sought ways to lessen the impact of his designs on nature.
His temples throbbed with ideas for sustainable ventures, like one in the Himalayas. Called “Nature Quest,” Raychaudhuri’s development synthesized natural materials and resources. He stayed at Nature Quest alone, near the legendary top of the world, to watch the millennium dawn.
Then, during a holiday gathering, the young bachelor met his destiny in the guise of Kakali Bhattacharya, a UGA doctoral student visiting India. Bhattacharya (PhD, ’05) had spent the past 17 years in North America. Their attraction was powerful. When she left New Delhi, Raychaudhuri’s focus shifted. His thoughts flew 8,000 miles to Athens, Georgia, the town with the curious name.
Soon they were engaged, and Bhattacharya pressed the question: Would her fiancé leave India and join her in Georgia? Raychaudhuri’s heart knew the answer before his head did. New Delhi’s streets buzzed with sounds, saffron colors, cinnamon smells. The enormous city never rested, nor even paused. If he could survive the stresses of competitive India, Raychaudhuri reassured himself that he could make it in the United States.
With farewells to his secretary and partner, Raychaudhuri locked the office door for the final time. No longer would Raychaudhuri lose himself in the sheer joy of seeing his own designs rise up from the hard earth. He was leaving something he loved passionately for someone he loved passionately.
“They say architecture is the mother of all arts. I still am an architect,” he reminded himself. He was an architect with a bold new plan and bride in a new world.
On July 2, 2002, the newlyweds reunited. They walked dreamily along the quiet streets of Athens. Raychaudhuri was pleasantly surprised when locals murmured hellos. Something in him relaxed.
Weeks later, he entered graduate school at UGA, although Cornell had accepted him to study robotics. He leaned more toward the study of planning, especially recreation-based planning. By the fall of 2003, Raychaudhuri completed a master’s degree in recreation and leisure studies. The next semester he began doctoral studies in natural resource management in the school of forestry. By summer 2006, he will have completed it.
|UGA has been a very good experience for me," he affirms. "I may not go to every game and do the Bulldog 'woof-woof!'" He pumps his arm, punching the air. "But I feel the same way (as others). I'm very partiotic in that way. I love my university! I love my (new) country. And I love my family."
Months ago, he presented two posters at a conference in Wilmington, North Carolina. One of Raychaudhuri’s research projects concerned interactive learning centers located in nature centers. The other was an analysis of the Tennessee Outdoor Recreation Area System and user fees, which he completed with doctoral student K. C. Bloom. On the surface, the work presented to the conference audience of 50 seemed far removed from his architectural roots.
Yet it is not, he explained afterward. Architects must incorporate how clients work and live every day. Architecture and leisure studies both concern how people use their time and spend their lives.
Today, the expatriate insists his western lifestyle is leisurely. Yet Raychaudhuri has taught since his first semester at UGA. He co-authored an electronic book. Simultaneously, he juggles study, papers, data analysis and research, winning numerous teaching awards and recognitions. Raychaudhuri’s mentors describe him as a student unlike any other, of incredible momentum and accomplishment.
In addition, Raychaudhuri coordinates studies abroad in the South Pacific and Caribbean, the largest of all such programs at UGA. This summer he will lead more than 350 students to Australia, Fiji and Belize. Afterward, Raychaudhuri will travel to Antarctica for his first visit, leading a field study. Students will analyze “What are its (Antarctica’s) issues, and what does it mean for land management and the understanding of the process?” The program runs the entire fall semester, culminating in a cruise of the Antarctic Peninsula. The scholars will also visit Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia in Argentina.
However, before these physical expeditions, there remained an academic one for Raychaudhuri. He left for New Orleans last March to stay with relatives and write his dissertation.
New Orleans was likened to a bowl teeming with violent water after Hurricane Katrina. During breaks, the doctoral candidate walked, contemplating the ecosystems, the battered levees and the ravaged lock near Jackson Square. The city wall, a last defense, faced the mighty Mississippi.
Mississippi is Algonquin for big water. The big water connected Raychaudhuri back to his bride of four years, now working in Memphis. He thought back to the leadership program in Amicalola Falls. Amicalola is the Cherokee word for tumbling water. He had felt self-discovery washing over him like a waterfall.
“And,” Raychaudhuri remembers, “A lot of motivation to perform.”