Joerose Tharakan ’08 is the Young Alumni Trustee, a position reserved for alumni who graduated within the past five to eight years. Tharakan, who held the position since 2013, brings an important perspective as a recent graduate to the activities of the board and has been working on development initiatives for the College. During Trustees Weekend, Tharakan shared with the Echo her experiences as a student and what she finds to be most important for the College.
Tharakan is originally from Cochin, South India, and attended United World Colleges (UWC) Mahindra College for the last two years of high school. When it was time to apply for college, Tharakan was looking for a change of setting and explored different options across the globe. Her initial plan was to was to apply early decision to Harvard; however, after chatting with Parker Beverage, former Dean of Admissions for the College during a visit to her high school, she changed her mind. “To be honest, Parker sold me on Colby. I had seen the brochure and there were a few things I liked about it like JanPlan, but talking to Parker it was like I had found my kind. I just thought he epitomized this love for education that was what I was looking for. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in and I wanted a school that would offer me a lot of opportunities.” Soon after, Tharakan pulled her early decision to Harvard, and sent in an application to Colby. Although she was accepted to other schools, Colby’s awarding her of the Davis Scholarship made the decision easy.
Describing Tharakan as an involved student would be an understatement. In addition to being a mathematics and economics double major, she had a vested interests in the arts. As a member of the student-run theater club Powder and Wig, Tharakan spent many hours in Strider Theater, both acting in shows and constructing sets and costumes. As a Staff Writer for the Echo, she wrote a regular “Spotlight on the Arts” in which she interviewed different student artists and performers each week. Tharakan was also a Colby Cares About Kids (CCAK) mentor, a tour guide for the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, a member of class council and a student representative for Campaign for Colby, where she first interacted with members of the Board of Trustees.
During her junior year, Tharakan studied at the London School of Economics and stayed in London over the summer as an intern for Lehman Brothers. The firm offered her a job in London after graduation; however, due to the 2008 financial crisis, the Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy before Tharakan secured a position. Luckily, the division she had been training in continued to function under Nomura Holdings, where she worked for two years before heading to the Yale School of Business. Tharakan earned her MBA and was then recruited for Microsoft’s Leadership Development Program.
Tharakan had maintained a strong connection with Colby after graduation, and made a concerted effort to stay involved with the school. She continued to keep in touch with President Adams and the Trustees whom she had acquainted herself with during her time on Campaign for Colby. Thus, when it came time for the Board to fill the Young Alumni Trustee position, the combination of her success, dedication to the College and her familiarity with the Board made Tharakan an ideal choice. “When they reached out to me, it was a really easy answer.”
As a Trustee, one of the issues Tharakan is deeply concerned with is the rising cost of higher education. “I think about the fact that I was lucky to be able to come here because of a scholarship, and the more expensive colleges get, the harder it is to find these scholarships that actually enable people to attend.” She also stresses the importance of “finding the balance between being competitive and having the best facilities and programs and the best quality of education, all while balancing the cost.”
Tharakan is also interested in the development of Colby’s own identity, and how students are benefiting and contributing to its growth. “I care deeply about the quality of education students at Colby get, I think we get fantastic opportunities here but I don’t think we represent that well sometimes in the marketplace…we don’t compete quite as effectively… I want to make sure that when I leave this board we’ve left Colby with a much stronger brand and identity.” However, since graduation, Tharakan already feels that there have been changes in Colby’s level of recognition. “It is amazing the number of people that I will say I am a Colby grad that now don’t ask a follow up question and know exactly what I’m talking about; that wasn’t the case when I graduated. But there is still a lot more we can do.”
While much of the Board’s activities center around development, Tharakan is still very much concerned with the campus culture. As more and more schools across the country are actively addressing incidences of discrimination and sexual assault, Tharakan wants to make sure that Colby is a place where these issues can be addressed effectively. “I worry a lot today about the climate of tolerance today and discourse that is or isn’t happening on campuses, and even at a global scale. I just expect Colby to be better at it than everybody else, … it would kill me that this is now becoming a place where there isn’t dissent, where there isnt fair treatment of a judicial system where you are aware of both parties when a judgement is being made… I think the sooner we learn to do discourse well and judiciary process well at this age while you are in college, the better citizens we will be.”
It is the focus on developing critical thinking and judgement which Tharakan believes to be an important aspect of Colby’s academic program, and she hopes that students continue to “walk out fair, level headed, even citizens who know how to coexist with dissenting opinions, but be able to come to bipartisan agreements.”