Maya Pillai '07

Hometown: Bangalore, India

When Maya Pillai ’07 came to Mount Holyoke she was becoming aware of the environmental damage being caused by the nonchalant use and disposal of plastic bags. She recalls feeling aghast but not knowing what she could do. “Now, three years later, as an intern with the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), I’m seeing the policy-making perspective of the environmental movement. That, combined with my Mount Holyoke education, has helped me move my initial shock to a vision. Mount Holyoke emphasizes our role as agents of change in the communities in which we live,” Maya said.

Maya’s major is politics but in true liberal arts fashion she’s been exploring the curriculum. Along with classes in her major, she’s studied literature, dance, critical social thought, and Portuguese. She’s also completed internships in the environmental studies department, served as a teaching assistant in the economics department, and performed in plays put on by the theatre department.

During her junior year, Maya studied in Brazil for a semester. “I successfully negotiated my cultural experiences as an Indian with my American study-abroad counterparts and simultaneously as an Indian with Brazilians,” she said. “I’m proud of that. Of course, neither of these experiences is unique at MHC, which lends humility in certain ways, and in others makes me proud to be amongst so many cool women.”

As an intern with EGA, Maya has been researching case studies that highlight the importance of including a variety of groups in the decision-making process. She said it reflects her own interest and passion for diversity in the areas of race, class, opinions, and values. “The internship felt made for me because they wanted a student to carry out research on an environmental issue from a social sciences perspective. Analyzing issues from a variety of perspectives is the epitome of a Mount Holyoke education.”