Suchithra Vengalil’s long road to fulfillment
So, after waiting so long to see her dream come true, Vengalil promised herself she was going to make the most of it.
“Having got an opportunity to do my master’s program after 16 years of wait,” says Vengalil, a native of India who goes by Suchi, “I wanted to savor the entire grad experience and not just limit it to academic learning.”
To that end, Vengalil worked as a Bentley graduate assistant, served as vice president for alumni organization for the Graduate Student Association and was a staff assistant for the Center for International Student and Scholars’ WorldView program. This weekend, she'll deliver the graduate student address at Commencement at Fenway Park.
“One thing I noticed is that undergraduate students are so exuberant,” she says. “Grad school is more serious. People come here for a specific purpose, so they really don’t try to connect or branch out. I see a lot of my classmates aren’t part of anything, and yet Bentley is a gold mine. There’s so much going on, but until you reach out, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
It’s not as if life wasn’t busy enough for Vengalil. She had hoped to continue her education after undergrad but because of a family situation, she had to put that on the back burner. Instead, she started a 13-year career in analytics and project management.
“I wanted my career to have a purpose,” she explains. “I was very good at sales, but it was not satisfying. Later I stumbled upon the world of project management and had excellent people skills but found that most of my analytical skills were acquired on the job. I needed to go back to the drawing board to match my skills with industry trends. I was always comfortable with data, qualitative and quantitative, and found myself called to health care, where I felt I could take that data and translate it into something that’s good for society.”
Vengalil took a sabbatical when her child was born. Soon, she felt like she hit a U-turn. Becoming a full-time mother took her away from her career. She lost focus and confidence. Finally, she realized it was time to get back on her feet. Vengalil decided she needed to do something for herself and started researching places to finally make the leap into graduate school.
“My first semester, I really struggled,” she remembers. “I was driving back and forth between school and caring for my son and family, trying to make sense of it all. I’d study at night while my son was sleeping. It literally gave me the jitters.”
And while she had the data side of her analytics degree pretty much under control, Vengalil felt a need to regain her confidence with presentations and public speaking. Getting involved in extracurriculars, seeing how people interacted outside the classroom, was indispensable in shaping her new identity.
“I cannot stress how strong a role my involvement in these associations played,” she says. “I needed to be comfortable, to collaborate, to learn ways of talking, even making jokes. The culture is different here. So it was very important to meet new faces, to learn how things work.”
One of the key opportunities was a chance to be part of WorldView, a Center for International Students and Scholars program aimed at promoting global awareness and unity within the Bentley community through the sharing of personal stories. The experience helped make Vengalil’s graduate experience truly transformative.
“Leading panels and discussions on topics such as sustainability, mental health and racial injustice, I learned to face my fear of public speaking and appreciate the diversity around me,” she says.
After Commencement, Vengalil and her family will move to Seattle, where her husband has accepted a new job. But first, she’ll put her improved confidence and public speaking skills to use during her first visit to Fenway Park. Vengalil was asked to deliver the graduate student address to her classmates from the McCallum Graduate School of Business.
“This has absolutely been worth it,” Vengalil says of the long journey to her graduate degree. “I was lost in the maze of life. I want to encourage others to be fearless in the pursuit of their goals. You can turn around any situation in life, if you have the vision and are willing to bend around your life to make it happen.”