A Chat with Natasha Sumant of Gundi Studios

by Punita Rice Culture

Natasha Sumant of Gundi Studios

Have you seen the instagram account Gundi Studios? In Hindi, “gundi” means female thug — and since outspoken South Asian women aren’t typically appreciated in South Asian communities, Natasha Sumant (the artist behind Gundi Studios) started the project as a way to celebrate courageous women, and reclaim the term gundi. The art and fashion coming out of Gundi Studios is fantastic, but Natasha’s work is way more than just art — it’s a platform for elevating outspoken South Asian women who have the courage to buck patriarchy, subvert norms, and reclaim their own narratives.

Natasha’s success in creating art that celebrates outspoken South Asian women goes against expectations of South Asian women — so a couple months ago, I reached out to Natasha for an interview for ISAASE’s Be Inspired project. We got to chat about how her art allows her to engage with race, feminism, and empowering South Asian women, about the challenges of having to fight for a career in the arts while growing up in India (and the challenges of working as an artist in the U.S.), what has helped her succeed, and what she wants young South Asian Americans should know. Here are some of my favorite things from our interview…

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“You’re Going to Regret Not Trying”

by Punita Rice Career

Jashvina Shah - Journalist - Fashion and Sports

Earlier this year I mentioned my outreach organization ISAASE‘s “Be Inspired” project. (In case you missed the post, it’s here). For the project, I connected with journalist Jashvina Shah about navigating the world of sports journalism (which isn’t exactly known for its welcoming attitude towards women), establishing a subscription service to a private sports reporting site, and why she loves working in journalism. She also said something that really stood out:

“There is a chance it might not work, but you’re going to regret not trying to do it.”

The comment was made in context of what she’d tell young aspiring journalists, but I thought it was valuable advice for anyone pursuing a passion.

Jashvina is such an inspiration – not only to young South Asian Americans, or to aspiring journalists, but to all women. You can read the full interview here.

P.S. – An interview with the founder of a nonprofit, and more information about the Be Inspired project.

An Interview with American Bazaar

by Punita Rice Career

American Bazaar interviewed Dr. Punita Rice about research on South Asian American student experiences, and ISAASE. (Dr. Punita Rice interview with American Bazaar.)

About a month ago, I chatted with Jayshal Sood of American Bazaar Magazine about the work of ISAASE. In the interview, we talked about my research findings, including the reality that South Asian American students are diverse, may have less-than-ideal experiences in school, and don’t always get support they need from teachers. We also chatted about low teacher cultural proficiency, bias, discrimination, and various challenges South Asian American kids may face in schools. Plus: common issues South Asian American kids encounter, ISAASE’s ongoing projects and initiatives, the prevalence of stereotypes, the role of government policy in student experiences (and perceptions of South Asian American kids), how ISAASE is trying to address these issues, and what families can do to support their kids. The interview just went up this week – if you’re interested, here’s a link to read the full interview.

P.S. – Here’s some information about the ISAASE Be Inspired Project, and you can learn more about ISAASE here.

Teachers, How Are You Teaching About Charlottesville?

by Punita Rice Teaching

Equality and Diversity in Charlottesville

Teachers, how are you teaching about Charlottesville? I’ve been thinking about this since teachers and students are heading back to school in the coming weeks. Teachers are going to need to engage with students about the recent events in Charlottesville, and the intense mood of the country. And, teachers will have to be prepared to have meaningful discussions about tolerance, hatred, and the increasingly brazen racism in our country.

The events of Charlottesville were particularly hard to swallow because I have such positive memories and feelings when I think of that city. A few years ago, I got to spend a lovely summer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in a summer institute. Teachers and researchers from around the country came together to study philosophy, collaborate, and develop resources for students in diverse education settings, built on philosophical concepts and rooted in philosophical reasoning skills. I touched base with some of the lovely women I became friends with in the program after the events of last week to get their takes. Here, I’m sharing what some friends from my time at UVA had to say, plus, some resources for teaching about Charlottesville…

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A Chat with Shaun Jayachandran

by Punita Rice Culture

Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy - Interview with Shaun Jayachandran

If you’re familiar with my outreach organization ISAASE (pronounced “iss-ah-say”), have you seen the “Be Inspired” project yet? The project is all about inspiring the next generation of young South Asian American students, by sharing profiles on diverse role models and diverse stories of success. For our first interview for the project, I connected with Shaun Jayachandran. Shaun Jayachandran is a former basketball player, former teacher, and former administrator, and the director of international nonprofit Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy India, which brings student athletes from the U.S. to a program in India “aimed at encouraging students to stay in school through teaching pillars of growth through athleticism and basketball.” The organization also brings amazing young people together for this great cause, and fosters relationships between all of them.

Shaun and I chatted about how his work has helped him and his volunteers see India in a new way, the importance of representation in the media, what he wished he’d had growing up, and the challenges facing young South Asian American students (and the teachers who work with them) today. Here are a few highlights from our conversation, if you’d like to read them…

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Cultural Appropriation and Aladdin

by Punita Rice Culture

Cultural Appropriation and Aladdin

I have a confession to make: I’m excited about the live action Aladdin. Even though it’s problematic, racist, etc., and even though I do (mostly) accept the “responsibility” of calling out that which is unnecessarily and inappropriately offensive, I’m also sometimes exhausted by the weight of conversations around cultural appropriation and the desire to just… like, enjoy a movie sometimes. Read on for some partly-baked, but weighty thoughts on cultural appropriation, Aladdin, and the question of whether happiness and wokeness are necessarily in conflict…

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Loyola Alumni Story

by Punita Rice Career

Loyola Alumni Punita Rice

I recently did a Q&A for the Loyola University Maryland Alumni Association’s Alumni Stories (I did my Masters in teaching there). In it, I got to share just a little bit about the work ISAASE is doing to support South Asian American students.

You can learn more about ISAASE here, or if you’re interested, you can read the interview / alumni feature here.

Travel Ban

by Punita Rice Culture


I got an opportunity to share my thoughts on the travel ban in an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun. It was published over the weekend in their online edition, and went out this morning in the print edition. I wrote about my toddler’s love of firetrucks, what it means to be a good neighbor, and what I see as fading American values.

…While the justices implemented some limitations on the original travel ban executive order, they also allowed for a partial implementation, which will deny visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, as well as ban entry of refugees from around the world. What this really means though, since most of the people from the six visa-banned countries aren’t likely to be coming for a tour through the American countryside, is that we are refusing entry to those who need it most. And it has gotten me thinking about firefighters, good neighbors and what it means to be American.

If you’re interested, here’s the link.

(Featured image is of a PDF of the print edition).

P.S. – An old post, in which I ask: How Should Teachers Discuss the 2016 Election?

Teachers and South Asian American Students

by Punita Rice Teaching

The Aerogram - Why Research On South Asian American Students Matters

I wrote another article for The Aerogram on some of the key findings of my research on teachers and South Asian American students. Specifically, the article provides a (brief) overview of South Asian American students’ experiences in schools. Here’s the gist:

Teachers don’t know much about South Asian American students. Teachers lack cultural proficiency as related to their South Asian American students (cultural proficiency means having cultural knowledge, personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities, and skills that enable teachers to effectively teach in multicultural environments).

If you’d like to read the whole thing, you can do so here.

P.S. – Here’s the first article I wrote for The Aerogram, on why research on South Asian Americans matters, and here’s the data from my outreach organization, ISAASE. (And you can click here to learn more about ISAASE.)

Why Research on South Asian American Students Matters

by Punita Rice Career

The Aerogram - Teachers Don’t Know Much About South Asian American Students

I wrote an article for The Aerogram on why research on South Asian American students matters. Here’s an excerpt:

There is a lack of distinction made between different kinds of Asians in existing literature, and a particular dearth of existing literature on South Asian American students. This means teachers can’t really understand these students’ cultures, and thus can’t provide culturally responsive instruction to these students.

Worse, they may not even try to — since many teachers believe the model minority stereotype about Asian students, they might be especially likely to overlook their South Asian American students’ needs, figuring they don’t need extra help or support.

If you’d like to read the whole thing, you can do so here.

P.S. – Information about my outreach organization, ISAASE.