In an easily missed bit of North American Sikh intellectual bloodsport, IJ Singh and a graduate of UC Berkeley debated ideals about graduate education, the panth, and the academy. It is worth reading through for their different orientations towards the discussion, if at the very least to see how two people with very different positions in life (gender, education, class, age) interpret the issues at stake.
In IJ’s article, he mentioned the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, an American government program that funds graduate research. I had to Wikipedia it. At the time I was an undergraduate interested in applying to PhD programs in the social sciences, and despite the wealth of resources at my university, I ended up scouring the internet for advice on how to successfully apply to doctoral programs that routinely get upwards of 400 applications for 5 or 6 seats. The National Science Foundation’s graduate research fellowship was part of the deluge of items to tackle: letters of recommendation, emails to potential advisors, picking programs, and the dreaded statement of purpose. To make matters worse, my primary advisor was on leave, and unlike many of my peers, I had few friends or places to turn where I felt comfortable getting honest and expert advice on how to craft applications that best demonstrated my accomplishments and abilities.
Several years and a master’s degree later, I finally find myself in a PhD program that I hoped to catapult myself into as an undergraduate. Along the way, I have found time and again that there are many young Singhs and Kaurs who face the same dearth of resources that I did. Applying to graduate and professional school is a tricky, convoluted, and precarious process. Despite a significant number of Sikhs in illustrious programs in diverse institutions, there exists no infrastructure to connect expertise to connect applicants with those who have the knowledge and experience of the application process. Driven by the success of the network that Sikholars has brought into being in fields from medicine to sociology to music, the Jakara Movement is proud to announce the creation of Sikhiya, a free graduate and professional school application service that works to bring the expertise of those who are already in programs to those who are applying. Sikhiya involves several steps of application consultation and editing, as well as the expertise of sevadars who have informally helped many other Sikhs achieve their potential. With Sikhiya, the collective knowledge of the community will be institutionalized, and the greatest potential of the panth can be reached. We welcome the involvement of applicants and experts from all fields and graduate degree paths: MA, MSW, MPP, MD, JD, PhD, etc. If you are interested in applying or volunteering, please visit the Sikhiya Project website.