Introduction

Hi there!

If you only have time to remember one thing about me—the central philosophy that guides my actions in life—is that I’m the person who strives to ensure people not at the table do not end up on the menu.

This philosophy manifests itself in many ways in my life.  I’ve made my mission to inhabit a world where technology is human-centered and ethical. As a technologist who develops mission-critical AI systems, I design with an aim towards fairness, accountability, and explainability by including diverse voices into the data infrastructure, and I strive to mitigate societal harms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as automating racist criminal justice policies.

If you asked me to describe my experience with W&L in one word, it’d be “dissonance”. Why? Because, even eight years after graduation, I still struggle to reconcile my deep love for the place with the injustices I encountered during my time there. As the first ever graduate to fly the Bangladeshi flag in the school’s (then) 264-year-old history, my journey was simultaneously filled with cherished memories yet colored by unjust treatment—much of it systemic and endemic.

I’ve realized that it’s the love for the people and the place that motivates me to continue the fight—amplifying the good parts while reforming the bad ones. To this day, every time I go to Lexington and see those columns, I get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach as the one I get when I touch down in Bangladesh—the feeling of being home.

Perhaps this dissonance resonates with you as well.

To give you a glimpse of my path from W&L until now, I graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from W&L with dual degrees in Philosophy (BA) and Physics-Engineering (BS), with a minor in Mathematics. After spending time in the management consulting and startup worlds, I’m now a researcher and PhD candidate at Georgia Tech,  and I regularly collaborate with  big tech companies (Google, IBM Research, etc.)  to help mitigate the societal harm from AI-powered systems. 

I am also a social entrepreneur, co-founding DeshLabs, a non-profit social innovation lab. DeshLabs  focuses on fostering grassroots innovations in emerging markets throughout the Global South. For example, DeshLabs, in collaboration with the Red Cross, helped Bangladeshi entrepreneurs develop a mobile-phone-based early-warning system for disaster relief (e.g., earthquakes) for individuals with little to no literacy. I’m also an advisor for Aalor Asha, an educational institute I started for underprivileged children subjected to child labor. Notably, I used a creative approach to align the Corporate Social Responsibilities for multinational companies, and we pioneered a sustainable program where the students (subject to child labor)  were paid to come and learn. By offsetting the financial reasons behind their labor, we were able to give them an incentive to come to school and learn. As a non-profit, the sustainability of the efforts is notable.

The voice I can bring to the board

If I am selected, my voice will help the Board check its privileges and begin to reform inequities. My philosophy around uplifting the voices of those absent at the table combined with my lived experiences will add perspectives from three points of view.

First, I embody perspectives that are often overlooked even when discussing diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) policies at W&L—that of an international student who was not a legacy, could not have attended W&L without a full scholarship, and did not have well-connected parents. To put it differently, I was not the international student who was like the typical W&L student, only in a different skin tone. My upbringing was multi-continental. So, while my perspectives are global, they are that of the global elite. 

I will add non-elite perspectives from the Global South, something that is missing from the Board today. Did you know that W&L would not consider me an under-represented minority even though I was literally the only person from my country on campus? I’ve always wondered why, only to be told “that’s just how we count things.”

Well, it’s about time we start counting things equitably.

Second, my challenging journey from a traditional liberal arts education and to cutting-edge AI research, in both academia and industry, has equipped me with crucial insights that can inform curricular practices at W&L. While there are other alumni like me, voices with core STEM experiences (during and after W&L) are under-represented on the Board. This is a reason why, despite a strong educational foundation there, top tier technology companies do not hire directly from W&L. 

We need to change that, and my voice will help enable us to enact that change.

Finally, while my journey can be characterized as one of many “firsts” (e.g., first-generation college and PhD student), it often was on the “margins”. Despite my existence there, I’ve learned how to thrive in spaces that were not designed with me in mind—much like my W&L experience was not designed with someone like me in mind. To create spaces where more people like me do not feel excluded, we need our voices represented at the top.

In short, if selected, I will serve the community by fostering spaces students, faculty, and staff that actively celebrate their diversity and include everyone as first-class stakeholders in our shared W&L story.  

My service to the University community

My philosophy of leadership is through service. I will share my service to W&L in two parts — as a student and as an alumnus. 
First, as a student at W&L, other than my first semester, I served the student body every single term through leadership roles in student organizations—from chairing SAIL (the Student Association for International Learning) to founding Salam, the first student group focused on the well-being of Muslim students. 

Along with the fantastic Executive Board at SAIL, I remember how we successfully increased the budget from the Executive Committee by 120% over previous years. The increased budget allowed us to radically improve our service to international students. Examples include organizing rides to and from the airport (something many of peers never had to worry about), trips during breaks (when many of our peers could go home), and organized fundraising events like “Showcase For X”, where X represented a country in need of humanitarian aid. 

During my tenure, we had showcases for Kyrgyzstan and Palestine, both of which raised record funding, and earned us awards for event of the year (beating out events organized by General Activities Board (GAB) that invited famous musicians on campus).

One example stands out from my time as chair of Salam. I worked closely with the administration to extend the dining hall hours—a change that profoundly impacted two communities of students. First, extending hours until after sundown allowed Ramadan-observing students to break their fasts with their peers, overcoming a major source of isolation (the dining hall had previously  closed almost an hour before sundown). 

Second, unexpectedly, as a consequential knock-on effect, it served the student-athlete community who couldn’t eat at the dining hall on most days due to late training sessions. I formed strategic partnerships within the student body to enact this consequential change. Beyond these two groups, it allowed greater flexibility to the entire student body on their food habits. This is how inclusion of those in the “margins” ultimately can lift everyone up.

This is the kind of perspective and impact I can bring to the board—how the compounding effects of small yet meaningful changes to communities at the “margins” can create consequential changes at the institute level, impacting the lives of everyone on campus. 
As I transitioned out of W&L. I also made a promise to myself that I’d do as much as possible to ensure that no other students felt as lonely as I did during events where alumni return to campus. I seldom saw anyone who looked anything like me coming back, which made me feel like people like me weren’t welcomed back with the same open arms.

After W&L, I continued my service by living up to that promise in three ways. First, I showed up to as many events and engaged with as many students as I could. For instance, leveraging my faculty connections in Computer Science and Engineering, I helped bridge STEM participation in the Entrepreneurship Summit, which reflexively included students from diverse domains to engage with each other. 

Second, I actively mentored students, from helping them get into W&L, advising them on major selection, and helping them with employment. In total, I’ve helped at least 30 students through their journey at W&L.  While I was the first Bangladeshi to graduate, it brings me immense joy to say that I’ve been fortunate to mentor four Bangladeshi students before, during, and after my time on campus (the most recent will graduate as part of the class of ‘21). 

Third, I’ve worked closely with Career Services as well as the Computer Science and Engineering departments to create pipelines for our graduates in top-tier technology companies. This has directly resulted in internships and full-time offers for current students.

Other community service

I am actively invested in serving my community in Bangladesh, the US, and beyond.

Globally, for the last 11 years, I have mentored over 100 high-school and college students from resource-constrained backgrounds, helping them with top-tier university and job placements.

In Bangladesh, at DeshLabs, I mentor social entrepreneurs to improve the economic and social bottom lines of their ventures. As an advisor for Aalor Asha, an educational institute I started for underprivileged children subjected to child labor, I also empower a local team to scale our model of paying students to learn after success in urban areas in Bangladesh.

In the US, I have served as the Graduate Student Council co-chair at Georgia Tech since 2019. This council anticipates and helps mitigate major challenges of graduate student life. One example stands out. During the Trump administration’s F-1 (student) visa ban crisis during 2020, I leveraged my working relationship with multiple government agencies and units within Georgia Tech to set up dedicated channels to fast-track case resolutions, which prevented the wrongful deportation of at least 11 international students.

My biggest joy comes from witnessing my mentees achieve things that were not even on the table for me—it shows intergenerational progress when the next generation can afford to do things the previous one couldn’t even dream of.

Relevant personal and professional experience

Professionally, I bridge two worlds—Higher Education (or academia) and technology (AI) that are directly relevant to two committees: undergraduate academics and admissions, along with the Development and External Relations committee.
 
The translational exercise of applying a traditional liberal arts education to a highly competitive technology world is one where W&L’s footprint is relatively low, and it empowers me to add value to both of these boards.

At a personal level, throughout my life, I’ve had to learn how to thrive in “central” spaces that weren’t designed for people like me despite often existing at the “margins”. These lived experiences can strengthen core DEI initiatives by the Board, especially when it comes to representing minority voices in a meaningful and substantive manner (beyond token representation).

Accomplishments

My work exists in the translational space between technology and society. I have spearheaded thought leadership in advancing the field of Explainable AI (XAI). For instance, it has taught the AI community on how to develop complex AI systems that can explain its reasoning in plain English so that anyone regardless of their technical background can understand it.

Contributions in this space from alumni are not only creditworthy to the school but are also“Not Unmindful of the Future” because of its implications in developing ethical and trustworthy AI-powered technologies in high-stakes domains like healthcare, law, and finance. Beyond award winning publications in top-tier peer-reviewed venues, my work has been covered by major outlets like MIT Tech Review, Quartz, Vice News, AAAS Science, etc.

The intellectual equity gained through the contributions often attract like-minded and influential figures  in the technology ecosystem. My collaborations at top tech companies can potentially foster stakeholder engagements that reflexively benefit the student body. Work in this space inherently requires strong management, fundraising, and leadership skills, both of which can be an asset to the university.

Other interesting facts

I firmly believe in constructive critique. In my personal and professional life, I critique  problematic aspects from a place of love and concern to  ensure that I am constructive in that critique. 

As a member of the Board, that is what you can expect to get—one who fights to amplify the good aspects while reforming those that leave quite a bit to be desired at W&L. In my humble  opinion, if you belong somewhere, you’ve earned the right to critique and reform it. 
I belong at W&L, and I will do my best to help it improve.

As Simon Sinek says: “Leadership is not about taking charge. It is taking care of those in your charge.”