Student Spotlight: Sunny Rodrigues

How an idea that started as a way to gather a couple dozen CPS students over coffee turned into an event with over 250 attendees.

Sai (Sunny) Rodrigues came to Northeastern from India in January, 2017 to complete a Master of Science in Project Management. “I looked up Northeastern and it came up as one of the most innovative schools. For project management, you require innovation to come up with different ideas,” Sunny said when asked why he chose Northeastern. “I hate redundant work. I really felt that Northeastern was the most compatible with my own views.”

Sunny’s decision was soon validated—he found he loved both Northeastern and his studies. But he also noticed an opportunity for more student events, and was determined to help grow that community.

The College of Professional Studies, where Sunny is a student, is known for its flexibility and diversity. Students of all ages take courses online, on-ground on the Boston campus, or through Northeastern’s regional campuses—meaning the student body is spread out across the country, and beyond.

Additionally, with a large international population, many students are starting a new phase of their life in a new country. And due to limitations on international students working in the U.S., Sunny found that many of his peers had more free time between classes and coursework than they expected.

Northeastern offers myriad extracurricular events, and lectures, among other things, for students to attend. These are all open to CPS students, but Sunny felt that CPS students weren’t always aware of these events, something he wanted to help remedy. He also saw an opportunity to organize events geared towards the unique population of CPS.

Sunny decided to work toward creating more opportunities for CPS students specifically to gather on the Boston campus. He took a position on campus as a Community Ambassador for Off Campus Student Services. He went to every department on campus asking what they offered CPS students in terms of events and extracurriculars. He then began a WhatsApp group called “What’s Happening Around Where,” or WHAW. Using this platform he began sharing posters of campus events with other students.

Thanks to Sunny’s role as a Community Ambassador, he also started meeting many more students, broadening his network around Northeastern and eventually growing his WhatsApp group to over 1,800 students.

He continued his mission when he started a new position as program assistant at the Northeastern Center for Intercultural Engagement in January 2018. He believed that this role would give him the ability to help grow the community for students even further. To that end, Sunny had a meeting with Karin Firoza, director of Center for Intercultural Engagement and told her his goal of organizing more CPS community events.

He also went to a trusted professor, Mary Ludden, an assistant teaching professor in project management, who told him to follow his gut. “She told me I have a great position right now [at Center for Intercultural Engagement] and that I should turn my ideas into actions.” Ludden’s support gave him the push he needed to start making strategic moves for change. “I went back to Karin and she agreed that Center for Intercultural Engagement needed to host an event for CPS students.”

While Sunny was planning what he wanted the event to look like, he was also meeting with Kristen Lee, an associate teaching professor in behavioral science at Northeastern. Professor Lee agreed to spearhead the event now titled “Coffee and Convos” and speak about imposter syndrome, or the feeling that you are a fraud, despite evidence to the contrary. It was a topic that hit home for Sunny and one to which he felt that many of his peers could likewise relate.

Sunny created a flyer, sent it to his 1,800 contacts via WhatsApp, and placed flyers around CIE and Nightingale Hall. The turnout for the first Coffee and Convos was significantly beyond what they expected. “There were more than 280 people standing in Center for Intercultural Engagement —that was such a great moment for me,” Sunny recalled. The turnout validated that this population of students was thirsty for more opportunities to gather together and learn.

Sunny Rodrigues has spent his time at Northeastern helping to grow the CPS community around the Boston campus. Coffee and Convos turned into a series, where professors, faculty and students could get together to discuss imposter syndrome and what that means to the CPS population. The sessions became gatherings where students could make connections and become a part of the larger community.

While Sunny set out to come to the U.S. and complete his Master’s in Project Management, he has achieved far more than just a degree. He has built a network of students that has coalesced around common interests and backgrounds.

Sunny is graduating December 2018, but plans to continue to be a part of the Northeastern community as an active alumnus and hopes to return one day as a faculty member.