Six years ago, Rohan Goswami was a student at Loch Raven High School. As a senior, he served on the debate team, participated in student government, volunteered for Relay for Life, performed in the school musical, and belonged to a few honor societies.
But that wasn’t all Goswami juggled; he also was the 2010-2011 student member of the Board. In the interview below, Goswami talks about his experiences on the Board, including how he got there, what he did, and where he’s been since.
How did you find out about the opportunity to serve on the Board?
Goswami: “My principal approached me and said it could be a good opportunity. She told me about it and said, ‘Why don’t you look into it?’ So I did a little research, and she helped me put the application together.”
Why did you apply to serve on the Board?
Goswami: “I had already been in student government throughout high school and even before that, so I thought it could be a really cool chance to see how politics played out on the school board level. I also thought it would be a good chance to try my hand at representing my friends and other students by having a voice on the Board. All around, I thought it would be a cool, novel experience.”
What did you do as the student member of the Board?
Goswami: “My primary responsibility was to attend each of the Board meetings. When I was there, student members were also tasked with being on at least two subcommittees. These subcommittees could be anything from curriculum planning to finance and real estate, though the student member usually wasn’t on the real estate one.
“I was on the curriculum one for one of my subcommittees, and we reviewed proposals about how the school system wanted to change courses or use new teaching materials. So it was an opportunity for me to share any opinions I had and give that input both within the subcommittee groups and whenever I was at the Board meetings.”
Can you describe any challenges you overcame while on the Board?
Goswami: “I thought in the beginning that it would be difficult because people might not take me seriously. That fear comes when you’re the youngest person in a group. But I didn’t find that at all. The other members were really supportive and always listened to whatever I had to say. So, when I had an opinion, they respected that in their decisions, and I felt well-represented.
“I also felt like I really was one of the members. I didn’t feel like they treated me any differently, and they didn’t say, ‘Here’s this little project for you, and go sit there and do your own thing.’ Instead, it was like, ‘Here’s what we do, and we want you to be a part of that decision-making process.’ So I thought that was really nice.”
What did you learn from your experience on the Board?
Goswami: “I learned a few things. One thing that I thought was pretty big is that the community actually does have a lot of input into the decisions that the Board makes. I don’t think everyone really realizes or knows that. I know that there was a core group of a few people who would come to the Board meetings and voice their concerns. But there are definitely opportunities for other people who feel strongly to come to the Board to give their opinions and voice their concerns about how the schools are doing. So it was interesting to me how accessible a lot of the Board members were.
“I think the other thing was that I had never really thought about how the people on the Board are appointed. They don’t get paid anything, so it was interesting that there are actually people willing to do this work for the community. A lot of them have been retired or they’re older members of the community, but they all want to give back, and I thought that was interesting, too. I hadn’t realized before that they wanted to make a change.”
What did you do after serving on the Board?
Goswami: “I served on the Board, and then I went to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. I did my four years there, and I majored in economics and biology. I thought about going down the medical school path, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do long-term. So, right now, I’m in management consulting, trying to get a little bit of practical experience from my economics side and then maybe branch out to figure out exactly what I want to do. So, for the time being, that’s landed me in Boston, where I’ve been for about a year now.”
How did your time on the Board affect where you are now?
Goswami: “When I was younger – and, actually, even to this day – public policy has always been something I’ve been interested in. So getting that experience from the Board was formative and a nice early exposure to the public policy process on the school system level. So, now, I feel like, whatever direction I go in eventually in the future, I’ll be able to apply that experience to public service.”
What advice do you have for other students who are interested in serving on the Board?
Goswami: “The first thing would definitely be to apply. I knew a lot of people who were interested, and then I would follow up and say, ‘Hey, did you apply?’ And they’d say, ‘No, I forgot.’ So I think that’s my first piece of advice: You shouldn’t be shy or afraid of applying. They’re not looking for anyone in particular. I think they’re just looking for students who seem really interested in their school communities and who seem eager to serve their fellow students.
“And, the second thing, even if you don’t get to be the student member of the Board, there are a lot of good opportunities for you to get involved in if this specific one doesn’t pan out.”
Goswami is one of many former SMOBs whose terms have had a significant impact on them and the directions their lives took. To learn about other former SMOBs, where they are, and where they’re going, keep checking Deliberate Excellence. For more information about SMOBs in general or other members of the Board of Education, click here or here.