Finding her passion
Newly elected Student Union President Simran Tatuskar '21 follows her own path
From her pun-filled emails to her presence at Student Union events, Simran Tatuskar ’21 has become the face of the Union this semester. Next year she will be even more visible, as she was elected Union president on Thursday. Yet Tatuskar’s journey to becoming so involved in the Union has not been as straightforward as some may assume.
This will be Tatuskar’s second position on the Union’s Executive Board. She has served as secretary this semester and as co-chair of the Senate’s Health and Wellness committee since the beginning of fall semester.
Although she only joined the Union her sophomore year, she ran for Class of 2021 senator at the beginning of her first year. “I’m kind of grateful that I lost, because if I hadn’t, I would not have joined GirlUp,” Tatuskar reflected in an interview with the Justice.
In fall 2017, Tatuskar joined the Brandeis chapter of GirlUp, a United Nations Foundation campaign that “aims to unite girls to change the world,” per their website. Her first role was events coordinator, which put her in a unique position to connect with different corners of the Brandeis community. Over the last two years of organizing events, first as events coordinator and now as the club’s president, she has worked with 50 to 60 clubs and over 50 professors on campus.
One of her most important GirlUp experiences came the spring of her first year when she helped plan a forum that asked “to what extent has Brandeis failed women and genderqueer people?”
“Hearing all the flaws in the system … made me realize that any bit I could do to help the system, I would like to do,” Tatuskar said, reflecting that the experience pushed her to join the Union next semester. “I realized pretty early on, that I really respected the Union, and I liked the work that they were doing, and any part of it that I can be involved in, I was,” Tatuskar said.
For Tatuskar, that meant serving on five Senate committees in addition to her role as secretary. Recently, she has also served as the accessibility movement’s liaison with the University’s administration.
Reflecting on what drew her to the Health and Wellness Committee and then to working with the accessibility movement, Tatuskar attributed it to the fact that when she came to college, she was a pre-med student. “In realizing that there were health issues and safety issues … and accessibility issues on this campus, it really drew me to it, because that’s what I’ve been focused on for six years,” Tatuskar said.
Tatuskar went to a high school in New Jersey that specialized in biotechnology, which exposed her to a variety of complex biology classes and internships before even attending Brandeis. “My life was science,” she said, adding that it felt “natural” for her to pursue science in college.
Yet, Tatuskar’s high school experience was also marked by her heavy involvement in debate competitions through the Junior State of America. Being involved in competitive debate helped her realize she was also interested in law and policy.
“At a certain point [at Brandeis], I hit the realization that as much as I love science, it’s not my passion,” Tatuskar said. “And I think my passion really is being able to help people more on the policy side.”
Thus, Tatuskar, who started Brandeis as a pre-med Chemical Biology major with an Health: Science, Society and Policy minor, is now a Philosophy and Business double major, with a Legal Studies minor and a potential minor in Chemistry. She explained that she does not want to entirely abandon her science experience, but rather wants to draw on her science background as she gets involved in the world of law and policy.
“When I came to Brandeis, all the academic stuff I was going to let the professors teach me, but when it came to life, I didn’t want to learn that in a classroom,” Tatuskar said. She said that she is able to tell that she “made the right call” double majoring in Philosophy and Business because she is “genuinely enjoying going to class.” She described the Union as “a good complement” to her new focus on policy.
Besides finding her passion for policy, Tatuskar’s time at Brandeis has also been defined by figuring out how to navigate different aspects of her identity as an Indian American woman.
Simran described how she feels that she “falls in this hazy in-between” at Brandeis, where she is “not Indian enough” for international Indian students while she is also clearly not white.
Tatuskar’s early experiences at Brandeis were also, she felt, defined by the attention she pays to her appearance. “When I first got to Brandeis, anytime I met someone, I was like, ‘Hi, I’m Simran,’ and they’d be like, ‘Yeah, I know, I follow you on Instagram,’” Tatuskar said, adding later, “There have been times where I feel like if I want to be taken seriously, I can’t look the way I want to look.”
She described how she thinks people viewed her as a “pretty party girl,” saying, “There’s a lot more to me than that, and I’m happy that has finally been expressed.”
Tatuskar said that she has experienced sexism and racism on the Brandeis campus, but that she learned from her high school debate team how to pick her battles. “Knowing when you can actually convince someone to change their perspective” is important to Tatuskar and a skill that she thinks will serve her well as president.
Tatuskar also sees her ability to stay true to her herself as something that will be important to her presidency. “I feel like a lot of people think that if you’re president of something that you can’t stay true to who you are. And that’s not true at all,” Tatuskar said. Things like including puns in the weekly emails she sends out as secretary make sure that her personality and voice are not lost, even as she interacts with the entire student body.
Even with all of her commitments on campus, Tatuskar makes time for herself, making sure she gets off campus and reads a book each week. “Do I have time for it? No. Do I make myself have time for it? Yes,” she said. As of Friday, she was reading the first Game of Thrones novel and “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Tatuskar has traveled widely in her life, moving around frequently in her childhood for her father’s work in pharmaceuticals. Experiencing different cultures across the world has taught Tatuskar how vast the world is and how insignificant individuals are. “In the real world, whatever actions you take are very miniscule, unless you choose to make them impactful,” she reflected.