Washington University

From India to Drury with success on the way

While the idea that a student would travel more than 8,000 miles to attend a liberal arts university in Missouri may sound surprising to some, for recent Drury graduate Sayan Patra (Pronounced: Shy-own Pah-tra), choosing Drury was simply the next step. Patra is from Durgapur, India, and attended Hem Sheela Model School in his home country. Hem Sheela is Drury University’s sister school in Durgapur, which was founded by Drury professors Rabindra and Protima Roy in 1995. Attending elementary and secondary school at a place founded by Drury professors means Patra grew up with Drury in mind. “My family and friends didn’t want to see me travel so far away,” said Patra. “But I wanted to see the world with my own eyes.”

Patra in Chicago in 2010

With a scholarship in hand, Patra came to Drury to pursue undergraduate degrees in mathematics, computer science and physics. Chasing three majors at once is no easy task and Patra pressed his limits by becoming involved in numerous organizations around campus. By being associated with a wide diversity of departments at Drury, Patra was able to meet new people and make connections on a personal level. He tackled his busy schedule by developing time management skills and relationships with Drury faculty. “The Roys (Drs. Rabindra and Protima) pushed me to succeed, whether it was academics or involvement,” said Patra. With ambitions high, Patra accomplished a great deal in his four years at Drury, including creating the app Greeksr that helps Greek Life students connect with other Greeks via social media on one platform. In addition, he graduated Summa Cum Laude and was named Outstanding Senior Man for the 2012-2013 school year.

“We are very proud of Sayan because he made Hem Sheela very proud,” said Rabindra and Protima Roy. “The day we opened the doors at Hem Sheela, he was there to sign up for kindergarten.”

Patra is currently home in India where he will get a couple months of rest before starting his fall semester at Washington University in St. Louis. He is one of the few students selected for the Harold P. Brown Engineering Fellowship, a merit scholarship for students who excel in academic and co-curricular achievements. He will pursue a major in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering.  Upon completion, he plans to obtain a doctorate in aerospace engineering. As a child, Patra dreamed of building planes and rockets, but growing up he learned building them did not help people, at least not the way he wanted to. “I want to build satellites because they help people,” he said. “We all need to do our part to make this world better. Blind ambition or personal satisfaction doesn’t do that. I want to do work that accomplishes a greater good.”


Story by Amber Perdue, a May 2013 Drury University graduate.

Drury vice president is expanding her higher education knowledge through an ACE fellowship

While the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) Leadership Academy participants are growing through experiential learning on their own campuses, Dawn Hiles, vice president of enrollment management at Drury University, is engaged in an off-campus experience that will enrich her leadership capabilities. As one of only 57 American Council on Education (ACE) Fellows for the 2012-13 academic year, Hiles hopes that the program will expand on the skills she brings to her current role at Drury.

Dawn Hiles, vice president of enrollment management

Through the ACE Fellows program, participants “immerse themselves in the culture, policies and decision-making processes of another institution.” After Hiles was accepted, she made a list of 12 potential hosts and interviewed with three of them. She chose Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., because of its outstanding reputation. In addition, being three and half hours away from Drury, its proximity gave her a great deal of flexibility and even allowed her to attend the weekend launch of WashU’s capital campaign. There are year-long and semester-long tracks for the fellowship, but Hiles is completing a total of 12 weeks spread out over two semesters so that she can continue to work at Drury.

“The program is a rich experience in a short amount of time,” she said.

Hiles is the first ACE Fellow that WashU has hosted, and Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Chief of Staff Robert Wild are serving as her mentors.  She will work on four different projects over the course of the year. So far she has completed work on the Delmar Loop, an $80 million mixed-use housing project combining student housing with retail. Currently, she is working with the Gephardt Institute for Public Service, which is WashU’s civic engagement center. The last two projects scheduled for the spring relate to the Medical School and the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

ACE Fellows are encouraged to expand contacts in higher education, both in the U.S. and abroad. Hiles feels fortunate to have spent an afternoon with David Maxwell, president of Drake University, discussing various topics in higher education. She is also expanding her contacts, both domestic and global, through other ACE Fellows, both current and past. To achieve this, ACE hosts retreats and seminars and suggests that Fellows embark on an international trip during the program. (Hiles’ plans for this are still undecided.).

Just a few months into the program, Hiles already feels as though the wide range of experiences has influenced her decision-making, as she consistently applies situations from her encounters at WashU to her work at Drury. “Without these experiences, one runs the risk of getting entrenched in only one approach to problem-solving,” Hiles said.

The advantage to the ACE program is that it gives Fellows a broader sense of what is happening in higher education, and Hiles believes that these experiences will help her gain an entrepreneurial approach to the opportunities and challenges within the industry. “The more information and context you apply to a situation, the better your decisions will be,” she said.


Story by Michelle Apuzzio, communications director for the New American Colleges and Universities (NACU), this story first appeared in the December edition of the NACU newsletter. Re-printed with permission.