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Senior Spotlight: Maya Gujral

English senior Maya Gujral is passionate about equality in outdoor spaces and making her communities safer and more inclusive.

Why did you decide to become an English major?
Before I became an English major, I spent time jumping around between different STEM fields trying to find my place. Eventually, I realized that I could not find my place because I was ignoring what I really loved. I've always been an avid reader and looked forward to writing essays for my classes. Once I stopped ignoring what I really loved, the choice to become an English major wasn't even a choice. Additionally, since I was not sure about what path I wanted to take after graduation, English was an even better decision. Since it is so marketable, I have the freedom to pursue any field I want, instead of feeling stuck on one singular path.

In a fun turn for me, when I went to tell some of my high school English teachers that I decided to switch to English, they greeted me with a resounding "I thought you went into college as an English major", which only cemented the idea that while I had no clue what I was doing, everyone else knew my interests better than I did.

What clubs, campus groups, internships, outside of class projects have you been involved with?
I was a member of Tri Delta for 4 years. During that time, I was New Member Educator and Risk Management Chair, along with being a Small Group Leader for New Member Education, being the Diversity and Inclusion Chair, and the Sexual Assault Prevention Liaison. Through all these positions, I worked hard alongside other members and our advisors to make the chapter a safer and more inclusive space.

What is something you read during class that impacted your worldview?  
Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place.
It really makes you think about how tourism can negatively affect small island communities. It was also interesting to hear that many people from Antigua disagreed with Kincaid, although her points seem sound from an outside perspective, and it really opens your eyes. Overall, it is a short read and I think it is one that I will be recommending for a long time to come. It addresses so many issues that we still face today, and it is written in a way that makes it impossible for the reader to separate themselves from the problem and must instead acknowledge that they are often a part of the problem.

What skills (professional, creative or other) do you think you’ve gotten from the major?
The biggest skills that I have gained from the major are the ability to get my thoughts across clearly and concisely and find the deeper meaning behind what someone says, instead of just taking things at face value. The fact that most classes are discussion-based instead of lecture-based is also helpful because it helps English majors learn how to articulate their ideas out loud, and not fear speaking up in a group meeting setting. Many of the classes also force you to confront uncomfortable topics, and I think being able to discuss these hard topics without shying away will benefit all of us in our future careers.

What is your dream job or career?
My dream job or career is anything that combines my love of English with my love of the outdoors and outdoor work. Ideally, I would live like Henry David Thoreau but not be nearing 30 and still having my mother do my laundry for me. Alternately, I would love to be Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain.

In all seriousness, there is a huge problem with exclusionary practices and pricing in the Outdoor community, and I would love to work to remedy and remove those practices and make the outdoors accessible for everyone, the way it should be.

What are you passionate about (or even curious about)?
I'm passionate about anything relating to the outdoors, especially equality in the outdoor space. It has become increasingly obvious how exclusionary the outdoor space is to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and lower-income people in recent years, even though the outdoors should be for everyone because it is everywhere. I hope that if I can work in the Outdoor Industry, I will be able to work to make a change to that culture from the inside.

I'm also incredibly passionate about forcing all my friends to read, binge-watching way too many sitcoms, any water-related activity, and knowing unnecessary facts/having unnecessary skills.