York College Student Scores Math Scholarship

Bebi Rajendra is that rare college student. Only one month into her first semester at York College/CUNY, the Mathematics major was able to nab a $3,000 scholarship.

Add to that, although she’s just now in her freshman year of college in the United States, nine of Rajendra’s former students from when she taught in middle school in her native Guyana, are attending CUNY colleges – including one at York.

Rajendra taught integrated science and mathematics “back home” in both public and Muslim schools before coming to the United States four and a half years ago.

The mother of three, whose husband is a New York City school teacher, “kept bugging the Scholarship Center” at York for a scholarship for which she would qualify to apply. She’s grateful for their patience and surprised they “didn’t walk the other way when they saw me coming.”

As a non-American citizen Rajendra does not qualify for Thurgood Marshall and many other scholarships available to American citizens. The Office had to find an opportunity which had no citizenship qualifier. 

And then the Math Department found one.

“Professor (Rishi) Nath came across this scholarship and sent it to the Scholarship Center,” Rajendra explained of her stroke of good fortune. “I didn’t have to be a citizen to qualify. And I haven’t even taken a class with Professor Nath yet.”
The American Mathematical Society (AMS Awards), “the nation's largest mathematical organization,” are intended to help talented students pursue their undergraduate studies in mathematics. The scholarships are funded by a bequest from the estate of Waldemar J., Barbara G., and Juliet Trjitzinsky. 

With York being an AMS member and Rajendra being a declared Math major the stage was set for this match-made-in-heaven event. 

Nath explained how it happened.

"Last spring, our Department chair, Professor Lou D'Alotto, received notice from the AMS that York had been selected for a Waldemar J. Trjitzinsky Award,” he recounted. “He then asked me to form a committee to advertise and evaluate potential candidates. Professors Farley Mawyer and Linda Gonzalez joined me in putting out a call to various sections of the York community. Although there were several worthy candidates, we agreed that Bebi's application was the most compelling.  As part of her award she will be joining the Tensor Scholars, a York group designed to combat the underrepresentation of women in mathematics.”

Professor Nath further explained that Rajendra will also be encouraged to find a mentor with whom she can conduct an undergraduate research project to showcase at York’s annual Student Research Day. 

“The Department is pleased that Bebi Rajendra has been selected for this prestigious award,” said Nath. “We have high hopes for her future here at York and beyond."

“Persistence paid off,” said Rajendra “I’m just very grateful to everyone.”

The $3,000 check was presented to the young mathematician during an opening celebration for the Office of Undergraduate Research (Room 3E07B), for which Professor Nath is director. 

Rajendra will in turn “pay it forward,” by resuming what she did in Guyana, here in the United States -- teaching.

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