But when Thatham landed at the University of Cincinnati for graduate school, the Chennai native blossomed into a campus leader, It’s not that he stopped studying- pursuing simultaneous master’s degrees in business administration and chemical engineering requires a devotion to academics- but he became captivated by all the opportunities he found to try new things: student government; the Indian Student Association; the TEDx lecture series; and a slew of committees and associations to help international and graduate students and improve transportation.
“It’s generally understood that you’re here for a degree, but if you’re with a group of Indian students all the time you could just stay in India,” says Thatham. “You can take more than just that degree when you leave if you get involved. Coming to UC, I’ve been able to figure out what I want to do long-term and learn about myself. I’d definitely rank coming to UC as one of the best experiences of my life.”
Thatham applied to six schools for graduate study and almost ended up at the University of Illinois at Chicago, but a UC student he knew told him tt e faculty and coursework here was good and there was a large Indian student community that would make him feel at home. That and a scholarship convinced Thatham to choose UC.
In addition to student government and work on behalf of international students, Thatham has been involved in launching the UC Airport Ride Service for students and Hyperloop UC, a futuristic transportation initiative that would take passengers from Cincinnati to Chicago in 30 minutes. His tireless involvement led to recognition and a series of awards, including the Outstanding International Graduate Student Award, the Graduate Student Service Award, and the International Spotlight Award.
Thatham will finish his coursework in 2017, and he’s already turning his thoughts to what he’ll do next. He’d like to work in a role that combines management and administration with engineering, and he’s also interested in entrepreneurship.
Longterm he love to see a technology research ecosystem emerge in the Cincinnati region that’s similar to North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park or California’s Silicon Valley. But first he’ll need to find a job in Cincinnati that would allow him to stay. The difficulty in finding those jobs, he says, leads many international students to leave the region when they’d prefer to stay.
“The only reason why somebody would leave a city like Cincinnati, as awesome as it is, is that they don’t have job opportunities here.” Thatham says, “Even though there are jobs open here, international graduates need sponsors, and a lot of local companies aren’t used to getting sponsorships the way companies in other cities are used to.
“I would love to stay in Cincinnati. I’m having the time of my life here. I want to stay and give back to the community and give back to UC, but if there are no job prospects here there’s nothing I can do about it.”