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RISALAT KHAN WINS WYMAN AWARD 2013
RISALAT KHAN is a geology and environment major from Dacca, Bangladash. There follows his own words and his response for the 1951 campaign for the Singing College.
"I am honored to receive the Wyman Medal. It came as a very nice surprise in the same week following my birthday! I am sorry for the late reply - I was in the Berkshires with some friends for the last few days for a senior week trip and had no internet access.
To satisfy a bit of your curiosity about my background:
I went to a normal private high school in Bangladesh. It isn't especially distinguished by any means. When I graduated from high school, I considered my college options, and coming to the US on scholarship seemed like a good idea. So I went online, searched for rankings, and applied to the top few colleges and universities. Amherst happened to be the only place I got in (besides being wait-listed in a few other places), and while I did not know much about liberal arts colleges at the time, I liked it the more I read about it, and ended up coming here. Some of my school mates are in colleges in the US and Canada, but very few are in Oxford or Cambridge (or more generally, in the UK - even though there are some). Did you ask because Bangladesh used to be a British colony?
My plans for the immediate future involves a social entrepreneurship program in Boulder, CO for which I got selected. It is a start-up called Watson University, founded by a young Amherst alum (Eric Glustrom '07). I am excited to be part of the inaugural class (comprising 18 Watson scholars) and look forward to being in Boulder. Over the summer, I hope to do some research with a professor on the recent political turmoil in Bangladesh, take a road trip across the US, and go back home for a bit.
By the senior song, I understand you mean the song with lyrics "Strangers once, we came to dwell together..."? I did not know the song until quite recently, but a good friend of mine arranged to have the entire senior class sing the senior song together at Senior Assembly, and forwarded us a video of the song so we could learn the lyrics. I enjoyed singing it, and think it is a good song.
Regarding the Lord Jeffery Amherst song, however, I take some issue. From your google search, you may have come across my name relating to conversations on the "Lord Jeff" mascot. The song embeds in its lyrics a power dynamics that is inappropriate in a world where native americans are still so oppressed. Whether or not it was designed to be satirical does not really matter. Even very recently in our college's history, and definitely during the time that you were a student (please correct me if I'm mistaken), the issue of genocide of native americans was thrown around very lightly, even displayed as decoration in Val china. I organized an event on campus during this past semester where Michael Kelly, the Head of Archives and Special Collections at Frost Library, made an excellent presentation about the history of our mascot. I firmly believe that even though this has been an important tradition, it is time for us to move beyond this and choose a mascot that is inclusive for all our community members but can still energize our sports teams.
Again, I thank you for your email and for the recognition. Is there anything that follows this? You shared the list of previous award receivers, and I was impressed upon looking up the past awardees. Perhaps there can be a group where these individuals can share ideas about how best to use the Amherst education and experience to service humanity?