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  • Writer's pictureThe Lawrencian

Alumni Interview with Sujay Shetty

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Piyush Nawade ('24)

This is the first article in the Alumni Interview series. This series is intended to provide insight from past students to help current students make better informed decisions about their high school career and higher education choices. It is meant to highlight the various unique aspects of our school and how the environment cultivated by our school affects students once they leave LHS. I have interviewed Sujay Shetty from the LHS Class of 2015, who graduated from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and currently has a stellar career in data science and software development.

After college, did you find significant job opportunities in your field of study?

In terms of job opportunities, it all depends on what you make of them. I majored in Informatics with a Concentration in Life Science. Some people really want to do life science-oriented stuff like research or some type of genetics lab because biology is very broad. I was actually more on the computation side of things where I dealt with the software and data science part of the field.

Did LHS help cultivate interest in these fields? Did your time at LHS help you lean towards any of these fields?

I think LHS gave a base. So if you think about what kind of stuff prepares you for this kind of coursework, it’s going to be math and I think we had pretty good math opportunities at LHS. I did have to go outside of LHS, a little bit, for math by taking a math course my senior year at Mercer County Community College. It was a Stats oriented course focused on scientists and engineers. At LHS we had AP Stats. It was a good course and was taught by Mr. Cimorelli while I was there. But the Statistics course I took at Mercer incorporated Calculus, as well, unlike AP Stats.

In terms of the life science part of things, I didn’t really know what I was going to until I fell into it. I took AP Biology with Ms. Randall. That was a great class. She’s awesome. I took bio in my freshman year as well, like everyone else. STEM Academy exposed me to some life science topics here and there. In the first year or so in high school, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I moved away from that because as I went through high school I explored various different fields.

What were your favorite extracurriculars at LHS?

I was in a lot. I ended up liking a lot of things, from an extracurricular perspective. I probably did too much, actually. At the same time, I am really grateful for them because I got so much exposure, figured out my interests, and got to meet cool people. I ended up being super involved in STEM Academy. I think I was maybe the first freshman to get involved. Mr. Davis was the advisor at the door and he was like “Hey, I don’t check ID at the door, so if you want to come hang out with us, you can”. I became very involved after that. I was also heavily involved with our Debate team. I really enjoyed the Debate team. Back when I was there, we did really well. There were lots of very smart people and people who pursued different fields, too. Again, at the end of the day, that kind of skill set can be used in any kind of career. I was involved in Model Congress and that was run by Ms. Hertzog at the time. There was Math League, DECA, I was on the tennis team, Model UN, and there was a little bit of International Alliance. Outside of LHS, I was involved in Scouting.

Who were your favorite teachers from what you remember?

For the most part, every teacher I had in LHS was great. I think some that really ended up meaning a lot to me included, Mr. Davis and Ms. Hertzog. I worked with Mr. Davis quite a bit in STEM Academy and as well as when I took chemistry with him. He was super influential to me and made a big impact on my life. I remember Ms. Hertzog fondly. I didn’t really take classes with her until my senior year but she was involved with me from maybe my sophomore year or so, maybe even earlier. She was impactful as well. Another person who was very impactful on me was Mr. Ammirata. I took Econ with him, and his class was great. I also really loved Ms. Randall’s class. I remember Ms. Schneck and Mr. Rick. I think Mr. Rick moved on to his restaurant business a few years ago. I took Accounting with Rick and I was in DECA with Schneck, and that was a lot of fun. Mr. Rowe’s class was great. Madam Salehi was a great teacher to me. I had her all four years and I’m very thankful for her. I wasn’t the best student per se, but she was a great teacher and had a great class.

Are you in touch with any of them?

I’m in touch with a lot of them on social media. I think I came into LHS once while I was in college to speak to one of Ms. Hertzog’s classes, but that’s basically the extent of that.

Do you have any fond memories of high school?

Oh yeah, there is a lot of stuff that stands out to me right away. I don’t know if STEM Academy still does this, but they used to do this annual science night, like an outreach kind of thing where they used to have some kind of themed programming, where you could demonstrate science activities to younger students and guests. Those were great. I was particularly fond of Video Game Science Night. That was one of my favorite ones. We had dozens of volunteers and hundreds of people showed up. Besides that, the DECA, Model UN, and Model Congress field trips were a lot of fun. I also remember tennis very fondly because of the friends I made there and the matches we played.

Besides those specific events, I also had some really nice experiences. Every single time I walked into Mr. Rowe’s class, I was in for a treat. I knew I was going to get an undeniably interesting lecture and learn something new. I took AP Lit senior year and probably every single time I went to Ms. Henderson’s class, we had really cool discussions. All these small things were truly great. I am now realizing that you only truly realize the value of these experiences a few years after the fact.

Now that you’re no longer part of LHS and have finished college, where people are heavily influenced by the atmosphere of the school, how do you think LHS shaped you to interact with the world? How do you think people who have an LHS background differ from those who don’t?

I think one of the big things with LHS is that there is an outstanding level of diversity from a socioeconomic standpoint, an ethnic standpoint, and a racial perspective, which is extremely valuable. I think going to school in that kind of environment puts you in a good spot to operate in the real world because in the real world, whether or not you end up in a place like New York City, which is very diverse, or you end up in a small town in Kansas, which might not be as diverse, the fact that you learned, developed, and grew up in a very diverse environment like LHS, puts you in a good position to connect with people on a deeper level, be able to understand people, and be able to make strong connections with them.

I think that there are a lot of different structures in LHS that allow students to meet lots of different people with different backgrounds which is a quality that is not that prevalent in a lot of other high schools. At least when I was in LHS, for the most part, if you wanted to be in a club, you could just join the club. You didn’t have to be in like the Arts & Humanities Academy to be in Model Congress. You didn’t necessarily have to apply to most of these clubs either, except for a few clubs like Model UN. But for the most part, if you wanted to be involved, you could. I think this kind of structure made it really easy for you to interact with kids from different backgrounds. I’m not saying our school is perfect when it comes to this, but I am saying that I’ve noticed, from my experiences in college and beyond, that our school is much more diverse than other schools.

Do you think LHS does a good job of integrating students into a greater community beyond the school?

Yeah, I think it does. The last few years, from a social perspective, have been pretty polarizing and there’s been lots of talk about different topics surrounding social justice and issues like that. I was already exposed to most of the issues that became very prominent during that time, just because I had grown up in such a diverse community. For many people, that wasn’t the case. I was in college in 2020, and we were learning in class about how the college would address new issues that were brought to light. I realized most of the terminology and the methods of inclusivity that my college discussed were basically already the standard at LHS. While I was in college, I also noticed that there were certain areas that LHS excelled at, like being culturally responsive.

Things like that, combined with going to school at LHS, or even growing up in the Lawrence community put me in a really good position compared to a lot of high schools that are less diverse. I think it's cool in LHS that, in those four minutes between classes1, you can sometimes hear five different languages in the hallways. Obviously, I’m not saying that the school is perfect. There was room for improvement back then, and there is probably room for improvement now, but I’d say we’re doing much better than other schools when it comes to inclusivity.

1 Before Covid, students had only 4 minutes to move between classes.

Was there anything that you didn’t like about LHS?

A lot of the frustrating parts of high school, you kind of reconcile as you get older. Like you say, “Oh, that makes a bit more sense.” But there is still some stuff that I still disagree with to some extent. For example, it was really tough to get initiatives, whether it’s an event or a program a club is trying to host, approved. It was a difficult process which was kind of frustrating sometimes. It made it a little difficult to be innovative. I think you probably see the full extent of this when you’re in a leadership role in a club or team and you’re trying to start some kind of event that the administration is not used to. It’s sometimes tough to get new things done. I get why it’s tough sometimes. It’s a public school, so if an event needs funds, it has to use taxpayer funds responsibly. If it involves inviting someone to the school, obviously it has to be safe. I get that. But sometimes I felt like the school didn’t put enough effort, at least when I was in school. Most of the time when approached with a plan for an event, they said “no” until we fixed it to their liking. I would have liked it if the school said “These are our concerns. We want the event to happen so let’s work together and figure out a way to get you there.”

Another thing I found frustrating was that it was really tough to go to the library during lunchtime. It seems like a trivial issue, but I used to love to go to the library during lunch and for some reason, it was difficult to do that. I get that maybe it was a supervision issue, or maybe it was an over-capacity issue, but I still felt like the library was a great resource that the school was keeping from us.

By the way, some of this stuff might have changed. I’m only able to speak from my perspective as a part of the class of 2015.

Did LHS prepare you for your job and career, as well?

Yes, LHS provided a great foundation for my career, however, I did find that we lacked a Computer Science class. I knew some high schools near us had computer science curriculums and I found that, in this day and age, it was a major drawback that we didn’t have one. I found out from my sisters, after I graduated, that the school added APCS as a class which I think is a good start. From my experience, computer education and computer science classes are vital. No matter which job you have, there is a good chance you’re going to be using a computer. You don’t even have to be a software engineer. In my last job I worked with supply chain analysts and most of them had to do some kind of programming, usually in the form of SQL, dashboards, or some kind of basic statistical analysis.

Do you have any advice for current LHS students?

There are a couple of pieces of advice I’d like to give.

The first is to keep an open mind. In many ways, if you’re ambitious, it’s really easy to get caught up in this mindset where you say, “Okay, I need to do A, B, and C for college, and so X, Y, and Z don’t matter.” You can’t get caught up in that. You’ll constantly be evaluating everything you do in terms of whether it’ll look good on your resume. I think while that approach can yield fruit, a more sustainable approach is to step back and evaluate your passions, and for the first 25 years of your life or so, you’re forming who you are as a person and then it gets tougher later on due to social structures, so you really need to be intentional about how you go about planning your future. You need to step back and figure out what interests you, what your values are, what you care about, and what your passions are, and then couple that with proactively seeking opportunities to chase these passions. For example, I did this and realized that Computer Science was what I wanted to pursue, but LHS didn’t offer any classes for it. I learned it sort of on the side, outside of school. At one point, I worked with a local business and did some programming and that’s how I got exposed to the field outside of school.

I’m going to quote from the great wizard Albus Dumbledore here for my second piece of advice - if they forget everything else, just remember this - “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it”. So basically, just ask for help. This doesn’t just apply to high school, either. There are going to be a lot of people that are willing to help you out if you ask for it. That is my biggest piece of advice for high school students. I wish them all good luck with high school and their future!

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