UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As an “alumni ambassador” for Penn State Global Programs and chair of the Graduate School Alumni Society’s Global Outreach Committee, Amit Das is casting an indelible imprint of his volunteer service throughout the University and around the world. With energy and passion, he has embraced leadership roles that are helping to build a more connected and engaged global alumni network, while serving the needs and interests of Penn State graduate students through presentations on professional development-related topics to graduate student groups.
Unlike a member of a formal diplomatic corps, however, Das is not compensated for his services or reimbursed for expenses. The pizzas and soft drinks that are provided to graduate students during the on-campus seminars sponsored by the Global Outreach Committee are paid for by Das, who conceived and created the series.
The motivation behind these outreach efforts can be traced to the profound impact of mentors on the graduate experiences Das enjoyed at Penn State.
“It comes from the heart because of my experiences with great educators and mentors while I was a student and a young faculty member,” Das said. “Some of them have passed away, and some are in retirement homes, yet their teachings and inspiration still live on in my memory. What I am doing now is giving back for all Penn State has done for me.”
In an effort to build relationships with international alumni, Das attempts to connect with them on their home turf — overseas. Before his travel, Das collaborates with Michael Adewumi, vice provost for Global Programs, and Jennifer Theiss, assistant director of international alumni relations, to identify and communicate with these alumni. The interaction that ensues revolves around conversations about graduate experiences at Penn State and current news and updates about the University.
“My goal is to reach out to alumni around the world and create a connection with Penn State,” Das said. “I think that this is what global outreach really should be all about.”
During Alumni Society board and committee meetings, Das encourages his colleagues to initiate contact with alumni during their trips abroad. Das scheduled visits with several alumni when he was traveling through New Zealand this past March, and he plans to attend an alumni event that will be sponsored by Global Programs in Pune, India, in January 2017. Additional contacts will be made during future trips to Europe and Africa.
Das is director of new product development at State of the Art Inc. in State College. State of the Art Inc. manufactures high reliability thick and thin film resistive components for the surface mount and hybrid electronic industries. Das holds more than 20 U.S. patents, and he has authored articles for several publications.
“In my work setting, I am influenced by two executives who continually demonstrate their Penn State pride,” Das said. “Donald W. Hamer (bachelor of science, 1968), our founder and chairman of the board, was named ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ in 2014. He created the first endowed professorship in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, in 2015. Robert J. Hufnagel, our president and CEO, also is a generous benefactor.”
After earning a bachelor of technology degree at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India, Das accepted a position as a civil engineer in Kuwait. In 1981, he joined his sister Manju (master of science, 1987, special education) and brother-in-law Andy Banerjee (doctorate, 1985, agricultural economics) at Penn State. Das received a master of science degree and doctorate in solid state science in 1985 and 1988, respectively.
Mentored by faculty associated with the Materials Research Laboratory, including Rustum Roy, Della Roy, Robert Newnham, Russ Messier and Eric Cross, Das excelled in his field of study. He was the physical sciences grand prize winner of the 1987 Penn State Graduate Exhibition, an annual celebration of research and creative scholarship.
Das recalls with fondness and gratitude the influence of professors and advisers who became friends and sponsors of his application for residency in the U.S. Through the seminar series, graduate students benefit from the same type of engagement that enhanced Das’ personal and professional development.
“The seminar series gives me an opportunity to share with students, international students in particular, some of the experiences that I had,” Das explained. “Passing along the wisdom that I acquired is aligning with the GSAS mission of enriching the Penn State experience.”
Das’ support for graduate education at Penn State has taken many forms. As a guest of the Graduate and Professional Student Association in October 2015, Das offered a presentation focused on the importance of networking and “working smart.”
A life member of the Penn State Alumni Association, along with his wife, Diana, Das expanded his leadership role on the Graduate School Alumni Society Board of Directors by serving as the representative of the Alumni Association at all three Graduate School commencement ceremonies in 2015. He also served as a panelist at the Graduate School’s 2014 Career Exploration Workshop.
“Amit is working to broaden the scope of Penn State’s global engagement, a foundation of the University’s new strategic plan,” said Theiss. “His generosity of spirit, international perspectives, and unbridled passion for Penn State epitomize the characteristics we strive to nurture in all of our volunteers. He serves as an ideal role model for others.”
Editor's Note: Prior to publication Mr. Donald W. Hamer passed away on July 12, 2016.