Harvard Leader of the Week
For our final installment of the semester, we caught up with Indrani Das, a member of the steering committee of the incredibly popular Freshman Outdoor Program (FOP). Indrani is a junior living in Leverett House and concentrating in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology.
Why did you get involved with FOP?
I got involved in FOP because it framed the way I viewed college as a freshman. I remember sitting in the yard the day we met the other people on our trip and heard our leaders say “these complete strangers will seem like friends you’ve known for years in about five days.” I didn’t believe them, none of us did, but they were right.
I wanted to become a FOP leader to give freshman what I had going into freshman year, and what I still have–a group of people that know who I am, who will discuss hard topics, support me in the most difficult times and summit literal peaks with me. That group of people has gotten larger with time, but not any less valuable. FOP makes me and countless other people feel loved.
Who inspires you?
My father inspires me. He changed his career several times, has numerous degrees, and a face covered in laugh lines. From him, I learned to value the earth, keep and open mind and never stop learning. To be honest, I could talk about my dad forever so suffice it to say–I respect him so much for being a mom and dad to a teenage girl and maintaining sanity.
Who do you model yourself after as a leader?
I don’t think that anyone is the perfect leader because that implies that they don’t have room to grow and improve. That said–I strive for certain ideals in leadership that I have seen in different people that I have admired over the years. FOP has a lot of sayings that try an encapsulate good leadership, one of which being “intentionality and flexibility.” To that end, I think a good leader has to be dynamic enough to know what is required of them in different situations and leading different people. While all leaders have to have a certain amount of intention-a purpose that drives them and that other people can believe in, a good leader also knows when to be flexible and take a step back, or step up or take a different path.
I’m sure everyone has great ideas on what makes a good leader and would love to hear more thoughts–never stop learning!
What’s your happiest memory from Harvard?
While I cannot pick just one, a memory that sticks out in my mind is standing around a camp stove in the driveway of the Freshman Dean’s Office making quesadillas as part of FOP training. It was dark, it was freezing, and everyone was huddled together in a circle talking about what a “safe space” was. We all left smiling, and knowing that whatever the definition of a “safe space” was–we had just come from one. Plus, the quesadillas were AMAZING!
If you could change one thing in your past, what would it be?
I wish I didn’t quit playing the piano when I was 12. In all seriousness, while I do wish I didn’t quit the piano lessons, I wish a lot of things in my life were different. That said, we have no way of knowing what effect even the smallest things in life have on who we are. Even the hardest circumstances and experiences in my past have helped me become more independent, thoughtful and grateful for what I do have and I wouldn’t want to lose that.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully I’m happy. I might be a doctor, a consultant or a soccer mom. I might be all of those things or none of those things but I think that ten years from now I’ll have tried a bunch of different things, lived a bunch of places and will still strive to live life to the fullest.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at Harvard?
Knowledge is worthless if you can’t communicate it properly. Being smart means nothing if you have no desire to teach those around you and learn from them as well.