Rajeev Chanderraj

Class Year: 

2009
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

School: 

Phillips Exeter Academy

Language: 

Spanish
Advising is incredible. For such a large university, I don’t think there is a comparable program that allows you to have this level of academic support. You never get lost in the crowd, which happens even at smaller universities.

The Huntsman Experience

Ever since his first Spanish class in kindergarten, Rajeev has loved the language. As a college student taking upper level classes, he realized that through his Spanish studies, he also gained access to all the humanities. His Spanish courses here at Penn have included film, literature, contemporary issues, sociology and political science.

Rajeev has also always had an interest in politics. Back in high school, he had worked as a senate page. During the summer after his freshman year, he worked for a democratic senator's Policy Committee in Washington DC, conducting research and analysis for official Senate Democratic Caucus economic policy. In the fall of his sophomore year, Rajeev worked on Ed Rendell's campaign for Pennsylvania governor.

Rajeev has taken to heart the advice he received from people he met while working in DC. Many felt strongly that prior work in the private sector had provided them with the thorough understanding of finance and markets that was necessary for their governmental work. So, they advised Rajeev to get some business experience first, before turning to politics. During his junior summer, Rajeev worked in sales and trading at Morgan Stanley in New York, and after graduation, he'll begin full-time work there in the public finance division. During his time in the Huntsman Program, Rajeev pursued concentrations in both Finance and Business and Public Policy, and he sees the field of public finance as the perfect way to apply his studies to the real world. He will be using private sector tools to assist government clients.

When he wasn't attending classes or getting involved in US politics, Rajeev was involved in several on-campus activities. When he became a board member of the fledgling Wharton Alliance during his freshman year, it was still a loose community of LGBT students. Using Black Wharton and Wharton Women as models, he and the other board members helped transform the organization into a strong pre-professional network for LGBT students at Wharton.

The Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center has been another significant activity for Rajeev. It's a Wharton entrepreneurial research center that works directly with clients on societal wealth development. The Center's goals include poverty reduction through entrepreneurship. Through the Center, Rajeev has helped create a business model for ex-military entrepreneurs and developed financial statements for an agricultural start-up. He's enjoyed "showing how, through business, you can implement social policy without having to involve a huge government bureaucracy."

Study Abroad in Argentina

When Rajeev arrived in Buenos Aires to begin his semester abroad, he already had the idea for the research project that would become his senior thesis. His topic was how the Dirty War in Argentina changed the political discourse surrounding the gay rights movement. Specifically, he notes that the movement became much less radical as a result of the violence and political upheaval. Rajeev's research also drew some comparisons with the US gay rights movement and how it changed in the wake of the AIDS crisis.

Rajeev's thesis advisor was Professor Jorge Salessi, who, according to Rajeev, "wrote the seminal book on the early Argentine gay rights movement." As he was doing the background research for his thesis, Rajeev came across citations of his own advisor's book in almost everything he read. It was great to have support from such an accomplished advisor back at Penn, but Rajeev also took advantage of his time in Argentina to work independently. He conducted lots of field research while he was there, mostly through a volunteer job with Comunidad Homosexual Argentina. Rajeev worked directly with that organization on an AIDS prevention campaign in transvestite communities in poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.

"I got a chance to visit a side of Buenos Aires that is often off-limits," says Rajeev of his unique study abroad experience. He and the other foreign students lived with host families, mainly in wealthier neighborhoods. So, Rajeev understood Argentine politics from a completely different perspective after spending time in some of the largely Peronist, low-income neighborhoods, which actually make up a majority of the city. All this was especially interesting because Rajeev happened to be in Argentina during the presidential election that brought Christina Kirchner to power. For someone with a political background like Rajeev, the opportunity to experience both sides of the political spectrum during a major election was an ideal cultural immersion.