Pitzer College senior Gurmukh Singh ’22 grew up on the move. He lived in India, Romania, and the Philippines, relocating with his family as his parents’ careers required. Repeatedly introduced to new cultures and environments, he had to integrate into new schools and new social circles again and again.
“It was a big part of my identity. I didn’t have a home base, but all of these places made up my home at different stages,” he said.
Those places and stages shaped his worldview and remarkable adaptability and resourcefulness. Regardless of shifting circumstances and where he is in the world, Singh has found ways to open doors and create his own opportunities.
In tenth grade, Singh found himself in a new school system that didn’t meet his needs. Determined rather than discouraged, he pursued an alternative and sparked an educational adventure that began on a rural mountain in Japan and continued on a liberal arts college campus in the Los Angeles basin.
“It was a pretty tough year, but it led me to seek other opportunities, and that led me to United World Colleges (UWC),” he said.
UWC is a network of schools for high school students (mostly juniors and seniors) in 18 countries on four continents. UWC’s mission is “to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.” Students come from all over the world to study all over the world.
Singh applied to UWC and ended up in Japan. This move set him on a path to be selected as a Davis United World Colleges Scholar. Davis UWC Scholars have graduated from a UWC school then enrolled at select US colleges, where they receive financial support during their undergraduate years. “Things just fell into place,” he said.
And then they fell apart. Singh was finishing his sophomore year at Pitzer when the pandemic forced the campus closure. Unable to go home, he moved between friends’ houses throughout 2020.
When COVID hit, Singh couldn’t be close to his family, unlike many of his classmates. He felt lucky to have friends who filled that role. He lived with friends’ families, got to know people in different ways and navigated living in a space that wasn’t his. “I learned a lot about myself during that time. It was really important for my growth.”
In addition to upending his living situation, the pandemic forced the cancellation of a summer 2020 internship in Japan. Determined to replace that loss, he reached out to Pitzer Associate Professor of Economics Menna Bizuneh to ask about research opportunities. What followed was a year of research in economics and econometrics with Professor Bizuneh and a fellow student.
In her senior seminar class, Bizuneh gives students an assessment test to help them identify their strengths and talents. She talked about working with Singh:
“Gurmukh was one of two students—out of 41—who had skills in all four major categories (Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, Strategic Thinking); most have strengths in one category. This tells me what I already knew: He’s a very well-rounded person, a very curious person,” Bizuneh said. “He’s a really, really hard worker, takes his work seriously, and is very quick to ask how he can improve. He looks for opportunities to grow and, most importantly, he’s not afraid of criticism. He hopes to grow and learn from it.”
Singh’s research experience led to one exciting opportunity after another: He presented findings at the Midwest Economic Association Conference; landed a summer 2021 internship with Keystone Strategy in New York, a technology and economics consulting firm that works with Fortune Global 500 companies, top law firms, and government agencies; and recently accepted a post-graduation job offer from the firm.
Singh said that finding a job has made him much more relaxed. “There are a lot of job rejections because of visa status, so this is a great relief and a great privilege,” he said.
For now, and with the assurance his post-graduation plans are set, Singh has a special goal in mind: “enjoying my senior year.” He is thrilled to be on campus, seeing friends made online in person for the first time, going into faculty offices, and just walking around campus and running into people, “not just Zoom boxes.”
Singh will graduate from Pitzer College in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics.