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Chattopadhay brings experience to teaching

AMANDA GRAY | Friday, February 12, 2010

The only thing longer than Professor Tamo Chattopadhay’s last name is his list of life experiences.

“This is my fourth life,” Chattopadhay said. “Growing up in India, finishing high school, that was my first life. I was a little bit adventurous and I wanted to study science.”
Chattopadhay received a scholarship to study Physics in Moscow, Russia, which he considers his second life.

“It was a major culture shock. It was the former Soviet Union, around 1983,” Chattopadhay said. “It was a very different society and a fascinating social experiment.”
His third life was spent in New York City, arriving in 1992 and working in finance with companies like J.P. Morgan.

“I quickly realized everything I had learned in physics was in great demand in finance,” Chattopadhay said.

“Here is a turning point for my life, around 1998, when I was secure in my career, I just began really to question, what is it that I want to do?” Chattopadhay said. “Is this the most rewarding way to spend life? All of this is fun, but somewhere I was feeling a little bit empty.”

At this time, Chattopadhay decided to leave finance and go into teaching.

“After a six-month visit to India where I grew up, I decided to come back and pursue studies in international development and education. That’s the current life, right now,” Chattopadhay said. “It looks like this is it. This is the life I really wanted.”

Chattopadhay joined Notre Dame’s ranks in August 2008, after finishing his doctorate at Columbia University and consulting for international organizations like UNICEF.

“After finishing my doctorate, I realized that coming into an academic institution, finding a career as a teacher and researcher, is my path,” Chattopadhay said.

Chattopadhay dedicated himself to equality in education and such initiatives. Working as a professor in the Education, Schooling and Society minor as well as with the Institute for Educational Initiatives, Chattopadhay has begun comparative research working with students in Brazil, India and the United States.

“One of the research projects we undertook last year was an action research project in education in India,” Chattopadhay said. “There’s a very charismatic, educational leader who’s a 74-year-old Irish nun who runs an amazing school in Calcutta.”

Notre Dame’s News and Information Office detailed the group’s research on Notre Dame’s home page and in Notre Dame Magazine’s most recent issue on student research and volunteering initiatives.

“When I first came to Notre Dame, I was unsure. I had my doubts about teaching at the undergraduate level. I’ve never taught at a Catholic university. But I think what fascinated me, what continues to fascinate me, about Notre Dame is how well-prepared I find the students are, and how engaged and aware they are about issues of social justice — how keen they are to engage,” Chattopadhay said.

“There’s an ethos about service, social justice, human rights, which is for me, teaching international issues about development and education, a tremendous source of inspiration. I am enriched a lot by my students, and that really changed my perspective on teaching in many ways,” he said.