Arts & Sciences Grad Student Spotlight


Akshaya Parthasarathy

Program: Master’s Program in the Department of Gerontology

Previous Education:  M.A. in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India

Research Interests:  Caregiver experiences and challenges with respect to persons with dementia, the aftereffects of disasters on the mental well-being of the elderly, and elder abuse



How did you become interested in your field of study?

During my time at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, I interned at an organization called Dignity Foundation in Mumbai where I worked primarily in two fields pertaining to the elderly: dementia care and elder abuse. My work with the Dignity Foundation as well as my subsequent dissertation which was inspired from my field experiences made me think about further qualifying myself with skills required in the vast multidisciplinary field of gerontology. Though I have had inspiration from the professional field, I also have an inspiration in the form of my grandmother whom I am dearly attached to. I got to witness the dismal state of senior care homes in India, and the various challenges that the elderly could face in terms of inadequate policies for the elderly in India. The main driving factor was the lack of awareness regarding the importance of the elderly as a category of population in India and the wide practice of ageism in India.

What made you decide to attend Georgia State University?

I chose Georgia State University due to the amazing curriculum that they had designed for graduate students. Georgia State University is also one of the top 8 universities for Gerontology in the world, which factored as a major reason!

What class have you enjoyed most? Why? 

“Death, Dying and Loss” is a very refreshing subject (contrary to the grave vibes it might give out) as near-end-of-life communication in hospice care is a neglected field in India that needs more work and awareness.

What is your trick for getting through finals or a big assignment?

My trick for getting through finals or a big assignment would be music. Music is something that gives my brain an automatic trigger of never-ending thoughts while trying to come up with ideas and composing an array of words for big assignments. Music also acts as an active form of de-stressing that lets me sit at big assignments for a longer duration. My big trick for getting through big assignments or finals is also actively voicing out my stress to my fiancé, who is my biggest stressbuster and harbinger of smiles! Catharsis while actively talking about stress lets us handle tasks with renewed optimism and spirits.

What is your advice to other international students considering Georgia State?

Georgia State is an amazing campus with heartwarming faculties who are ever present to make one feel at home. Feeling at home is an important factor when a student leaves their home country to go to a different country to study. So, I would encourage all international students to apply to Georgia State, which has an accepting and friendly atmosphere for people coming from all races, ethnicities, religions, and approaches. And while being at it, I would also strongly encourage other international students interested in the field of gerontology to apply to the department at GSU, for a very warm and hospitable family awaits you!

Do you know a graduate student deserving of the spotlight?   Email Annie Latta and let us know!

Suzanne Litrel

Program: Doctoral Program in Department of History

Previous Education:  B.A. Economics, University of Michigan & M.A. Chinese Studies, University of Michigan


How did you become interested in your field of study?

I actually backed into history by accident. With the exception of APUSH (Advanced Placement United States History), I hated social studies in high school—at my school we had World Civilization I (9th grade) and II (10th grade). Basically, all we did was copy down what the teacher wrote on the board and memorize everything for the tests. We learned about “significant events” which basically focused on battles fought by European men. It was easy, because all I had to do was memorize the notes, but I didn’t take one history class as an undergraduate, and I only took one graduate history course (when I earned my M.A.).

Later, I made a career transition from business to teaching public high school, which I loved. At first, I hoped to become an English teacher, as I originally set out to be a literature major in college. But when I took my transcripts to the state board certification office, I was told the fastest route to teaching was through social studies because of my economics degree.

I was originally hired to teach economics, and I did for my fourteen years as a public high school teacher in New York—I taught on-level (with an inclusion class) and honors, with a heavy emphasis on microeconomics, which was a lot of fun. But as a public high school teacher, I also had to be ready to teach any course my chair gave me. That meant 9th and 10th grade global history, then within a few years, AP world history and eventually IB 20th century. I was terrified, especially with APWH’s low national pass rate. The teacher I replaced told me not to worry, most of the class would fail. That was unacceptable to me! So as with all my preps, I spent hours in the library looking for interesting material to capture my students’ imagination and puzzling over how best to engage them. I also had an incredible APWH Summer Institutes instructor, the late Michelle Forman. Because of her, and because of the challenge of teaching APWH, I had to really think about what it meant to “do” history. There was no way my students would pass if I didn’t. So out of total fear of failure as a world history teacher, I fell in love with the subject!

We moved to the Atlanta area in 2012 for my husband’s career. I have also written historical fiction, and thought I’d stick with that while we settled in. But I was restless. The summer of 2013, I walked into the GSU History Department and met with Dr. Perry. I thought I’d take a few classes so I could teach at the college level. But he encouraged me to apply for the Ph.D. program, so I did – and here I am!


What challenges have you faced adapting to a new culture and environment?

As a returning graduate student, I’ve had the challenge—and joy—of navigating through digital world! I earned my M.A. in the early ‘90s, and much has changed about doing research since then!

I have also had a very steep learning curve with regards to what it means to become a historian. My M.A. thesis advisor was a sociologist; my secondary reader was an economist from Michigan’s business school. Also, it’s one thing to teach high school history—it’s another to become a student of history at the graduate level, with nothing but self-taught methods. I knew I’d have to work very, very hard to catch up to my peers. I have taken the long road to find my disciplinary home, and I’m grateful for the support and advice I’ve received along the way.


What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned? 

That it’s never too late to return to school. GSU has been wonderful in that regard. I did not think that anyone over 40 was a candidate for graduate school—I’m so glad that’s not true!


What is your trick for getting through finals or a big assignment?

I have a long commute and a family at home, and until recently have also taken on outside work, too. So my trick to getting through finals and/or a big assignment is to set fake deadlines— usually two weeks ahead of a final deadline. I don’t believe in handing work in late. It only makes everyone miserable.


What is your favorite place to study on campus? 

Library North, 5th floor—it’s nice and quiet. The cafeteria at the Student Center has cozy booth that are almost always available in the morning—it’s a great place to eat breakfast. And lately, I like Ebrik’s new place—the second floor.


Anh Dao

Program: Master’s Program in Department of Communication

Previous Education: Bachelors of Economics from Foreign Trade University in Vietnam.

Professional Experience: TV Presenter & Editor at the Department for Youth (VTV6); Television Producer and Host




How did you become interested in your field of study?
Watching television as a child in Vietnam, I wanted to become a host myself, and that was my very first step into the television industry. All these years, the passion has been tested multiple times, but I still see myself coming back to work related to mass communication. I’ve been able to learn new things along the journey, which makes it even more challenging and worth discovering.

What project have you enjoyed working on most?
Well, so far at GSU, Return to Vietnam is my first project. In mid-March, I coordinated a trip for Professor Judson, Managing Director of GSUTV, to travel to Vietnam, work with Vietnam National Television, attend the 50th Remembrance Ceremony of the My Lai Massacre, and talk with journalism students in Vietnam. Professor Judson has been making it a very meaningful and knowledgeable project to be a part of. I am very excited to dig deeper into the production of it.

Return to Vietnam is the follow-up to an earlier project, Remembering Vietnam, which can be viewed at


What kind of work are you doing as a research and lab assistant?
As a lab assistant, I work at the Langdale Video Check Out Lab where I am responsible for inventory and checking out media equipment to digital journalism students. It’s actually a very interesting job where I get to assist students and learn about their recent projects in digital journalism classes. As a research assistant for the Mobilizing Media project at the Global Studies Institute (GSI), I am working on a storyline for GSI on GSUTV.

How has being an international student impacted your educational journey?
This has been a wonderful educational journey for me so far. Since I majored in something totally different from my work experience, the M.A. program at GSU Department of Communication is a great chance for me to reflect back on my practical experience and also discover a broad range of issues and perspectives in communication.

What challenges have you faced adapting to a new culture and environment?
The imposter syndrome is always there. I’m always afraid I won’t be good enough for the classes. I also feel that with the opportunities I have been given here at out department, I need to try harder to not let myself, as well as our dedicated professors and staff, down.

What is your advice to other international students considering GSU?
GSU and the Department of Communication are great places to be an international student. The courses are diverse; the professors I’ve had classes with are very learned in their fields, and they try their hardest to passionately pass on their knowledge and experience. And you never have to worry about opportunities— there are tons of them. It’s just up to you to grasp at those opportunities and excel. Best of luck!



Josephine Misaro


Program: Master’s Program in Gerontology

Previous Education: Master’s degree in Sociology

Professional Interest: I am a university lecturer in my home country, Kenya. I will continue teaching in a research institution and engaging in research activities aimed at improving quality of life for elders in my society.

How did you become interested in your field of study?
I am a sociologist, and gerontology is a field that focuses on sociology of aging. I have passion for elders/older adults. However, Gerontology program is not taught in Kenya. I want to give back to my society and to elders in particular by impacting to my students through the classroom knowledge I acquire in my current program, towards improvement of quality of life for elders in my society.

What made you decide to attend Georgia State University?
I researched several universities’ websites and picked on Georgia State because the core values here are excellent coupled with the good climate of Atlanta.

How has being an international student impacted your educational journey?
The exposure thus far is priceless. I have learned so much in so little time. Apart from the classroom, Georgia State has many activities for students to indulge in and enjoy cultural diversities. I have participated in several programs outside the classroom including voluntary services.

What class have you enjoyed most? Why?
I look forward to each and every class because instructors are patient with students and teaching here is about sharing and exchanging ideas. At the gerontology institute, there is no wrong or right answer. Instructors encourage participation of all students and pay particular attention to contributions from different cultural backgrounds. I enjoy listening to other students discuss their cultural beliefs.

What is your favorite place to study on campus?
The library is great, but I prefer the private labs in Gerontology Institute. It is quiet with no distractions. The Director is very supportive and allows students to use available rooms for private study. Again, the institute Director is always available for consultation. Students have unparalleled support from staff.

What is your advice to other international students considering Georgia State?
Grab the opportunity without thinking twice. There are no regrets in choosing Georgia State. This is home away from home.




Kallol Kumar Bhattacharyya

Program: Master’s Program in Gerontology 

Previous Education: Medical Graduate (Family Physician) from Kolkata, India




How did you become interested in Gerontology?

In my professional practice, the majority of my patients were older adults suffering from chronic diseases, and a large number had dementia. They were mostly neglected and helpless. As a clinician, I was serving the poor in India with dedication, but coming towards the midpoint of my career, I realized that as just a clinician I can’t make major changes in society. I want to have the education needed to reach beyond medical model treatments and give older adults a complete management that maximizes their life while living with dementia. This is why I took the chance to come to the United States and in many ways, have just begun to learn the subject gerontology.

What do you hope to do with your degree?

I’m particularly focused on person-centered care and taking a leadership role in the management of dementia, for both the care receiver and the care partner. I’m also interested in some alternative therapeutic interventions on Alzheimer’s and related dementias with cross-cultural experiences.

What made you decide to attend Georgia State University?

I selected Georgia State because I’ve been influenced by the way this state is undergoing a revolutionary progress in the management of aging and dementia. In selecting Georgia State University, I’ve been influenced by the way their research programs are addressed. Also, the availability of public transport, the comfortable weather, and pre-admission encouragement from Georgia State people influenced me a lot in my decision making.

How has being an international student impacted your educational journey?

Being a doctor, I always wanted to create a new pathway to help older adults and people living with dementia. Therefore, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in gerontology at Georgia State University. This step was a huge gamble for me, as I’m a family man and I did not have that much in savings to support us during this educational program. But, I have a strong desire to experience graduate school in the United States, and a motivation towards professional responsibility for older adults, so I took that risk.

What challenges have you faced adapting to a new culture and environment?

I’m a medical doctor practicing for nearly two decades in India, so this was initially a big problem to adjust to the transition from a physician’s life to a student’s life. Georgia State’s multicultural environment helped me a lot in this transition. But still today, the U.S. medical system is a complex structure for me.

What does your family like about Atlanta?

My son is very much enjoying his elementary school here, and we are enjoying MARTA and the comfortable weather of Atlanta. There are plenty of places for a short weekend tour also.

What class have you enjoyed most? Why?

The class I’ve enjoyed most so far was the seminar in gerontology. On one hand, I got an overview of the subject through this class, and on the other hand, the way our instructor Professor Burgess (Director, Gerontology Institute) guided us in the class was totally a new experience for me. It was an involving class in both ways, as I’ve shared many thoughts from Indian culture and tradition (and realized Indian traditional culture is still under-represented to the Western world in many issues).

What is your advice to other international students considering Georgia State?

In my opinion, there are many more options to start, adjust, and lead a comfortable life in Atlanta (the students coming with family also), and the Georgia State multicultural environment (including staff, students and professors) make it easier to feel that we’re not very far from our home.


– Rebekah Shaw, Office of Graduate Services, College of Arts & Sciences