Georgia State University’s Perimeter College ranks fifth in the nation this year for the number of semifinalists named for the national Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The 12 Perimeter College semifinalists represent the majority of semifinalists from Georgia, and their number sets a record for the college. The Jack Kent Cooke selection committee chose 456 semifinalists from nearly 1,500 applicants attending 311 community colleges. We are featuring each of Perimeter’s semifinalists in articles on our News Hub. Below, we introduce you to one of them.
By Kysa Anderson Daniels
Photo by Bill Roa
CLARKSTON, Ga.—Moumita Deb is both a night owl and an early riser. It’s her super power for getting things done — for herself and for others.
Deb, a high-achieving Honors College student who studies engineering at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College, is masterfully methodical about accomplishing her goals.
After about five or six hours of sleep, she starts each day reviewing and prioritizing how to address each task on her list of things to do.
Her typically jam-packed days include volunteering in DeKalb County, serving in leadership roles for multiple student clubs, attending rigorous classes and labs and tutoring in math and science for several hours on Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus. It’s usually well into the evening before Deb settles in at home to study for six hours, until long after midnight.
“I feel good doing all of this,” Deb, 22, said with a smile. “I feel good helping people.”
Deb’s commitment to others and to her studies (she has a near 4.0 grade point average) caught the attention of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship selection committee, which named her as a semifinalist for this year’s award. The Jack Kent Cooke finalists each will receive up to $40,000 per year for up to three years, making it the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students in the country. Winners are selected based on academic ability, persistence, leadership and service to others.
Dr. Sahithya Reddivari, assistant professor of engineering at Perimeter and coordinator for the Regents Engineering Pathways Program, encouraged Deb to apply for the scholarship. In June 2019, Deb started working as a research assistant under Reddivari’s supervision and was selected to present their research involving deep learning and critical thinking at the Association of Computing Machinery Mid-Southeast Fall Conference in November.
“In my experiences, I have never encountered another student with as much zeal and diligence towards pursuing her goals,” Reddivari wrote in a recommendation letter to the JKC scholarship committee. “Apart from her academic capabilities, Moumita has shown exceptional competence as an officer for two student organizations.”
For example, Reddivari said that participation in activities for the Clarkston Computing and Engineering Club (CLACEC) has increased exponentially since Deb became president last year. The club sponsors multiple off-campus field trips and events, such as this spring semester’s recruitment visit to Perimeter by the dean and coordinator of the engineering degree program at the University of Georgia. Through CLACEC, Deb also led the coordination of Perimeter’s annual STEM Week activities.
Deb also is vice president for the Earth Club and secretary for the WISE (Women in STEM Experiences) Club, as well as a former Supplemental Instruction Leader (peer tutor), a MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement) tutor and a volunteer at Inspire, an after-school mentoring and tutoring program for immigrant and refugee grade school students in Clarkston.
“I really love the idea of helping kids out,” Deb said about her weekly work at Inspire, connecting with children through games like soccer and basketball and helping them figure out math problems.
While at Perimeter, Deb has received awards such as the Academic Excellence Award for Engineering and the Chevron Scholarship, given to STEM students interested in working in the energy sector.
Deb said she never imagined she’d be this involved as a college student, because in her home country there weren’t nearly as many clubs and organizations as at Perimeter. Deb’s family moved her and her siblings from Bangladesh to the United States in 2016.
Her parents felt that America would offer them more opportunities to succeed as first-generation college students, she said. Deb’s younger brother also attends Perimeter, where he’s now studying computer science.
“Perimeter College teachers are so helpful,” Deb said. “I go to them for everything, and no matter how busy they are, they’re (willing) to help me.”
After graduating from Perimeter in May, Deb has her sight set on transferring to either the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton or Georgia Tech. Her career goal is to become a chemical engineer and address climate change and carbon capture challenges.
For now, she’s focused on wrapping up classes to receive her associate degree.
“I’ll never forget the things I’ve done at Perimeter College,” she said.
The announcement of this year’s Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winners is expected in April. Since 2002, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded 19 Perimeter students the scholarship.