The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Rocky and Me: Abhilasha Gokulan ’18 Senior Reflection

Abhi Gokulan

Abhilasha Gokulan, Class of 2018, graduates with a major in Economics and minors in Public Policy and Quantitative Social Sciences. (Photo by Faith Rotich)

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In the Rocky & Me series, Seniors reflect on their experiences during their time at Dartmouth.

Throughout my four years as a Dartmouth student, one (if not the only) constant of my time here is my participation and involvement at the Rockefeller Center. I still remember the first time I entered the Rockefeller Center during Dimensions in 2014. All around Hinman Forum were posters detailing the numerous curricular and co-curricular programs offered at the Rockefeller Center. However, even more impressive was the number of faculty, staff, and students who were truly passionate about the work being conducted at the Rockefeller Center and their openness to interact and engage with each prospective student. It was one of the tangible examples I saw during my weekend here that demonstrated the uniquely personal and direct access Dartmouth students have to faculty and staff. The excitement I left the Rockefeller Center with after imagining myself participating in their variety of programs was a key factor in my decision to enroll at Dartmouth College.

My first involvement with the Rockefeller Center, fondly known as Rocky, was my Freshman Winter. I enrolled in PBPL 5: Introduction to Public Policy, taught by Professor Ron Shaiko, and also enrolled in a Rocky co-curricular program Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes & Behaviors (DLAB). Both of these were full of other first-years which was extremely comforting when it came time to be challenged both in the classroom with PBPL 5 and outside as we were encouraged to deeply reflect on our time and hopes for Dartmouth in DLAB. I left both programs with a newfound sense of self, a rejuvenated passion for engaging with policy work, and a desire to improve my work ethic and professionalism. Thankfully, with my continued engagement at Rocky, I was able to follow through with these goals.

After my first Public Policy course, I took five more Public Policy courses and will be graduating with a Minor in Public Policy. Some highlights of my academic work with Rocky include conducting research for the Class of 1964 Policy Research Shop on changing divorce, child support, and parental rights laws for the New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Children and Family Law Committee. In another class, I was able to conduct a term long group project on a sexual assault education program during one’s Sophomore Summer experience at Dartmouth and work with Dartmouth students and staff on creating marketing and performing research. Out of all the departments I have taken classes in at Dartmouth, I can confidently state that I formed the most genuine relationships with my Public Policy professors who helped me navigate important decisions, ranging from internship options to law school applications.

I have participated and worked for many Rocky co-curricular programs, as well. I participated in the Management and Leadership Development Program (MLDP) and worked as a Student Program Assistant for MLDP for four terms. I have also participated in the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows (RLF) Program as both a Fellow and Student Assistant in my senior year. Lastly, I was a Rocky Peer Mentor my Junior and Senior years. All of these programs have allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of leadership skills that are based in both theory and practice. Furthermore, I have been able to attend sessions led by accomplished professionals in the non-profit, for-profit, and public sectors and form lasting networks with some. In fact, I met one of my mentors through the Rocky Board of Visitors Reception, which students are able to attend through participating in Rocky programs and classes.  

Even when I have not been taking classes at Dartmouth, Rocky has been instrumental in my growth and development. I was selected to be a First-Year Fellow following my freshman year and had the privilege of interning at the Center for Perinatal Advocacy at Providence Hospital in Washington, DC. One of the highlights of my Dartmouth experience was being able to work hands-on with the Director of the Center for Perinatal Advocacy, which was only possible because she was a Dartmouth Alum and Rocky had set up this internship. Additionally, living in DC with 23 other First-Year Fellows was a great transition between going to college in a small town and working in a large city. Our group of Fellows has remained close and some have become my best friends. The summer after my junior year, I interned at The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, which would have not been possible without internship funding provided by Rocky. I am so thankful that I was able to take this unpaid internship and explore my dreams of working in the public service sector. 

My friends like to joke and tell me I live in Rocky but honestly that’s probably true. I can’t think of a time when Rocky hasn’t been part of my Dartmouth experience and shaped or challenged me in some form. I’ve gained the most hands-on experiential learning through my Public Policy classes and I’ve learned the most about professionalism and leadership competencies through my participation in Rocky programs and as a Rocky Student Assistant. After graduation, I am confident that my multiple Rocky experiences have provided me with a steady groundwork as I pursue a law degree at New York University. Rocky has motivated me to become confident in exploring future career paths in the non-profit and public sectors and in forming enduring bonds with peers and mentors alike. 

Abhi Gokulan, Dartmouth Class of 2018, grew up in Little Rock Arkansas. She graduates with a major in Economics and minors in Public Policy and Quantitative Social Sciences. She will be attending New York University School of Law in the fall. 

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