Student Spotlight with Meghna Chandra

GET ON THE BUS: Meghna Chandra, a sophomore from New Hampshire, is one of 40 students selected from across the country to be part of the 2011 Student Freedom Ride. The PBS show “American Experience” invited college students to apply to be part of retracing the original 1961 rides from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. From May 6 through 16, Chandra and other student participants will meet some original freedom riders, as well as people working today to combat racial and economic inequality.

ACTIVE PARTICIPANT: Chandra, an urban studies major in the College, is part of the Student Labor Action Project, a group that’s dedicated to standing in solidarity with workers, and the Media Mobilizing Project, which builds a media infrastructure in order to publicize stories about social justice. In addition, Chandra also works with the Taxi Workers Alliance.

PERSONAL HEROS: Chandra says that many of the groups she works with understand the importance of people who paved the way before them—people who worked in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements and with the Black Panthers. “I’m also really interested in the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign that Martin Luther King never finished that is still going on today,” she says. “I’m looking forward to hearing from these incredibly wise people who are a lot more courageous than me.”

SOUTHERN CULTURE: The ride, which will be broadcast on an episode of “American Experience” sometime in May, will take the riders from D.C., through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. The students will then head north to Tennessee, travel back to Alabama, and then on to Mississippi before ending in New Orleans. Chandra and others will be blogging and posting to Facebook and Twitter about their experiences (go to!/FreedomRidePBS and… to follow Chandra’s posts).

LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE: Chandra is looking forward to connecting with the other riders. “I’m just excited to meet other young people who just believe that a better world is possible,” she says.

LIFE AFTER PENN: Even though it’s a couple years away, Chandra is beginning to think about her plans after Penn. She is inspired by the dedication exhibited by community organizers she works with, and is also considering immigration law—something close to her heart since she was born in India and became a naturalized citizen of the United States when she was in sixth grade. “I think that people are good people, but I think we should apply those values to our institutions,” she says. “I have faith in students, I have faith in people that when they see injustice, they’ll fight against it.”

Meghan Chandra