kushal chakrabarti | blog RSS



In life, I'm building an international non-profit, running the Ironman triathlon, and training guide dogs for the blind.

Here, I blog about social entrepreneurship, living a passionate life, and creating something meaningful.

www.kooshable.com
kushalc@vittana.org



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Disclaimer: Any opinions and views expressed here are my personal views and my views only. They should not be construed in any way as support or opposition by my non-profit to any political activity.
Oct
11th
Sat
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Lester is graduating. :)  Next Saturday, exactly a week from today.  I haven’t gotten a chance to speak with his partner yet, but I’m sure they’re getting along like peanut butter and jelly.  Lester always was quite the schmoozer.
My last picture of my boy, taken the morning before we drove him back to Oregon for advanced training.  He looks all grown up, doesn’t he?
It’s all actually a little bittersweet for me.  Next Saturday, I’ll be on the other side of the country, in Maine for Pop!Tech 2008, where I’ll be speaking and simultaneously launching my startup.  I was actually trying to see if I could somehow fly back to Oregon for graduation, but there’s just no feasible way to make it work.  On the one hand, it’s a huge honor to be invited to Pop!Tech and incredibly exciting to things taking off for Vittana, but I would’ve given my left kidney to see my old boy one more time.
One of these days, hopefully.

Lester is graduating. :)  Next Saturday, exactly a week from today.  I haven’t gotten a chance to speak with his partner yet, but I’m sure they’re getting along like peanut butter and jelly.  Lester always was quite the schmoozer.

My last picture of my boy, taken the morning before we drove him back to Oregon for advanced training.  He looks all grown up, doesn’t he?

It’s all actually a little bittersweet for me.  Next Saturday, I’ll be on the other side of the country, in Maine for Pop!Tech 2008, where I’ll be speaking and simultaneously launching my startup.  I was actually trying to see if I could somehow fly back to Oregon for graduation, but there’s just no feasible way to make it work.  On the one hand, it’s a huge honor to be invited to Pop!Tech and incredibly exciting to things taking off for Vittana, but I would’ve given my left kidney to see my old boy one more time.

One of these days, hopefully.

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Oct
7th
Tue
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LA Times: In-state tuition for illegal immigrants

For a little over seven years, illegal immigrant students in California have been eligible for in-state tuition at the top-ranked public California universities and college.  A couple weeks ago, appeals courts ruled that this violated federal law that bars illegal immigrants from receiving any benefit meant only for residents of a specific state.

It’s a big deal, I can say from personal experience.

Having attended UC Berkeley as a California resident, I paid something like $5000 in annual tuition.  Friends from out-of-state paid this $5000 plus another $15-odd thousand in out-of-state fees.  Looking at the fees for the current school year, resident students are paying $9,000 per year while non-residents are $30,000 — excluding books, food, and rent.  And, let’s just say that rent isn’t cheap in Berkeley — with roommates, you’re paying $1000+.  These days, if you’re out-of-state, you’re probably paying upwards of $45,000 a year to attend Berkeley.

But, honestly, a lot of people get financial aid — either grants, loans, work-study or some combination thereof.  More than two-thirds of students received financial aid at the University of California during the 2008-09 school year.  I don’t know the breakdown for out-of-state students specifically, but, my experience is that the University of California is very understanding and generous.

If you’re undocumented, however, you aren’t eligible for financial aid.  FAFSA?  Don’t even think about it.

So, where are you going to get $45,000 to pay for tuition?  From your rich parents?  If you’re undocumented, that’s not exactly likely.  By working?  Let’s say as a college student, you can earn $10 an hour.  Working 50 weeks a year, you’d have to work 90 hours a week every week to make $45,000.  School?  What school?  Oh right, the school you’re working 90 hours a week to pay for but don’t have hours in the week to attend.

The Los Angeles Times has something to say about all this.  In an editorial published the last week of September:

By law, states must provide K-12 education to illegal immigrants, and it’s counterproductive to then erect roadblocks to further advancement for our best and brightest. Studies show that investing in education for immigrants pays off. Assuming they remain in California, their economic contributions more than make up for the cost of subsidized college tuition within a few years. Forcing them to wallow in permanent poverty, by contrast, is a drain on taxpayers — as well as being flat-out immoral.

I’m not going to comment on the very emotional, very complex issue of illegal immigration.  It’s a complicated question, and it’s not the point of this blog.  If you’re arguing this from a higher principle of immigration control, misaligned incentives or a misinterpreted statute, you can debate that at an immigration blog.

I can see the indignation of students who are from out-of-state, paying higher fees than students who aren’t even in the country legally.  I really can.  I just think the human problem of effectively locking out thousands and thousands of qualified, motivated students — condemning them to a “permanent underclass,” in the words of the Los Angeles Times — is bigger.  It’s such a terrible waste of human potential.

Indignation vs. permanent underclass?  Permanent underclass, I think.

I wonder if someone can come up with an idea to work around this?  There’s still 13 more days.

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Sep
27th
Sat
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Over at TED University, David S. Rose gives a great, semi-impromptu talk about how to pitch. Impromptu: Don’t knock the man’s hair like the first commenter.

You might be a social entrepreneur, working not for yourself but for the people.  You might be in it for the good and not the money.  You might not even be pitching a VC or raising money.  At some point though, for whatever reason, you’re going to have to convince a group of people why they should care about what you’re doing.  Working for the good and not the money is no excuse.  You need to know how to pitch — how to get your point across efficiently, interestingly, meaningfully.

What’s the single most important thing you have to convey?  Integrity.  Because that’s the key thing.  I would much rather invest in somebody — take a chance on somebody who I know is straight than someone where there is any possible question of, you know, who are they looking out for and what’s going on.

What’s the second most important thing after integrity?  Passion.  Entrepreneurs are, by definition, people who are leaving something else, starting a new world over here, creating and putting their lifeblood into this thing.  You have to convey passion.

Favorite comment?  From a David Shark, presumably a military man:

This should be mandatory viewing for military officers. PowerPoint has infiltrated every level and every service of the military, and 99% of briefers break all five of the "top five tips" for a successful presentation. 99% break ALL FIVE.

A great resource on pitching well — on presenting well, really — is Presentation Zen, a blog (and now a book too).  I’ve been a devoted reader for a long time.  If you haven’t ever been, go now.

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Sep
25th
Thu
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Kiva at American Express Members Project

Kiva, the first (and now incredibly impactful) microfinance person-to-person lending site, and a huge inspiration and a wonderful mentor to the things we’ve been doing, has been selected as one of the top 25 nonprofits in the American Express Members Project.  The top 5 will share a $2.5 million dollar prize to grow and expand their operations.  You get to vote who makes it into the top 5.  The deadline is September 30 — just 4 more days.

Kiva is an internet based platform that allows everyday people to become “social investors.” Imagine — with $25, a credit card, and an internet connection, anybody in the world can invest in the life of a deserving entrepreneur. The site allows for lenders to sort pre-screened businesses by region, culture, or business category, and see a photo / profile of the person they are supporting. With $1.5M, we hope to expand our selection of businesses to fund.

Go vote!

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Many a man never succeeds because he never tries.
— My corollary, in response to Norman MacEwan.

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Many a man never fails because he never tries.
— Normal MacEwan, taken off the Forbes ad page.

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Sep
23rd
Tue
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Sir Ken Robinson at TED. One of the best talks — funny, powerful, informative — I have ever seen:

Kids will take a chance.  If they don’t know, they’ll have a go.  Am I right?  They’re not frightened of being wrong.  Now, I’m not saying being wrong is the same thing as being creative.  But, what we do know is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. […] By the time they are adults, they have lost that capacity.  They are frightened of being wrong. […] We are educating people out of their creative capacities.

Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects.  Every one of them, doesn’t matter where you go, you think it’d be otherwise, but it isn’t.  At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts.  Everywhere on Earth. […] Truthfully what happens is that as children grow older, we progressively start to educate them from the waist up.  And then we focus on their heads.  And slightly to one side.

If you think about it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university education.  And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not — because the thing that they were good at at school wasn’t valued or was actually stigmatized.  And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.  In the next thirty years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than the beginning of history.

I can’t possibly compete with Sir Ken Robinson or his British accent.  Just go watch his talk.  It’s one of the top 5 talks you’ll ever see.  And, again, if you aren’t hooked by the 3:30-minute mark, I’ll eat my pants.

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