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Staff Spotlight: Sharmi Ray

08/30/2019

Saint Louis University staff member Sharmi Ray may define the word, “cosmopolitan.” Her journey has taken her from Kolkata, India, to the bluegrass of Kentucky and now to the banks of the Mississippi River. She’s a trained philosopher, passionate photographer, dancer and Bengali blogger.

Sharmi Ray

Sharmi Ray came to SLU five years ago as an accountant in the Office of Sponsored Programs, now part of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR). She's a trained philosopher, photographer, avid dancer and Bengali blogger. Photo by Amelia Flood

A mother of two daughters, she has been active in the University's International Staff and Faculty Association (IFSA) and she shares her Bengali heritage with others across the St. Louis region through the local group, Punascha.

Now a member of SLU’s Office of the Vice President of Research (OVPR), Ray puts her many passions to work assisting SLU faculty and staff members and facilitating the University’s priority research areas.

Ray says five years ago, she could not have imagined finding such a vibrant global community to call home in St. Louis, until she fell in love with campus life at SLU.

Get to Know Sharmi

Can you talk a bit about your journey to SLU?

When I think about my journey so far here at SLU, I instantly go back to five years when I joined our SLU community. I was quite amazed to see that the research office was so diversified with people from different parts of the world. This was something I didn’t expect to see.

One can always expect a diverse faculty and student demography in an academic institution but not staff. This, along with the welcoming group of people in my division soon won my heart and even though I was not only new to the university, but also to the city, I started to feel that I have found my new home!

What gets you excited to start the day?

Every day in research administration is a new day with new challenges and problem solving.

As much as I enjoy the parts of my work that largely and widely involve administering and managing external and internal research finance matters, I love to step out and help my professors and colleagues, to train them on any policies or procedures related to their work. I enjoy communicating with people.

Tell us about getting involved with the International Faculty and Staff Association (IFSA).

It is always nice to meet people from different countries, with different heritage, traditions, cultures. As a graduate student at the University of Toledo, and as a staff member at the University of Kentucky, I joined their International Student and Faculty associations and I did the same here at SLU and became a member of IFSA.

I work with Dr. Hisako Matsuo, who a few years ago served at IFSA, and during one of our work meetings she encouraged me to actively serve at IFSA. It sparked my interest, and I later served a year as an IFSA communication chair.

Reaching out to the community – party planning and hosting parties, making flyers – are some of the many things that I always love to do. And as a part of the IFSA committee, I enjoyed being a part and a contributor in organizing each event throughout the year.

How do you work to connect others with your Indian heritage and traditions?

Last year, I became an active member of our Bengali community here in St. Louis, called Punascha. For over 30 years, this community has proudly celebrated our very own Bengali culture through festivals and several events year-round.

These celebrations bring joy among people like us who left their motherland for higher studies and work. They allow us to share and spread our rich heritage with our next generations who are growing up here. Here in this community we all work hand-in-hand together to bring back the essence, the flavor of our home.

You’re an accountant by profession, but you’re something of a Renaissance woman, right?
 

Although I am an accountant here, I studied philosophy for about nine years! My bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in philosophy, specializing in ethics, cognitive science, and later in the after I studied in the United States, women and gender studies.

It is through my special interest during my grad school at the University of Toledo that I joined as a research assistant at the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky. That path led me to research administration to where I am now!

As for interests, creativity attracts me! I love photography! Taking random, candid pictures of people and nature is something I do almost every day and I can spend any amount of time just editing them!

I like to write blogs and short stories in my mother language – Bengali. There’s a part of me who always wants to be in the field of performing arts, where I could be an anchor and host a show or organize an entire special.

All my life, dance has been my passion. Every chance I get, I choreograph a dance show for my community event, back in Kentucky, and now here in St. Louis.

 

What brings you joy?

I’ve got two girls, one a junior at high school, while the little one is at fourth grade. My joy is long drives with my girls, - oh yes! I love driving – while listening to our favorite songs.

Or watching all the Marvel movies while getting help from my girls to catch up with any part that I might have missed out.

And I love taking random pictures of clouds and nature with my teenage daughter, also a photographer.

These are among my most favorite activities that bring the most happiness in me.

Staff Spotlight is an occasional series dedicated to revealing the stories behind the name badges of SLU's staff members. To suggest a staff member to shine a light on, contact Newslink or call 314-977-2519.