Punya Raja

A Formula for Life
Passion + Determination + Pragmatism + Humbleness = Excellence

By Katherine Doyle

This is Punya Raja’s formula.

Growing up in Kodaikanal, a city in the hills of the Dindigul district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, Punya is no stranger to agriculture. Her grandfather was a former dean of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

"I'm the fourth generation of my family who studied at TNAU. While my great grandpa studied, the campus was in Madras presidency during the British rule. After which they relocated to Coimbatore."

Punya is in her final semester of the Bachelor of Technology in Environmental Landscape Horticulture program. Originally she began her studies at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore, India, where she applied to the dual degree program offered between TNAU and Dal AC in her third year.

“As a kid, I’d always go with my grandpa for meetings, workshops related to agriculture, horticulture and plant breeding and genetics. We have orchards that have plantation crops and horticultural crops,” she explains.

During her first year at the AC, Punya was involved in the International Students’ Association as the Vice President-Administration, the Student Advancement in Leadership Certificate (SAIL) program and was a participant for the International Student Support Strategy (ISSS) on campus. The year after she was elected as President for the International Students’ Association, was on the Student Representation Council and was also a Peer Educator.

This past summer, Punya fulfilled a childhood dream of attending Harvard University.

Punya was accepted to both Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the University of California-Berkeley, both known as pioneers in the field of Landscape Architecture.

“I did get into both schools but had to choose Harvard because of it being my dream school as a child,” she explains.

Punya did three major presentations of real-time Landscape Architecture projects for areas in Boston, Cambridge and for Harvard itself.

“The materials and methods I learned were a condensation of a typical three-year Master’s program in Landscape Architecture at GSD. These classes required a lot of passion, dedication and hard work. My friends and I would stay up until midnight working on our designs at the studio,” she says.

Her day would begin at 9:00 a.m. with a lecture followed by in-class studio time with her respective instructors and would end with off-class studio work and on weekends, field trips and studio work.

“There were some phenomenal lectures and presentations from professional practitioners and our presentations were reviewed and evaluated by lead faculty and professional practitioners. Over all, it was a rewarding experience.”

Punya finished the program and received a Diploma in Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“I owe my parents and my late grandparents for their tremendous support and encouragement in my upbringing especially my grandpa. He was an honorable member at Cornell University in the field of plant genetics and recipient of Who’s who in World Agriculture in the year 2003 for his contributions to the field of Agriculture,” she added. “He is my inspiration and my prime mentor.”

Punya plans on pursuing her Masters in Landscape Architecture in the fall

Seems her formula is working!