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Usha Nand Sellers (India, J'57, G'58, J'84P)
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When Usha Nand Sellers arrived at Tufts University in 1953, she
was one among relatively few international students on campus -
thirty, to be exact - and as far as she knew, the only student from
"I graduated from high school in New Dehli and came directly to
Tufts to begin my undergraduate studies as a sixteen year old,"
Her mother and father, a physician and an educator, respectively,
"were very forward-looking for their time," and among their five
children, "didn't want to discriminate between the boys who went
abroad [to study], and the girls," says Sellers. Her brother, Dr.
Prem Prakash (D'53), had recently graduated from Tufts Dental
School, and he highly recommended the university upon his return to
Her brother's recommendation brought Sellers to Tufts, and her twin
sister, Pushpa, attended nearby Wellesley College. During Sellers's
first year at Tufts, 1953/54, the Institute of International
Education reports that India had the lowest percentage of female
students in the United States. Her presence at Tufts is
extraordinary, considering that few internationals - let alone
females - arrived in the United States on a student visa.
Nonetheless, the adventurous and strong-minded young Sellers
excelled as a student at Tufts.
Sellers was very involved on campus. In addition to her passion for
academics, she was active in sports, playing badminton and field
hockey. She also worked as a student assistant in the Undergraduate
Sellers reminiscences that since there were "very few of us
[international students] in those days," she helped found the
International Club to promote a dialogue between international and
American students. The Club also provided an outlet for Sellers and
other internationals to deal with so many "new things in America,"
she says. One of Sellers's favorite International Club events was
the annual cookout, which often attracted a large segment of the
student body to try foods from around the world. Sellers recalls a
Shish-Kabob cookout in spring 1956 that was so successful the Club
ran out of food (see photo above).
Today the International Club is still a popular student-run
organization. The Club's week-long Intercultural Festival includes
food, dancing, cultural performances, and a fashion show that
capture of essence of various different countries.
"I have very, very happy memories of Tufts and my classmates that I
met," says Sellers. "They were amazing. We [international students]
never felt as outsiders. The students were so welcoming and so warm.
It was also a place I really grew up."
Unable to travel home during academic breaks, Sellers remained on
campus. One December over winter break, she saw snow for the first
time. "I tried to catch it like a child," she retells. She also
remembers being impressed by the black and white television in the
common room of Hodgdon Hall, where she watched the "American drama
of the McCarthy hearings."
"I had every intention of returning back home [after college]. But
then I met my husband at Tufts," smiles Sellers. During her junior
year, she met a senior student, William Sellers, at a Student
Council meeting - the 1950's version of today's University Senate.
Their first date was at the on-campus coffee shop now known as Brown
and Brew. After Sellers received her master's degree at Tufts, the
young couple married in June 1960 and moved to New York City, where
she gave birth to the first of four children.
The Sellers family eventually settled in Reading, Massachusetts,
where child rearing and a work career in academia continued
simultaneously. Subsequently, Sellers returned to school and
completed her Ed.D. at Boston University in 1987. Keeping with
family tradition, one of her daughters graduated from Tufts in 1984.
Today, Sellers finds herself back at Tufts, this time in a
professional role that strengthens the university's ties to its
alumni, as well as to the international community. She became
director of the Tufts Travel-Learn program in July 2000, and in
collaboration with the Tufts University Alumni Association, she
launched the program in 2001. Over the years, Sellers has been a
strong supporter of the University and its students, including
international students. While Sellers was the only student from
India in 1953, the situation is quite different today; in fall 2010
there were forty undergraduate students from India studying at the
university. She sees her support as something she can "return for
all that Tufts has given me."
By Sellers's long-term connection and commitment to the University,
she ensures that international students will continue to be a
dynamic part of the Tufts community.
- Profile by Lisa Hayden G07 and Laura Tillery G10.