Senior Ananya Gurumurthy, a three-year recipient of MIT’s Emerson Classical Vocal Scholarships, remembers getting ready to step onto the stage at Carnegie Hall to sing a Mozart opera she once sang with the New York National Choir. The choirmaster reminded him to speak his words and engage the diaphragm.
“If you don’t express your voice, how will people hear you when you speak?” Gurumurthy remembers his conductor telling him, “This is your moment, your chance to connect with such a huge audience.”
Gurumurthy reflects on the universal truth of those words as he adds his musical talent to his studies in mathematics and computer science to campaign for social and economic justice.
The daughter of immigrants
Growing up in Edgemont, New York, he was inspired to fight on behalf of others by his South Asian immigrant parents who came to the United States in the 1980s. His father is a management consultant and his mother is an investment banker.
“They came barely 15 years after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which removed national origin quotas from the American immigration system,” he says. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Civil Rights Movement that preceded both me and my parents.”
His parents told him about the anti-immigrant sentiments of their new home. For example, her father was a graduate student in Dallas and was leaving a store when he was pelted with glass bottles and racial slurs.
“I often consider the amount of courage it must have taken for them to abandon everything they knew to immigrate to a new but still imperfect country in search of something better,” he says. “As a result, I’ve always felt so grounded in my identity as both a South Asian American and a woman of color. These identities have allowed me to think critically about how I can most effectively reform the institutions around me.”
Gurumurthy has been singing since she was 11, but in high school she decided to also build her political voice by working for New York Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. At one point, Gurumurthy mentioned that a register was being kept for constituent call subjects such as “affordable housing” and “infrastructure,” and that’s when he learned that Stewart-Cousins would be addressing the most urgent of these callers. issues before the Senate.
“This experience was my first time witnessing how powerful it was to mobilize large numbers of voters to affect meaningful legislative change,” says Gurumurthy.
After he began applying his mathematical skills to political campaigns, Gurumurthy was soon selected to lead analysis for the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) midterm election initiative. As a lead analyst at the New York DNC, he adapted the Interactive Activation-Competition (IAC) model to understand voting patterns in the 2018 and 2020 elections. He collected data from public voting records to predict how voters would vote and used the IAC algorithm to strategize and allocate resources alongside grassroots organizations to empower historically disenfranchised groups in municipal, state and federal elections to encourage them to vote.
Research and Student Organizing at MIT
When he arrived at MIT in 2019 to study mathematics with computer science, along with minors in music and economics, he admits to being overwhelmed by the naïve idea that he would “build digital tools that could alleviate all the collective pressures by themselves. systemic injustice in this country.”
Since then, he has learned to create what he calls a “more nuanced perspective.” She gained data analytics skills to build mobilization platforms for social and economic justice organizations, including working with Fair Fight Action in Fulton County, Georgia (through a Kelly-Douglas Foundation Fellowship) to analyze patterns of voter suppression and the ethics of MIT : Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence labs to create symbolic AI protocols to better understand biases in AI algorithms. For his work on the International Monetary Fund (through the MIT Washington Summer Internship Program), Gurumurthy was awarded second place in the 2022 S. Klein Prize for Technical Writing for his paper “The Rapid Rise of Cryptocurrency.”
“The results of each project gave me more hope to start the next one because I could see the impact of these digital tools,” he says. “I saw people feeling empowered to use their voices, whether it was voting for the first time, protesting against exploitative global monetary policy or fighting against gender discrimination. I was really fortunate to see the power of mathematical analysis first hand.”
“I’ve come to realize that the constructive use of technology can be a powerful voice of resistance against injustice,” she says. “Because numbers matter, and when people see them, they are motivated to take meaningful action.”
Hoping to make a difference in her own community, she joined several institute committees. As co-chair of the Undergraduate Associate Education Committee, she spearheaded MIT’s first digital petition for grade transparency and worked with faculty members on institute committees to ensure that all students are adequately resourced to participate in online education. Covid-19 pandemic. The digital petition inspired him to launch a project called Insite, which will develop a more centralized digital way to collect data on MIT’s student life to better inform policies developed by its governing bodies. As chairman of the Ring Committee, he ensured that special Silver Rat traditions were made economically available to all members of the class, helping the committee nearly triple its financial aid budget. For his efforts at MIT, he received the William L. Stewart Jr. Award “[her] investments [as] An individual student at MIT to extracurricular activities and student life.”
Ananya plans to graduate from law school, study constitutional law, so that she can use her technical knowledge to create quantitative evidence and set legal standards “for human use” in cases involving electoral law, social welfare, and ethical technology. data,” he says.
“In creating digital tools for a variety of social and economic justice organizations, I hope we can challenge our existing systems of power and realize the progress we so desperately need to witness. There is power in numbers, both algorithmic and organizational. I believe it is our responsibility to use these strengths simultaneously to change the world.”
His ambitions, however, began when he began singing lessons when he was 11 years old; without his biography as a vocalist, he says, the voice will not make a sound.
“Performing opera has given me the opportunity to really step into my character and convey powerful emotions in my performance. Along the way, I’ve learned that my voice is most powerful when it reflects my true beliefs, whether I’m performing or speaking in public. I truly believe that this honesty has allowed me to become an effective community organizer. I would like to believe that it is this voice that makes those around me act.”
Private music tuition is available to students through the Emerson/Harris Program, which offers merit-based financial awards to students for outstanding instrumental or vocal achievement in classical, jazz, or world music. The Emerson/Harris Program is funded by the late Cherry L. Emerson Jr. SM ’41, in response to Provost Ellen T. Harris (Class of 1949 Emeritus Professor of Music) application.