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Cultivating Curiosity and Family Connection at the Graham School

Mother-daughter duo explore the liberal arts together

Gayathri Rajan

Gayathri Rajan is an ambitious learner and accomplished business leader. She earned degrees from Cambridge University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford, and she now serves as Vice President and General Manager for Google Maps Platform. But she only recently began her journey into the liberal arts, with a little encouragement from her daughter.

During the pandemic, when Gayathri was halfway around the world from her adult daughter, Anu Rajan, they discovered the University of Chicago Graham School’s Open Enrollment program in the liberal arts. Both mother and daughter were intrigued by the opportunity to enroll in a course at Graham together from their respective homes in California and Singapore.


What stood out to them about Graham? “What distinguishes UChicago’s Graham School are the small class sizes, the quality of instruction and student participation, and the strong community that is focused on and celebrates the liberal arts,” said Gayathri.


Gayathri and Anu enrolled in “Ten Great 20th-Century American Plays” with Graham instructor and Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones. In addition to stepping out of their comfort zones by immersing themselves in the field of dramatic literature, the mother-daughter duo found the shared learning experience especially meaningful.


As Gayathri explains, “During the 18 months when we couldn't meet in person, the class gave me an excuse to spend three hours with Anu every week.  But it went beyond that. We had something new to discuss every week that we were excited to share. During the class, she would send me WhatsApp messages to say that she liked my comment or agreed with my perspective, or not. But it was about the play, and our shared understanding of it, not of each other.”


Not only did Gayathri and Anu engage with the course material, the instructor, and insightful peers through the class, they also connected with one another personally and intellectually during a time when they could not be together in person. For Gayathri and her daughter, the Graham School experience was not just a part of their lifelong learning journey, but a family affair.

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Sara Connell

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