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Get inspired by experiences and opportunities shared by fellow engineering students.

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Prabhasa Kalkur
Prabhasa Kalkur | Image: Hannah Conrad

Who:

Prabhasa Kalkur, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University.

What:

Kalkur serves as an external officer for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Graduate Student Association (ECE-GSA) and as vice president of the editorial team for the Indian Graduate Student Association (IGSA). He is also the founder of “Tales at TAMU, a social media initiative which was created to provide Indian Aggies with a platform for expression.

Why it’s so cool:

Engineering and creativity go hand in hand. New innovations are born from imaginative ideas which are brought to life through research, application and teamwork. Harnessing and combining the lessons learned from both ingenuity and engineering is integral not only for the development of expert leaders, but also for the advancement and implementation of novel technology.

However, finding a way to balance academia and creative freedom can prove to be a daunting challenge for new students — especially those who are traveling to a new country for the first time.

When Kalkur arrived at Texas A&M from India to begin his graduate studies in electrical engineering he knew that he wanted to get involved with the campus community. Backed by prior experience in technical organizations during undergraduate studies, he joined both ECE-GSA and IGSA.

ECE-GSA was founded in 2017 to provide graduate students with a means to voice their opinions and come together as a community of scholars to promote professional growth and development. As an external officer, Kalkur regularly attends general assemblies hosted by the Graduate and Professional Student Council and reports back information that is directly relevant to the department, helping his fellow graduate students stay informed and up to date.

In addition to supporting the department, his involvement with ECE-GSA has provided him with an opportunity to sharpen his research skills in a non-lab setting. A vital aspect of research is being able to draw upon a cacophony of information and extract only that which is relevant to an experiment or investigation, like what he is doing in the general assemblies. This allows a researcher to hone in on a specific issue in order to solve it efficiently and promptly.

The members of IGSA in front of Kyle Field
Kalkur serves as vice president of the editorial team for IGSA | Image: Prabhasa Kalkur

While ECE-GSA highlights academic opportunities and promotes professional development as a leader and an engineer, IGSA has given him an avenue to explore creativity and build a community with fellow international students from all over India.

“Departments rarely host any kind of cultural event, so (the hundreds of Indian engineering students at Texas A&M) barely get the chance to interact with each other on a social scale, except in instances of assignments or technical discussions related to the department. That can be very isolating for new students,” said Kalkur.

Enter IGSA, a student organization dedicated to bringing together current, former and future Indian graduate students at Texas A&M in order to help them network, share experiences and acclimate to their new home away from home.

As he explained, meeting people through IGSA has given Kalkur an opportunity to interact and befriend students outside of engineering. It has expanded his horizons in terms of self-expression, while also providing a welcoming platform for students to express their voice through his content creation role, membership with the editorial team and involvement with IGSA’s social media campaign, “Tales at TAMU.”

Inspired by the “Humans of New York” photoblog series, “Tales at TAMU” encourages students to share their experiences, overcome shyness and break down cultural and behavioral walls — creating a network of diverse role models for others to look up to, relate to and be empowered by.

“By portraying how many of us go through similar troubles and that none of us face our struggles and obstacles alone, we are bridging the wide gap that exists among the graduate student community,” he said.

In doing so, he has also learned how to coordinate, communicate and present various perspectives and ideas — tools that are all invaluable to success as a leader and in industry.

“IGSA is a very diverse group. When you’re a member of the organization or volunteer at an event, you forget that you’re an engineer or a science student, and you become part of a community,” said Kalkur. “You get to share your thoughts, opinions and ideas. That’s when you realize that there are a lot of people with inclinations for both creativity and their respective STEM disciplines. And that feels good.”