Cuckoo Gupta is a Public Programming and Marketing Fellow, and the youngest member of our Alaska Humanities family. She was born and brought up in India, and moved to Anchorage after completing her undergraduate studies at Ohio Wesleyan University. If asked where her home is, she replies with a confident, “Columbus, Ohio.”
Cuckoo came to the Forum through the Alaska Fellows Program, a near-year-long postgraduate fellowship matching dynamic recent college graduates with organizations in Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka.
The program is designed as a tool to recruit new talent to Alaska and also to bring home and retain Alaska grown graduates. It harnesses the "can-do young energy" that organizations need, while also providing enriching, hands-on early career experiences for the fellows. Throughout the year, the fellows live communally and attend program-funded opening retreats as well as facilitated “convenings” that draw together the participants across all three sites to cultivate connections, friendships, and common identity at the beginning and end of the program.
Cuckoo jumped into her role at the Forum, taking a lead in developing Culture Shift, a new event series, and contributing to projects in communications and facilitation. She has been an invaluable addition to our team, providing a fresh perspective and a wonderful, infectious enthusiasm for connecting people and ideas. Cuckoo gave us a glimpse into her experience here in Alaska and where she's headed next.
Q: What did you study in college?
A: I studied Comparative Literature and Film Studies. My main focus was postcolonialism, feminism, women and gender studies, and films.
Q: What was your favorite part?
A: I went to a small liberal arts college, which gave me opportunities I otherwise would not have had. I established mentor/mentee relationships with professors, and had opportunities to explore topics in classes the way I wanted to. I also did a fellowship my senior year with the Comparative Literature Department, through which I organized a film festival.
Q: How did you end up here in Alaska?
A: I heard about the Alaska Fellows Program through a professor. My housemate at the time had applied for it, and the fellowship sounded like it would be a great new experience. I had only applied to the Alaska Humanities Forum position, and had my heart set on it. And here I am!
Q: Why did you pick this fellowship?
A: When you think of post college cities, people usually think New York, Chicago, LA. Rarely, do we think Anchorage. I grew up moving from one big metropolitan city to another. Living in Columbus was also city living. I was ready for a new adventure, ready to step out of my comfort zone of big cities and crowds.
Not only was Alaska an enticing option, the position at the Humanities Forum was everything I could ask for after having graduated in the humanities. I felt extremely lucky to have found a position that encompassed everything I learned in college in such a beautiful and precise manner.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Alaska Fellows?
A: Well, when I had recently moved to Anchorage, it was comforting to know that I was not alone. I knew that I had seven other people in the same boat as me. The network helps create relationships that we may need as young professionals to help us move forward, and just to experience Alaska.
Q: How has settling in Anchorage been so far?
A: It has definitely been a new and slightly uncomfortable experience. And I do not shy away from the “uncomfortable”, so it hasn’t been all bad. I do miss the convenience and access to different restaurants and things to do around a larger city. I wish there were more food options! However, I do appreciate how accessible people in power, political leaders, organizational heads, etc. are here. Everyone knows everyone, and that has its major advantages!
Q: What's your dream job?
A: I have multiple dream jobs, and each in its own way realistic. I would either like to do something in publishing, or be a publicist for a musician or writer. Or, I would like to someday head my own PR firm.
Q: What is in the cards for you next?
A: Well, I am open to anything and everything. Maybe move again, or stay in Alaska for another year. I am also applying to grad schools for an MBA, and looking at job opportunities around. I am not sure where the winds will take me yet, but I know I am not ready to really settle down in one place.