Building Robust & Inclusive Democracy

This Tisch Scholar Didn’t Waste a Minute at Tufts

Trina Sanyal, A21, juggled many passions at Tufts, including architecture, community education, and comedy.
Trina Sanyal

By Meredith Berg 

Trina Sanyal, A21, literally does not have the time. 

Sanyal, who is graduating from the School of Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies and a minor in film studies, sometimes gets into trouble with friends and family for not resting enough. It’s because she has so much on her plate: Architecture. Community education. Social justice. Performance and comedy. Children’s media and animation.  

But she doesn’t see this as a bad thing. 

Sanyal often abides by her advisor’s words: “Stay with the trouble.” To her, this sums up her passion for having many passions - and always trying to find more. It means following her instincts to travel many paths at once with the ultimate goal of becoming a well-rounded person who makes a difference for those around her. 

“Life at Tufts has taken me down a winding path,”  said Sanyal. “I never quite intended to be so busy. I have a deep and profound love for my community such that I say ‘yes’ to doing a lot of different projects. I want to help.” 

That desire to say yes has worked in Sanyal’s favor. At the end of her first year, she was at a crossroads in the quest to choose a major. Driven by a desire to “make stuff” and analyze global politics she was torn between film and international relations. 

On the advice of a former Tufts student advisor, Margot Cardamone, who also ran the FIRST Resource Center, she said she “stumbled” into the office of Diana Martinez, assistant professor and director of the architectural studies program. There, Sanyal said she found the “intellectual home” she had been searching for.  

“It just clicked. Professor Martinez was so cool and had such a way of making me feel comfortable, and I joined architecture because of her,” said Sanyal. 

What followed in her time at Tufts was Sanyal’s use of architecture to unite love for community and people. “All of my architectural projects have to do with community centers, museums, and public works. And my TV and film work has to do with public media and working with young people,” she explained.  

Sanyal has also been active in Tufts’ South Asian Political Action Community (SAPAC) since her first year. She recently co-directed a part-virtual, part in-person symposium at Tufts for South Asian students to celebrate the work and activism of South Asian students at Tufts. In addition to the presentation of academic research and other components, the event also had an art exhibition for which she produced an animation. 

Tisch College of Civic Life has also allowed Sanyal to explore her passions at Tufts. In her second year, she was accepted as a Tisch Scholar, a leadership development program that combines academic coursework and fieldwork in local communities. As a Tisch Scholar, Sanyal worked for about a year at The Welcome Project, a Somerville, Massachusetts-based program that works to engage immigrants in civic life. She worked with elementary, middle, and high school students in an afterschool program. 

Later, as a means to delve into video and film, she worked at Somerville Media Center for two years. Her worlds intersected there when she began making videos for the Welcome Project. 

As a peer leader through Tisch College’s Leadership for Social Change, Sanyal worked with high schoolers to help them understand lecture material. She also founded a community comedy group in 2018 called Comic Relief for students of color, through the Tufts Women’s Center, where she was a student intern; the women’s center directors offered their support to start the group and allowed it to use space at the center for meetings. Comic Relief performed on campus several times and had plans to perform at Improv Boston. 

Then, the pandemic hit.  

When everything went remote, comedy over Zoom posed a “weird and funny” challenge, said Sanyal, but the pandemic afforded her several silver linings. For one, she taught herself animation as one way to complement her film studies.  

“I didn't define myself before as someone who made art, but  I got to reflect on my own position in the world, to define myself, in a way,” she said. “I am the most authentic version of myself that I've ever been, and I feel closer to myself than I ever have because of all this time that I’ve had to reflect and think.” 

A New Jersey native, Sanyal plans to move to Philadelphia in June, along with two friends. She is looking for professional roles in museums, writing, comedy, children’s media, and animation.  

The choices are endless, but Sanyal has the energy for it all.