A saying imparted to her in childhood has guided Sitara Maria through life, education and Teachers College.

“My mother always says a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle,” says Maria, who is receiving her master’s degree from TC’s Psychology in Education, within the program in Clinical Psychology. “So, when I get something done, I always make sure that everyone around me finds a way to benefit from my experience.”

Graduates Gallery 2021

Meet some more of the amazing students who earned degrees from Teachers College this year.

The ripple effect from that approach has been significant, because Maria tends to get a lot done. As an undergraduate in psychology at India’s Delhi University, she interned at Kross & Knots, a nonprofit that on focuses on children’s development through leadership and sports; the Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health, Neuro & Allied Sciences; the Centre for Dance Movement Psychotherapy at Asha Hai; and Child Rights and You (CRY), where she created a socio-emotional training module for volunteers.

SHOWING UP THROUGHOUT When TC closed because of the pandemic, Sitara Maria worked with the College to counsel faculty on how to use online teaching technologies. (Photo: TC Archives)

After graduating, she worked for two years as a fellow for Teach for India in an underserved school in Pune, the country’s eighth largest city, where poverty left no aspect of learning untouched.

“I kept looking at the behavior motivating children, including how my responses motivated the behavior I was seeking from a child,” says Maria of that work, which earned her the Nation Builder Award from Rotary International. “Ultimately, I wanted to involve parentsn children’s education.”

My mother always says a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. So, when I get something done, I always make sure that everyone around me finds a way to benefit from my experience.

— Sitara Maria (M.A. ’21, Psychology in Education) 

Maria came to Teachers College to better understand the link that connects psychology to learning. At TC, too, she hit the ground running. During her first month, she took “Psychology and the U.N.,” a course with Dr. Judy Kuriansky, the radio and internet advice host who is an adjunct professor in TC’s Clinical Psychology program.

“That got me into the United Nations,” she says. “For a student from India, that was the coolest thing ever.”

She served as a course assistant for the course “Child Psychopathology,” taught by Adjunct Associate Professor Susan Bodnar, who subsequently nominated her for the Morton T. Embree Award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning.   

And she also worked as a research assistant on various TC projects, including a provider training manual developed by the College’s Global Mental Health Lab — experience that stood her in good stead when, seven weeks into her second semester, the College closed its campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on her proficiency in multiple digital platforms, Maria signed on as an Academic Tech Fellow with what was then TC’s Office of Digital Learning (now part of the College’s Digital Futures Institute) to assist faculty in the transition to remote instruction.

There were moments, she recalls with a laugh, when perplexed faculty grappling with a different way of learning made her feel like an “unlicensed therapist.” Still, in the short term, she plans to continue along that path post-graduation in a job in which she’ll be counseling health agency clients on empathetic listening practices in telehealth consultations. 

“The challenge is how do we inspire people and get them to inspire others, too,” Maria says. “If you find a way to inspire people, you can hope they go on to inspire others, too.”