Meet HAF's 2016 Congressional and Advocacy Summer Interns

Washington, D.C. (June 17, 2016) - The Hindu American Foundation is pleased to welcome six outstanding undergraduate students to its annual summer internship program. This year's program offers dual tracks: Congressional and Advocacy. Congressional track interns spend eight weeks in a Congressional office on Capitol Hill while Advocacy track interns work alongside HAF's fulltime staff in the Foundation's office. Take a moment to learn more about this year's interns.

Congressional Interns

Vaishali Ashtakala, Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

Vaishali studies at George Washington University pursuing a degree in economics with minors in statistics and German. She is an intern in Congressmen Eric Swalwell's office. She recently completed an internship with the DC Office of Attorney General in the civil litigation department. She is involved with student government and service organizations on campus, and writes for the George Washington university undergraduate law review. Vaishali is interested in attending law school and pursuing a career in economic policy. She enjoys going for runs and spending time with her dog and finding good restaurants.

Anita Kapyur, Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA)

Anita is a senior at Rice University, double majoring in Kinesiology and Policy Studies. She interns with Rep. Ami Bera of California District 7, the only Indian-American in Congress. Anita also serves as co-president of Rice's Boniuk Council, whose mission is to encourage interfaith and religious tolerance, and as co-captain of the Rice Chowl Bhangra dance team. She is passionate about policy and politics, specifically in the intersection between policy and medicine. She loves to write, read mystery novels and make jewelry.

Reena Naik, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Reena is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in economics, political science, and global studies. She is originally from the southern city of Birmingham, Alabama. She is working in the HAF office for the beginning of the summer and will later be interning for Senator Chris Murphy’s Office of Connecticut. Reena is passionate about international relations, immigration, and promoting diversity within government. She served as the President of Hindu Students Council as well as Vice-Chair of the Judicial Committee of Student Government Board at Pitt. She previously interned with the American Civil Liberties Union, City Council of Pittsburgh, and the Neighborhood Legal Services Association. She enjoys traveling throughout the Caribbean and volunteering with organizations dedicated to refugee empowerment. She will be pursuing the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs at the Pittsburgh Office next year. Reena hopes to attend law school in the future for specializations in immigration and asylum law.

Riya Nathrani, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)

Riya is from the Northern Mariana Islands and recently graduated as class valedictorian with her bachelor's degree in education. She is representing HAF in Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s office and is increasingly becoming more informed about civic engagement and the legislative process. In addition to her former internship with Congressman Gregorio Sablan’s office, Riya is currently an E3! Ambassador for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where she focuses on pertinent issues to increase awareness about education, immigration, mental health, and public service. Her dream of obtaining a college education and helping her family and community has sparked the desire in her to contribute to the cornerstone of society - education.

Advocacy Interns

Vanaaisha Pamnani

Vanaaisha is an incoming junior at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo who is pursuing a major in history and a minor in statistics. In addition to interning at the HAF headquarters in Washington D.C., she has also interned with the Chhandam School of Kathak in San Francisco, CA. Throughout the school year, Vanaaisha is involved with the Gender Equity Center at Cal Poly, the Indian Student Association, and currently serves as a research assistant, exploring the connection between Natural History and the British Slave Trade. In her spare time, she participates in the University Choir Ensemble, enjoys hiking around San Luis Obispo, and loves taking an endless amount of Buzzfeed quizzes.

Faren Rajkumar

Faren is a recent graduate of Nova Southeastern University with majors in biology and English. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her university’s literary magazine, Digressions, and an editor at the weekly newspaper, The Current. Her poetry won a first place award in the NSU undergraduate student symposium, and she has completed photojournalism and writing programs at the University of Florida and the City University of New York. In addition to interning at the HAF D.C. office, Faren has been a long-time volunteer with HAF’s South Florida chapter, where she was also a classical violin teacher and writing tutor. In the fall, she will begin an MFA in creative writing with a poetry concentration in pursuit of a career in writing and post-graduate instructing. When she isn’t working or composing poetry, Faren loves re-reading her favorite novels, promoting vegetarianism, and reveling in the beauty of new cities. This intern position has been endowed by Drs. Kiran & Pallavi Patel.