In the fall 2006 issue of HMC’s magazine, in response to the prompt “Leadership is …” Maria Klawe responded “Enabling others to succeed.” Here, we feature an alumna who shares how Klawe influenced her life and career.
During her senior year, Shailee Samar ’18 (CS) received the Dorman Student Altruism prize, peer-recognition for impacting fellow students. She says she learned leadership from the best.
Samar first met President Maria Klawe when attending an orientation event on campus. During the welcome reception hosted at the President’s House, Samar and her family were impressed that Maria recognized every student and could speak to their background. “Maria had already put in the effort to know me before I even stepped on campus,” Samar recalls.
She says her involvement on campus was full of collaboration within a tightknit community. She helped create “lunch/dinnerposiums” to bring together faculty members and students and fondly recalls working with classmates on problem sets in her room. “That togetherness in a really tough environment was pretty incredible,” says Samar. As sophomore class president and later as student body president, Samar found Klawe to be very approachable and accessible.
“It’s not easy for students generally to talk to their college presidents whenever they want. But I was able to set up meetings with her to discuss things I was going through and issues I was thinking about. Every time, Maria would listen patiently and help look at the issues from multiple dimensions. She hosted Hiking with the President and Painting with the President, really making sure that we students could talk with her if we needed to. I also loved that Maria was so open and transparent with her own life experiences and challenges.”
In addition to her roles in student government, Samar did a CS Clinic project with Accenture Labs (augmented/virtual reality content management) and was a student representative on the College’s Sustainability Committee. Nominators for the Dorman Altruism prize wrote, “[Samar] has been extremely active with the community and has fostered lots of positive change.”
The diverse environment at Mudd that Klawe fostered—including a student body of 50% women—was something that Samar appreciated and realized she shouldn’t take for granted.
“When I went to my internship at Google (Mountain View) after my freshman year, I was in my cubicle and noticed that, of the 17 engineers, I was the only woman,” she recalls. “I’d come from this really amazing environment, but that’s not how the world is.”
Utilizing her HMC lunch/dinnerposiums idea, Samar created a way to empower women at her workplaces. Her program, Women Empowered (WE++), seeks to connect women in tech with leaders in engineering, product, legal and marketing areas in small-group settings over meals. She’s organized more than 40 such events at Microsoft, Google and Accenture Labs.
Throughout her career, Samar has stayed in touch with Klawe and benefited from her advice, contacts and counsel. Samar recently left Uber Freight, where she was product manager, to pursue an MBA at Stanford. Before she begins the program this fall, she’ll take a six-month hiatus to travel—India then Switzerland and Columbia—explore and relax.
It’s something that those who know Samar will not find surprising. She is certified to teach Zumba and yoga and advocates for mental and physical health through Mudd Meditates, which she began during summer 2021 in collaboration with the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations. January through March, Samar leads a weekly Zoom session featuring simple breathing, yoga and meditation techniques to help alumni, students and other participants relax, lower anxiety and increase energy.
It’s Samar’s way of carrying on the Mudd tradition of prioritizing community and enabling others to succeed. “Maria did a phenomenal job of making sure I could reach the opportunities I should be able to reach. I’m passionate about doing this for others, too.”