Romi Bhatia: Builds Idea Center to help MDC students start ventures
Written by Katherine Lewin on February 19, 2019
Romi Bhatia arrived with his family in the US at age 8, fleeing violence against his Sikh faith in New Delhi. He grew up in San Jose, CA, graduated from two top universities and had an impactful career in Washington, including eight years at the US Agency for International Development. But when a new administration came in, Mr. Bhatia and his wife felt it was time to start a new chapter that has begun in Miami as executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center.
Mr. Bhatia began his college education at De Anza Community College. This, combined with his years of public service and experience in microfinance, community building and international development, led him apply for the executive director position at the Idea Center.
“I started my academic journey at a community college and it left a lasting impression on me, knowing that students that are in college, balancing work, part time jobs with studies, were still able to pursue their degrees. It’s a very different demographic than a student at a four-year university who is living in a dorm,” Mr. Bhatia said. “I have a great appreciation for the commitment and the time and support I received at [De Anza] college with my advisors and my faculty. As I came to know about MDC and its amazing programs, I felt that I was going to a stellar institution.”
Since taking over the Idea Center a year and a half ago, Mr. Bhatia has worked to build out a supportive place to help students, faculty, staff and community members start and scale their own ventures.
About 2,000 students and community members come through the Idea Center each semester. Mr. Bhatia’s hopes that eventually at least half of MDC’s 30,000 Wolfson Campus students will use the Idea Center to get help with their ventures or nonprofits.
“Students are learning from those who are running these companies and that’s tremendous, because they want to feel that what they’re learning in the classroom is going to be applicable and prepare them for when they graduate,” Mr. Bhatia said. “For us it’s all about experiential learning. We’re really striving to be that place that has its doors open to the community for entrepreneurship.”
He was interviewed on campus by Miami Today reporter Katherine Lewin. Video by Jahmoukie Dayle can be found Friday at http://bit.ly/2uNHy0Q.
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