By Rachel Aldrich
Patrick Henry College
Paul Devamithran (center) in Sri Lanka.
The Advancement Office of Patrick Henry College is pleased to announce to recent hiring of PHC alumnus Paul Devamithran as a development officer. Devamithran (International Politics and Policy) filled various leadership roles during his time on campus, including as Vice-President of the student body in a ticket alongside current PHC Director of Major Gifts and former student body president Jonathan Carden (Journalism). Devamithran was also co-captain of the mock trial team and captain of the men’s soccer team.
“I know Paul really well,” says Carden, and “when he decided to apply for the position we were extra cautious because, frankly, his biggest negative was that he was a friend of mine, with perhaps some implied favoritism there. But as he interviewed with (VP of Advancement) Tom Ziemnick and myself, it became more and more clear that he was the best natural fit for the job. First and foremost, he’s eminently likeable, a very good listener, very thoughtful and someone who has just a lot of social grace. People who have decided to support the College want to have a genuine relationship with someone at the College, and Paul will be that person who will authentically care about people and build those important relationships.”
Jonathan and Paul at Jonathan's recent wedding
Prior to joining the advancement office, Devamithran, who is of Sri Lankan descent, had spent six months in 2012 (August through December) working for a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament as a personal aid and ghost-writer, and as a policy analyst for a Sri Lankan think tank. He returned to Washington, D.C., in early 2013 to work alongside fellow alumnus Chris Beach (Jour. 2011) with the Best Friends Foundation, which provides sports training and tutoring for inner city students. Learning of the opening in the Advancement Office and progressing through the interview process, he began to connect the dots of his education and work experience with the mission of Patrick Henry College.
“One of first things that stuck out was the skills I would need and the ways I would be challenged in this job,” he recalls. “Those were areas in which I wanted to grow, and which I believe are universally applicable to other jobs for which I might one day apply, perhaps even involving the organization and investment of resources of a large and scattered Sri Lankan diaspora group toward rehabilitating Sri Lanka’s post-war society.”
Paul’s father was born in Sri Lanka and fled with his family to the United States because of political persecution related to the 27-year civil war in that nation (1983 to 2009). His father is of the country’s minority Tamil ethnicity, some of whom fought to create an independent Tamil state but were defeated by the Sri Lankan military in 2009. The conflict caused significant hardships for the population, environment and the economy of the country, with an estimated 80,000–100,000 people killed during its course. Today his father serves as an immigration attorney in northern Virginia specializing in refugee and political asylum cases.
“My interest has always been there, on the humanitarian side,” Paul explains, “and working in Sri Lanka, ghost writing and drafting policy briefs, I realized how much I owe to my PHC education for teaching me the practical connections between my core classes and how they could apply in a foreign culture.
“My professors and PHC taught me to write persuasively, ask questions, and to look for metaphors in a culture to see what resonates among a particular people. The way we’re trained to read literature, not just for what they’re saying, but for the context and what they meant for the time, I think that was so helpful for me as I was trying to absorb the metaphors of a foreign culture,” he said. “When this opportunity at PHC materialized, I was extremely enthusiastic about College and its mission and joining the team here.
“I’m not sure what the future holds,” he adds. “I’m just trying to be sensitive to God’s leading and the opportunities He brings my way.””