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June 29, 2022 Corner Office

Corporate advisor A.M. Bhatt’s nonprofit offers New Haven students 21st-century tech skills

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED A.M. Bhatt leads students in DAE's human/digital curriculum.

Giving from the heart to help others is A.M. Bhatt’s life philosophy.

“I’ve never understood ambition around money or fame,” said Bhatt, who is a professor in the graduate psychology department at the University of New Haven and founder and CEO of the nonprofit District Arts & Education (DAE).

DAE provides educational programs comprising 21st-Century digital career and life skills to students from New Haven Public Schools and adults from communities that have been historically under-resourced.

DAE teaches technological fluency with a focus on social justice.

“We need a new generation of technologists who think differently, look differently, act differently, and value differently — so we can have the systemic changes that people want to have in the world,” explained Bhatt.

The nonprofit offers after-school and summer programming, two adult programs, and hosts community events. A second campus is located at the Synchrony Skills Academy in Stamford.

Deshon Floyd — a former student of Bhatt’s at UNH, who now works as head of performance at Colorado food distributor JBS Foods — shared how Bhatt changed his life.

“He helped me grow a lot and learn about myself,” Floyd said. “He understands what people need and how he can help them along the way. A.M. is helping break generational curses. He helped me pull myself out of poverty and understood the steps I needed to take.”

Floyd called Bhatt a visionary.

“He would do anything he could to help people be their best selves, and you see that with his work,” Floyd said. “He is so forward-thinking to know people need tech skills in life and in their workplace, and he merged the two to help underprivileged kids be successful.”

District Arts & Education students listen to their instructor, Diego, review details of a project they'll be working on.

For over 25 years Bhatt has also advised corporate executives around the world to recognize their potential, achieve self-awareness, and create breakthrough innovations in the tech, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. He is also founder of U of Next, a consultancy through which he and his team provide corporate advising and executive development to help individuals and organizations.

“I develop folks in the way artists are developed — within a highly-rigorous environment, but with an element of freedom in terms of what they can create,” Bhatt said. “To be a fulfilled human being you have to follow your own path and find out who you are and what matters to you.”

Bhatt also serves as academic director at The Graduate Institute in Bethany.

Fostering change through technology

Wanting to give back to New Haven, in 2020 Bhatt moved away from advising and began helping members of his hometown through DAE.

“We have communities in New Haven that have been blocked from technology, and absent a solid grounding in tech it’s difficult for them to thrive and survive,” said Bhatt. “I want to provide the next generation of New Haven residents with access to tech and learning environments so they have an opportunity to make their own choices about how they want to live in the digital era.”

In May, Bhatt launched the New Haven Public Schools Skills Academy, a 12-month program highlighting science, technology, engineering and math skills to prepare students to move directly into entry-level, high-growth potential tech jobs, or gain admission to higher-ed programs in the STEM disciplines.

“The program is designed to help students develop the abilities, experience and mindset needed to be successful upon high school graduation,” Bhatt explained.

Bhatt grew up in New Haven, and he says it had a big influence on him.

“The city is always on the edge of things — creatively and economically, but it’s also one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse small cities,” Bhatt said. “As a young kid bicycling around New Haven, I was fascinated by how different ways of living and cultures sat side by side.”

Bhatt credits his maternal grandfather for his pathway toward helping people find their true voice as agents of change.

“Back in India we were third-world poor, but my grandfather was a moral pillar in the community,” Bhatt said. “He used to say, ‘My religion is other people,’ and I’ve lived that way. I became interested in why human beings do what they do,” said Bhatt.

Bhatt recently published a children’s book for adults, “Are You My Listener?” to explore this theme.

“We’re all positively making a difference, we just don’t pay enough attention to what difference we are making,” he said.

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