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Arti Rai, ’83

Law Professor

Arti Rai, Class of 1983, is a law professor at Duke University.

Photo from Rai

Arti Rai, Class of 1983, is a law professor at Duke University.

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Biochemistry, economics, Obama, education and law―somehow, Arti Rai’s career hits them.

Rai, CHS graduate and Duke law professor, was raised in Clayton after her family moved from India. Passing through the school district, she graduated in the Class of 1983 as one of the most intellectually motivated students in her grade.

“I was very studious. I suppose that would be the bottom line,” Rai said. “I really loved my classes and really loved my teachers.”

Her academic diligence and participation in activities like the school newspaper and math contests helped Rai earn admission to Harvard as a biochemistry major. But, according to Rai, it wasn’t just her hard work that gave her success.

“One thing that I can say unequivocally is I still think the best teacher I ever had was at Clayton High School,” Rai said. “It was a cadre of teachers who all knew each other well and made a real effort for all of their students.”

In fact, Clayton’s excellent teaching helped shape Rai’s career goals.

[Teaching is] really a process of refining and updating your own beliefs and your own ways of thinking about things. The teachers at Clayton were open to new ideas, they were open to revisiting ways they’d had of doing things, and I think that’s what the best teachers do.”

— Arti Rai, '83

“I wanted to be a professor, in part, because of some of the teachers I had in high school. [Teaching is] really a process of refining and updating your own beliefs and your own ways of thinking about things. The teachers at Clayton were open to new ideas, they were open to revisiting ways they’d had of doing things, and I think that’s what the best teachers do.”

After graduating from Harvard and starting medical school, though, Rai realized that perhaps she was preparing to teach the wrong field. She developed an interest in science policy―a field which combines research with economic and law theory―and decided to instead attend Harvard Law School. Eventually, she wound up pursuing her love for education as a law professor.

Opportunities arose, though, and Rai temporarily took leave of her job to join the transition team of Barack Obama―a college friend―where she reviewed the patent office and helped restrict the granting of unnecessary patents.

“A patent is a double-edged sword in respect to innovation―it provides an incentive to innovate, but it can also block people who want to build upon your innovation,” Rai said. “I ended up being involved with an effort that ultimately resulted in a new system at the patent office for reviewing patents that might be incorrectly granted.”

Rai is back at her job at Duke and intends to remain there, where she works alongside Stephen Sachs, another CHS graduate.

“One thing that I share with Steve is a desire to think things from the ground up and kind of be candid about [politically charged subjects],” she said. “I don’t know if I’d attribute it to Clayton, but God knows my teachers did help me with this when I was [there.]”

For anyone from CHS looking to follow her path into science policy and education, Rai stresses three traits: openness, willingness to work and the ability to network.

“For education, openness to new ideas and the ability to work hard and pursue those ideas is critical. That ends up being more important than whatever one might call intelligence or some other feature that one might think might be important.”

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About the Writer
Justin Guilak, Chief Digital Editor

Justin Guilak is a senior at CHS and has been on the Globe since his sophomore year. He is also a captain of the Cross Country team, Ultimate Frisbee Club, and Quizbowl team, as...

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The student news site of Clayton High School.
Arti Rai, ’83