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Burning Man 2014: USF Prof. Created the Festival's Mail Service


USF's Vijay Mehrotra created and manages the Playa Post, Burning Man's mail service.

Vijay Mehrotra is the kind of guy who will try anything once, whether that means doing improv or taking the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Berlin.

In 2006, he accepted an invitation to Burning Man, an annual weeklong art and music festival that transforms a swath of the Nevada desert into a makeshift city of more than 60,000.

“My goal was not to be a consumer of fun but to be a contributor to creating the community,” says Mehrotra, a professor of business analytics and information systems at USF.

Connections big & small

He made the decision after learning he was diabetic. It was time for an emphatic ‘yes’ to life, Mehrotra says. “There’s something about being diagnosed with a disease that forces you to reconsider,” he says.

That was eight years ago, and Mehrotra is now a central hub of the festival that kicks off today. He created and manages the Playa Post, Burning Man’s postal service — serving tens of thousands of “burners” from around the world who gather in the desert.

In a place where money is not allowed and community is created from the ground up, he makes sure the mail gets where it needs to go. Along the way, Mehrotra helps facilitate connections that are fleeting, meaningful, and, often, unexpected.

Written by Monica Villavicencio »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanews