Afternoon commencement speaker makes mark in world
Some people aspire to make a difference to the world. Some students, like University of Louisville commencement speaker Deep Aggarwal, are already well on their way to doing that.
Aggarwal has been active in helping others both locally and internationally as a UofL student. He founded a winter alternative break to India that has helped more than 1,000 patients in four rural parts of that country. He’s tutored and mentored underprivileged students at Western Middle School and helped organize an educational fair for immigrant and refugee middle school students.
He’s also excelled in the classroom. Aggarwal arrived at UofL through the Guaranteed Admission to Medical School program and this fall will begin his medical studies at UofL. As an undergraduate, he’s majored in economics and participated on the College of Business business strategy team. He’s also studied abroad at the London School of Economics and conducted undergraduate research at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
Outside the classroom, he served as an executive vice president for the Student Government Association. He’s also a member of Sigma Chi fraternity.
UofL Today caught up with him recently to reflect on his time at UofL and what he plans for the future.
Why did you first decide to come to UofL?
I think of all of the schools I was looking at, UofL really looked at its students as students and people and not just stats or sort of profile builders. They really took an interest in you individually and wanted to see you succeed. I think that was really the biggest attraction for me.
Why did you decide to major in economics, with a pre-med track?
I really liked – and this might sound nerdy – but I really liked the intellectual stimulation of being an economics major. It really challenges you to think outside the box and to look at the world in a little bit of a different way. I didn’t want to do the traditional bio or chemistry science major that gets you into medical school. I wanted to do something different and unique.
What type of activities have you been involved in as a student?
One of the things that I’ve been most involved with has actually been a dance team. The Cardinal Bhangra Dance Team. We started it my freshman year. At that time, it was just a performance or two on campus. Since then, it’s really taken off and we’ve started doing a lot of community events. We traveled to Lexington and performed there. Just a few weeks ago, our team opened up for Blue Man Group at the Kentucky Center for the Arts; so seeing that go from nothing to what it is today has been really rewarding. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it and to see that validated feels really good.
I was also involved in student government. To interact with so many student leaders on campus was one of the best parts about student government. Being able to see what they’re doing and learn from them was truly valuable. One of the projects many of these student leaders worked on was the new student recreation center. There were so many people involved in this project, many of whom were involved long before I ever came into the picture. We had the administration – leaders like President (James) Ramsey, Dean (of Students Michael) Mardis, Dale Ramsay, Mike Curtin, Dr. (Shirley) Willihnganz, along with countless others — all going up to bat for us as students. They knew it was something we wanted to see done on campus. They went up to whoever they needed to talk to make sure that this came to fruition.
I also had the privilege of organizing the yearly Alternative Winter Break trip to India. Seeing the first trip happen, which was my sophomore year, is my most fond university memory. We went through a lot work, effort and headaches to make that happen. I say this all the time, but the university is a public institution so there is a lot of bureaucracy. You have to go through a lot of paperwork. You have to cross your T’s and dot your I’s to make sure that something like this can happen and happen with the blessings of the university; so seeing it happen was my most fond memory. There were so many people that helped make what I envisioned come true. People like Gerome Stephens, Dean Mardis, Dr. (Tom) Jackson, Pam Curtis and the student affairs office. They did a lot of the work to make it happen. My parents deserve a huge shout out for that as well. They really helped guide me throughout the entire process.
What was the best part of the India experience?
It was the first time I had been to India with people that weren’t my family. I was going with people who had never been out of the country, never seen a third world country, people who had never seen abject poverty. I saw their entire outlook on life completely do a 180. It was so different for me. Going to India had become second nature to me. I was sort of, I don’t want to say jaded by it, but it wasn’t really different to me to see those circumstances. But for students who hadn’t seen anything remotely like it their entire lives, to completely immerse themselves into it, it validated all of our work towards the program.
Who would you say has influenced you most while at UofL?
I think almost everyone I’ve interacted with has really had an impact on my college career and has sort of made everything I’ve done possible. I’ve been REALLY lucky to have so many great mentors and role models over the years. Particularly Dean Mardis and President Ramsey have always been there for me. They have been huge mentors to me in my life. Anytime I had a question or concern about anything — whether it was collegiately related or not — I could always go to them and they would always be willing to listen to me and give me advice on where to go next. I’ve also been fortunate to have Allie Goatley, from the business school, always there for me; and have been really lucky with many of the professors I’ve had at UofL, too — especially Dr. Fernandez and Dr. Gohmann in the business school.
What is next for you?
I start medical school here at UofL in the fall. Seeing this health care debate go on for so long I’ve really taken an interest in the policy and administration behind health care. I would love to see patients once I get my medical degree, but I think I would more like to be behind-the-scenes with administration and policy research to see how we can fix our system — make it equitable and affordable while still making it just.
You’ll be delivering a speech during the afternoon commencement ceremony. What will you tell your peers?
I think I’m going to try to focus on enjoying the moment. As we go through college, sometimes we are so focused on our end goals that we forget to stop and appreciate all of the memories we’ve accumulated over the years, that are part of the journey, and really have nothing to do with the goal; so hopefully it’ll help all of us reflect back upon our time here at UofL, and hopefully we’ll be able to appreciate it together.