Meet the 2018 CoAS Commencement Student Speaker: Anuranita Gupta
June 8, 2018
Biological Sciences major and BS + MD student Anuranita Gupta will address graduates as the class of 2018 representative at the College of Arts and Sciences Commencement ceremony on June 15, 2018.
After graduation next week, you’ll be attending Drexel’s medical school for four years. Are you excited?
I’m excited and nervous. Everyone tells me to just relax and figure it out as I go. These three years have flown by, and I feel like such a different person than I was. I used to think I knew everything I had to know about myself, like my values and what I was interested in, but so much has changed. After four more years, it will probably be even more different.
Do you know what kind of doctor you want to be?
I’ve thought about surgery, but I really want to experience everything. I shadowed a transplant surgeon, Dr. Abt at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and that was a great experience. Connecting with him was serendipitous in a way, like a lot of my experiences here. I’ve seen him do surgeries and interact with patients, and we’ve talked about ethical issues. He is such a kind person, and has this humility that I try to cultivate in myself.
Why did you decide to apply to be the CoAS Commencement speaker?
As a biology student with little public speaking experience, I wanted to try something outside of my comfort zone. I am passionate about my message and wanted to share it with the class of 2018, along with insight I have gained from my experiences. I hope that my speech evokes the desire to reflect on the last three to five years and to look forward to the exciting potential within all of us to do great things.
What are some of the messages that your speech will touch on?
One thing I say in my speech is that we’re all here because someone enabled us to flourish. My parents have made so many sacrifices for me. I think that’s something that every child of an immigrant knows. I want to make them proud by honoring those sacrifices and becoming the best person that I can be.
The speech is also about being kind to others — on a one-on-one level, but also on a larger scope. My mentors have been really impactful on me personally. At times when I felt upset or uncertain, they shared their stories of overcoming their own obstacles. They showed me the importance of perseverance, as well as vulnerability. When you don’t put up those walls and you show people the human side of you, you enable them to connect with you.
Which aspects of your Drexel experience inspired you in writing your speech?
I’ve really grown to care about education and mentorship. As a peer mentor for University 101, I met students who were struggling to adjust to college life. I encouraged them to be hopeful and believe that they could overcome those challenges. Everyone has moments when they feel like they’re not good enough, but it’s important to keep that hope as we build ourselves.
Prison reform and mass incarceration are other causes that I’ve become passionate about. One thing I’ve learned in college is that everyone has a story to share and that there is something to learn from everyone. In my Prison Reading Project class, for example, we had a guest speaker: a man who had been serving a life sentence before his sentence was commuted. He said that a lot of crime is circumstantial — essentially a cycle in which neighborhoods are neglected, leading the individuals in the community to turn to crime. The speaker suggested focusing on education and building up communities as solutions to increasing crime rates. Whenever you hear inspirational speeches, it’s usually coming from someone in a position of power, but the insight that he had as an ex-convict was so powerful to me.
Do you see your interest in medicine intersecting with your interests in education and prison reform?
Definitely. There are a variety of communities in Philadelphia that don’t have access to a quality education. Those students could be future doctors and scientists, and it’s important to encourage them to pursue their interests.
From a prison/health perspective, there are certain diseases that are prevalent in the prison populations, even after those individuals are released. They need someone to advocate for their health needs. I hope to be able to do something in medical school at the intersection of those ideas.
Do you encourage others to get involved in social issues?
The best way I could inspire people to do something is by doing it myself and setting an example. We millennials don’t like being told what to do, so if someone is moved on their own to do something, I think that’s more powerful than if I’m advocating for it. Acting on my beliefs is something I’m still working on, but I have more confidence now than ever before in my ability to make a difference.
Last spring, for example, I went to Washington D.C. to lobby for STEM education and NIH research funding. I received funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research to present my research — which was on neuropeptide characterization in the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus — at Posters on the Hill, an annual event by the Council on Undergraduate Research. It was my second year, and I felt nervous interacting with lawmakers who have accomplished so much. A man who was inspecting my poster and asking a lot of questions later introduced himself as the president of the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation, and encouraged me to apply for the award. I got a lot of confidence out of that interaction, and it convinced me of the value of my thoughts and ideas.
Do you have any advice for incoming freshman to make the most of their time at Drexel?
I like the age-old adage of following your heart. You’ll figure out what you’re passionate about, and when you discover those things, don’t let them go. Focus on your academics, but also focus on connecting with others. It’s not the grades or accomplishments that really stick with you, but the people who have influenced you and those you have influenced who give you a sense of fulfillment.